Old Flares Breed a Dilemma
By Wayne Spivak, Branch Chief – National
United States Coast Guard Auxiliary
off-season is here, and you're begging to get back into the boating
season. While chomping at the proverbial bit, you begin to sort
through your boat equipment. You find your pyrotechnic safety items.
We're talking about your flares, your meteors and your orange smokes.
to Coast Guard regulations the shelf life for pyrotechnic devices is
three (3) years from manufacture. It is also suggested that you keep
the "just" expired flares, smokes and meteors. While they don't meet
the federal requirements, in all likelihood they probably still work.
If you keep rotating your new flares with your "just" expired flares,
that means when your new flares expire, your old flares will have been
onboard for six years.
focus on flares for the moment, but the following generalizations are
also true for all pyrothecnics. The federal minimum standard requires
three flares. Should you ever need to ignite them, you'll find that a
single flare's life isn't very long. Should you fire off your flare at
an inopportune moment, you've wasted what is probably 33% of your
chances of being located by a passing ship or plane - if you've
decided to only meet the minimum federal standards of three flares. A
very sobering thought!
keep your older (just expired) flares on the boat, attempt to light
these off first. Then, if they do work, you've increased your number
of flares by a factor of two. If they don't work, well nothing
ventured is nothing gained.
do you do about the second generation (older than 6 years) of retired
flares? The question you need to ask yourself is; "Do I think they
will ignite?" If you don't feel confident keeping these second
generation retired flares, then you will need to dispose of them,
safely and legally.
You have two choices when considering
disposal of flares and other pyrotechnical equipment.
method): Contact your local fire department, sanitation department
or environmental protection department and determine your local
hazardous waste material disposal rules. Then follow the rules.
Contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary and/or United States Power
Squadron unit and see if they would like to have some old flares for
training purposes. The Auxiliary and the Power Squadron teach boating
courses year-round, and many of them sponsor (after receiving
permission from the Coast Guard) pyrotechnic training days for the
Auxiliary has many more of these days for their members, since those
members who want to qualify in the Boat Crew and Coxswain on-the-water
missions need to know how to use flares and other pyrotechnical
learning how to use pyrothecnics is a very important experience.
Knowing how to ignite them, seeing how they burn, and how the slag
drops is important information. Pyrotechnics are dangerous! A good
reason to take a safe boating course and a better reason for possibly
joining the Auxiliary!
there is a limit to both the Auxiliary and the Power Squadron's need
for flares, and other pyrotechnic devices. Neither organization could
possibly use all the manufactured devices that have fallen outside the
Coast Guard legal standards.
To learn more about what to do during a
boating emergency, why not take a boating safety course! The United
States Coast Guard Auxiliary has a variety of boating courses geared
for all levels of boating knowledge. You can contact your local
Auxiliary Flotilla by either calling your local Coast Guard unit or
visiting the Coast Guard on the web at
http://www.uscg.mil/default.asp or the Coast Guard Auxiliary at