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A History of Life-Saving Devices

Drawings from the sketchbooks of Leonardo da Vinci from the 16th century contain primitive designs for a diving suit and life ring, but it wasn't until the early 19th century that recognizable life-saving devices began to appear in regular use.

The modern design of life ring is also known as the Kisbee Ring, named for Lieutenant Thomas Kisbee of the Royal Navy's HMS Driver, the first steam-powered sloop to circumnavigate the globe. The RNLI adopted the Kisbee Ring as standard equipment in 1855; for the next hundred years, life rings were predominantly made from cork.

Cork life rings were better than nothing, but they were relatively heavy and not particularly buoyant - rescuees were frequently injured and the rings could not always keep the heads of unconscious victims above water. Kapok - a cotton-like fibre from a tropical tree - was used at times, but is banned under EU regulations as it eventually begins to absorb water and lose buoyancy. Experiments with balsa wood also proved unsuccessful. Today's devices are manufactured from polyethylene and filled with a polyurethane foam to maximize effectiveness.

Glasdon began manufacturing life ring cabinets more than forty years ago. The first generation cabinet was closely fitted to the shape of the life ring and made from flexible, impact-absorbing materials for optimum vandal resistance. Several generations of refinement to the design introduced innovations like the quick inspection indicator that allows responsible staff to instantly tell if a cabinet has been opened, and the Ropemaster™ Rope Management System that saves valuable seconds off deployment times during rescue attempts.

The Guardian™ Life Ring Cabinets can be ordered online. Our dedicated sales team are available to discuss your requirements by telephone on 1-855-USGLASDON, via email at, or using the Live Chat feature on this website.

A History of Life-Saving Devices
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
NRPA Corporate Member The Green Web Foundation