Emergency Preparedness: Top 5 Emergency Flares for Your Kit

Emergency Preparedness: Top 5 Emergency Flares for Your Kit

An Overview of Flares: Uses, Regulations and Safety Considerations

Flares are high-intensity signals used to alert rescuers to an individual’s location. They must meet the specifications of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations, which divide flares into four categories based on the duration of their light output. These flares must be stored and operated according to government regulations.

There are two main types of flares: handheld flares and rocket flares. Handheld flares burn with a bright red light or produce smoke to signal from distances up to 5 km (3 miles). Rocket flares are brighter and can be seen from distances of up to 40 km (25 miles), usually fired high into the air and exploding with a loud bang, releasing a brightly burning flare suspended from a small parachute.

The US Coast Guard requires three aerial flares or three handheld flares on board vessels. Additionally, orange smoke signals, electric distress lights, flags, dye markers, mirrors, and smoke-generating devices can help locate the distressed vessel, but only by day. Flashing white lights have limited visual range, and can be easily confused with navigation and anchoring lights.

Marine handheld flares must burn a red flame with an intensity of at least 500 candela for at least 120 seconds, while SOLAS-grade flares require a minimum intensity of 15,000 candela for at least 60 seconds. Pains-Wessex has introduced a new model, the Pinpoint, with an intensity of 10,000 candela and a burn time of at least 60 seconds. When firing a handheld flare, it is important to consider spattering of molten slag.

For those underwater, distress signals include electronic distress signals and signal mirrors and signal whistles, as flares are designed for use on the surface of the water. Electronic distress signals, signal mirrors, and signal whistles must have a limited range, so it is important to get as close to the surface as possible when signaling for help. Some types of underwater flares have a runtime of 1-16 hours and are waterproof and buoyant, activated by pulling a cord or tab.

Safety considerations associated with flares include the potential for spattering of molten slag and the need to handle and use them with caution, following the instructions provided by the manufacturer. There is also an unwritten law of the sea that requires mariners to come to the aid of another mariner in distress, and Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971 contains a “Good Samaritan” clause for those who provide assistance without objection.

Uses of Flares

Flares are high-intensity signals used to alert rescuers to an individual’s location. They are an internationally recognized means of requesting help in life-threatening situations and must meet the specifications of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations. There are two main types of flares: handheld flares, which burn with a bright red light or produce smoke to signal from distances up to 5 km (3 miles), and rocket flares, which are brighter and can be seen from distances of up to 40 km (25 miles).

Handheld flares and rocket flares can be used day or night to signal distress. Alternatives to traditional flares include electric distress lights, orange smoke signals, flags, dye markers, mirrors, and smoke-generating devices, which can only be used during the day. However, these visual distress signals should only be used when immediate or potential danger exists and only if someone is in a position to see them.

In addition to signaling distress, flares may also be used for emergency warning and as navigation aids. For example, flares can mark danger zones or provide visual navigation guidance. There are laws regulating the use of flares, including an unwritten law of the sea that requires mariners to come to the aid of another mariner in distress. Additionally, the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971 contains a “Good Samaritan” clause for those who provide assistance without objection.

Safety considerations associated with flares include the potential for spattering of molten slag and the need to handle and use them with caution, following the instructions provided by the manufacturer. When choosing underwater flares, select a product that is reliable, easy to use, and visible from a distance. Be mindful of their limited range and never use them in shallow water, as they could ignite flammable material on the surface.

Flares as Navigation Aids

Flares are a vital tool for navigation, helping mariners identify and avoid dangerous areas and providing visual guidance in navigating difficult waters. Rocket flares can mark danger zones, with their bright light and loud noise marking the spot for both day and night navigation. Handheld flares can be used to help rescuers locate individuals or vessels in distress, while dye markers and smoke-generating devices can help pinpoint a location during the day.

When using flares for navigational purposes, safety must always come first. Marine handheld flares must burn a red flame with an intensity of at least 500 candela for at least 120 seconds, while SOLAS-grade flares require a minimum intensity of 15,000 candela for at least 60 seconds. Pains-Wessex has recently introduced a new model called Pinpoint with an intensity of 10,000 candela and a burn time of at least 60 seconds.

It is important to consider spattering of molten slag when firing a handheld flare. Additionally, caution should be taken to avoid confusing navigation and anchoring lights with flashing white lights, which have limited visual range. Underwater flares must not be used in shallow water, as they could ignite flammable material on the surface. When choosing underwater flares for navigation, select a product that is reliable, easy to use, and visible from a distance.

Mariners must also adhere to the regulations and laws governing flares. The Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations are an internationally recognized requirement, while the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971 contains a “Good Samaritan” clause for those who provide assistance without objection. There is also an unwritten law of the sea that requires mariners to come to the aid of another mariner in distress.

