Thanet RNLI Community Safety

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harbour, fire them off at sea for training, testing or as fireworks; dump flares at sea or on land; and damaged and or out of date flares should not be used.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.


Want to find out more information?

HM Coastguard

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Adrossan HM Coastguard Rescue Team

What to do if you are stung by a jelly fish?

Jelly fish stings are very common at this time of the year due to the large influx of visitors to the coast.They are considered to be part of the plankton, which means that they can’t swim against the current. They can get carried ashore when the wind, waves and current carry them there. 

Our lifeguard colleagues are frequently asked to treat jelly fish stings. So, to dispel any of those ‘old wives tales’ and to help those extremely busy Hospital Accident Departments we have included advice below :

Obtain help if possible either from a lifeguard or someone with 1st aid training.

 If help is not available:

• Rinse the affected area with sea water (not fresh water)

• Remove any spines from the skin using the edge of a bank card or tweezers

• Soak the area in very warm water (as hot as can be tolerated) for at least 30 mins. Test the water before you put someone else’s hand in the water

• Use hot towels if you can’t soak it

• Take pain killers like paracetamol or ibuprofen (If not allergic)


• Use vinegar

• Do not wee on the sting

• Do not apply ice or a cold pack

• Do not touch the spines with your bare hands

• Don’t cover or close the wound

Go to a Minor Injuries Unit if you have :

• severe pain that is not going away

• have been stung on your face or testicles

• been stung by a sting ray

Nearest NHS Minor Injuries Unit can be found via


NHS England

RNLI Lifeguards