Old Flares Breed A Dilemma
Spivak / Branch Chief National Training Department
United States Coast Guard
off-season is here, and youre 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. Were
talking about are your flares, your meteors and your orange smokes.
Now, we all
know that the life, according to Coast Guard regulations, for pyrotechnic devices is three
(3) years from manufacture. It is also
suggested that you should keep the just expired flares, smokes and meteors,
because while they dont meet the federal requirements, in all likelihood they
probably still work. Just expired
means that when your new flares expire, your old flares will have been onboard for six
focus on flares for the moment, but the following generalizations are also true for all
pyrothecnics. The federal minimum
requirements for flares are three. Should you
ever need to ignite them, and youve decided that you only want to meet the minimum
federal standards of three flares; youll find that a single flares life isnt
fire off your flare at an inopportune moment, then youve wasted what is probably 33%
of your chances of being located by a passing ship or plane. A very sobering thought!
If you keep
your older (just expired) flares on the boat, and attempt to light these off first, then
if they do work, youve increased your number of flares by a factor of two. If they dont, well nothing ventured is
But what do
we 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 dont
feel confident with 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.
1. (Preferred 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.
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 public.
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 understand and know
how to use flares and other pyrotechnical devices.
learning how to use pyrothecnics is a very important experience. Knowing how to ignite them, seeing how they burn,
and how the slag drops can make a big difference. 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 Squadrons need for flares, and
other pyrotechnic devices. Both organizations
could not possibly use all the manufactured devices that have fallen way outside the Coast
Guard legal standards and practical useful lives of these devices.
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 or the Coast Guard Auxiliary at http://www.cgaux.org