History of Flares

Flares have long been used as distress signals. One of the earliest uses of flares for navigation was in the 17th century, when flares were fired from ships to mark dangerous areas such as sandbars and reefs. By the early 19th century, handheld flares had been developed, allowing sailors to fire them from the decks of their vessels to provide greater visibility in finding their way in dark or foggy conditions.

Early signals were made with a variety of materials such as coal, wood, and gunpowder. The development of chemical mixtures, such as strontium nitrate, potassium perchlorate, and magnesium, allowed for brighter and longer-burning flares that are still the standard today.

The U.S. Coast Guard requires three aerial flares or three handheld flares on board vessels, while the International Maritime Organization (IMO) stipulates that vessels must be equipped with sufficient visual distress signals to provide an effective alert in case of emergency. Handheld flares are more suitable for location purposes than aerial flares, as they can be used both day and night to signal for help. Flags, dye markers, mirrors and smoke-generating devices can help locate the distressed vessel, but only by day.

Modern flares must meet the specifications of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations. SOLAS flares are divided into four categories based on the duration of their light output, ranging from 1-minute to 15-minute flares. They must be stored and operated according to government regulations, with vessel owners facing legal penalties for non-compliance.

In addition to traditional flares, electronic distress signals have become increasingly popular in recent years. These include automated radio signals such as EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) and PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons), as well as ELTs (Electronic Locator Transmitters). In aviation, distress signals can include transmitting voice messages on 121.5 Mhz or 243 Mhz and setting particular transponder codes such as 7700. Other methods of indicating distress include burning tar barrels, inverted national flags, and heliographs.

Safety Considerations Associated with Flares

Flares are designed to be used in distress situations and must be handled with caution. Maritime flares must meet the specifications of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations and should only be used when immediate or potential danger exists, with someone in a position to see them. It is important to select a reliable and high-quality flare to ensure it functions properly when needed.

Handheld flares burn with a bright red light or produce smoke to signal from distances up to 5 km (3 miles). Rocket flares are brighter and can be seen from distances of up to 40 km (25 miles), usually fired high into the air and exploding with a loud bang and releasing a brightly burning flare suspended from a small parachute. Electric Distress Lights are used at night and Flashing white lights have limited visual range, and can be easily confused with navigation and anchoring lights. The color of a flare is produced by the chemical ingredients packed inside, such as strontium nitrate, potassium perchlorate and magnesium.

Marine handheld flares must burn a red flame with an intensity of at least 500 candela for at least 120 seconds, while SOLAS-grade flares require a minimum intensity of 15,000 candela for at least 60 seconds. Pains-Wessex has introduced a new model, the Pinpoint, with an intensity of 10,000 candela and a burn time of at least 60 seconds. When firing a handheld flare, it’s important to consider spattering of molten slag.

There are safer alternatives to flares available, including electronic distress signals, signal mirrors and signal whistles. To signal for help when underwater, it is important to get as close to the surface as possible, as some types of flares are designed to be used underwater. These typically have a runtime of 1-16 hours, and have a limited range being most effective at close range. Handle and use underwater flares with caution, following the instructions provided by the manufacturer.

The Unwritten law of the sea requires mariners to come to the aid of another mariner in distress, and the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971 contains a “Good Samaritan” clause for those who provide assistance without objection. In addition, the US Coast Guard requires three aerial flares or three handheld flares on board vessels, while the International Maritime Organization (IMO) stipulates that vessels must be equipped with sufficient visual distress signals for an effective warning in case of emergency.

Regulations and Laws Governing Flares

Flares are a high-intensity signal that can be seen from a distance and are used to alert rescuers to an individual’s location. Maritime flares must meet the specifications of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations and should only be used when immediate or potential danger exists, with someone in a position to see them. These flares are divided into four categories based on the duration of their light output, and must be stored and operated according to government regulations.

In addition to flares, distress signals such as spoken mayday messages, smoke and orange smoke signals, visual signals such as flags and balls, and automated radio signals including EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons) and PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons) are also internationally recognized means of requesting help in life-threatening situations. In aviation, distress signals include transmitting voice messages on 121.5 MHz or 243 MHz and setting particular transponder codes such as 7700, as well as ELTs (Electronic Locator Transmitters) that operate on the 406 MHz frequency. Other methods of indicating distress include burning tar barrels, inverted national flags, and heliograph.

The US Coast Guard requires three aerial flares or three handheld flares on board vessels, while the International Maritime Organization (IMO) stipulates that vessels must be equipped with sufficient visual distress signals for an effective warning in case of emergency. The Unwritten law of the sea requires mariners to come to the aid of another mariner in distress, and the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971 contains a “Good Samaritan” clause for those who provide assistance without objection.

When firing a handheld flare, it’s important to consider spattering of molten slag. Remember to handle and use underwater flares with caution, following the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Lastly, always remember to choose a reliable and high-quality flare to ensure it functions properly when needed.

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