Flares Are Not Fireworks – New Years Eve Is Not The Time For Firing Off Maritime Flares

Every New Years Eve, sadly Coastguard Rescue Teams and RNLI lifeboat crews are called out unnecessarily after people set off flares rather than fireworks.  Flares are to request immediate assistance when someone is in grave and imminent danger at sea.

If the UK Coastguard receives an alert at or near the coast where a flare has been launched, it will always respond and won’t know the difference if they are being used as fireworks.  This would put search and rescue teams at heightened unnecessary risk particularly during COVID-19  pandemic and potentially diverting from a legitimate emergency.

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Examples of maritime flares
What do you do if you spot a flare that has been fired?
If you do see a flare, or think you have, you should call ‘999’ and ask for the COASTGUARD immediately giving as an accurate location as possible using a landmark, grid reference or using what2words.
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What is the difference between flares and fireworks?

Flares are typically red or orange and don’t last long – they are an internationally recognised distress signal.

Fireworks are typically colourful and often accompanied by a sound, leaving a smoke trail.

How do I dispose of time expired flares or pyrotechnic’s?

Firing off time expired flares or pyrotechnic’s is illegal and you could be prosecuted. It is illegal to fire them on land or on a harbour, fire them off at sea for training, testing or as fireworks; dump flares at sea or on land; and damaged and or out of date flares should not be used.  Flares  should be disposed of safely and as soon as possible.

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Discarded time expired pyrotechnics. Photo credit: Adrossan CG Rescue Team

Only contact the HM Coastguard when all other means of disposal have been exhausted:

  • Speak with the place you purchased them from. They may offer a ‘take back’ scheme (a small charge may apply)
  • Life raft service stations (some offer a service)
  • The local authority.  They maybe accepted at local recycling centres, but you will need to contact them prior to attending or sending them
  • If you are still unable to dispose of flares then you can contact your nearest HM Coastguard licensed site.  For further details go to our blog which gives further details

 

Thank you for reading and from all of our team we would like to wish to a safe and enjoyable New Year.

 

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Acknowledgements

Royal National Lifeboat Institution

HM Coastguard

HM Coastguard Rescue Team

Adrossan HM Coastguard Rescue Team