Emergency Signal Flares on Your Boat

Out to sea can be a very lonely place if something goes wrong. Let’s face it, we were built as land dwellers and we can be somewhat out of our element in the case of an emergency out on the water. That’s why good boaters gear up for all those “what ifs” with safety items such as a Coastguard approved personal floatation device for every person on board, fire extinguishers, a sounding device (all of which are required, by the way), as well as emergency flares. 

Emergency flares for boats, sometimes known as distress signals, are used by boaters to call for help in an emergency. They are pyrotechnic devices designed to indicate your position and are also required on boats larger than 16 feet in any of the following combinations: three red, day/night flares or three hand-held or floating orange smoke signals along with one distress light or one electric distress light and one orange distress flag. Emergency flares are only required onboard boats under 16 feet in length during operation between sundown and sunrise.

Ideally, you want to use an emergency flare to raise the alarm when you are close enough to another boat or land for people to see. Hold your emergency flare above eye level. Do not look at the light while operating. Then twist the bottom of the flare. Flare guns and launchers need to be loaded for use. Some required loading shells from the inside of the barrel and some from the outside, so you will have to adhere to manufacturer instructions if you opt for either of those.

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