Lifejackets are an essential piece of safety kit whilst out on the water whatever activity you are taking part in. Whatever the weather or sea conditions our advice is always to wear a lifejacket or personal floatation device (PFD). Lifejackets are useless stored away in a bag, they need to be worn.
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.
What do you do if you spot a flare that has been fired?
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harbour, fire them off at sea for training, testing or as fireworks; dump flares at sea or on land; and damaged and or out of date flares should not be used.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.
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 a sailor, yachtsmen or other water sport enthusiast who has purchased flares or pyrotechnics, you will have asked …..”how should I dispose of flares or time expired pyrotechnics (TEP’s) safely”.
The advice is to firstly contact your supplier where you purchased the flares from and enquire whether they offer a ‘take back facility’ which may incur a small charge. Alternatively, speak with a life-raft maintenance centre or enquire with your council recycling centre.
If the flares are still unable to disposed of safely then you are recommended to contact your nearest Coastguard licensed site. Please bear in mind that due to current COVID-19 safety protocols being operated by the HM Coastguard it may not be possible to dispose of them via this route at this time.
The nearest CGOC (Coastguard Operations Centre) for East Kent is based at Dover and can be contacted on 01304 210 008.
Other licensed coastguard disposal locations are as follows:
National Maritime operations centre (licensed site Daedalus training centre) Tel 02392 552 100.
CGOC Stornoway Tel: 01851 702 013.
London Coastguard operations base Tel: 02083 127 380
RNLI headquarters Poole Tel: 01202 336 336.
(Reference : Maritime Coastguard Agency website)
The HM Coastguard have no responsibility for flare disposal and will only accept a small number at their discretion from private indviduals and small independent fishing vessels.
On contacting the relevant CGOC they will ask the following questions:
Who you have previously contacted to arrange disposal
How many flares you need to dispose
How old are the flares
What condition are the flares in
If the CGOC can help, they will arrange for a time for you to deliver the flares to an appropriate base/location where staff will be able to accept them safely
You may be asked to travel a significant distance to attend a disposal site and wait several weeks
It is worthy to note not to turn up without an appointment at a HM Coastguard premises as you are likely to be turned away (not all premises are staffed 24/7) flares can’t be accepted from a business organisation.
Flares are highly dangerous
DO NOT dump carrier bags of flares on the doorstep of Coastguard Station’s, Coastguard Rescue Equipment Stores, Fire Stations, Police buildings or Lifeboat Station’s. Many of these locations maybe unstaffed and the dumping of potentially dangerous flares is a safety hazard and against the law. Irresponsibly discarded flares may be picked up by children who could be seriously injured or killed by an abandoned pyrotechnic. In one incident a military Explosive Ordnance Disposal team had to be called out to a device which had been left outside a Coastguard station which also put the Coastguard team unavailable for emergency calls.
Do not put flares in household rubbish, garden waste or public litter bins. They can cause extensive damage to refuse collection facilities and may injure persons who come into contact with them. An incident involving a worker at a recycling centre found out to his cost.
As a reminder
It is illegal to fire flares on land or in a harbour; fire flares at sea for testing, practice or as fireworks
Damaged or out of date flares should never be used.
It is illegal to dump pyrotechnics at sea.
Every year lifeboat crews and Coastguard Rescue Teams are called out to the sighting of flares out at sea. Whilst personnel from both organisations will never complain about being called out to an emergency or what looks to be someone in need of help, in whatever weather and at any time of the day or night they urge people not to let off flares at sea unless it is a genuine emergency.
I am sure that you will agree that there is nothing quite like white sails billowing against a lovely blue sky, the breeze and spray on your face. It can be exciting, challenging and relaxing. Although, no matter where or what type of boat you sail there is one factor that you must take into account before embarking on a voyage SAFETY. In this blog we will consider 7 Safety Tips which will help you minimise the hazards enabling you, your crew and passengers to have a fabulous, but safe time on the water.
You may have read our previous blogs or social media postings about the critical importance of wearing a correctly fitted and maintained lifejacket or personal floation aid (PFD). When out on the water boating or sailing whatever the weather our advice is always to wear a lifejacket and that goes for each member of your crew and passengers. Why not check out the excellent RNLI video below which explores how to fit a buoyancy aid correctly.
As well as wearing a fully serviced lifejacket we also highly recommend wearing crotch straps. If you are uncertain why you should wear them check out the video below:
Lifeboat crews are often called out to sailors in difficulty who have over estimated their skill and knowledge level. Be totally honest with yourself about your skill level. If you are in any doubt why not enrol onto an RYA course. Courses can help you prepare for anything, whether your a complete novice, living onboard, enjoying a coastal cruising or venturing further offshore.
3. Check Your Engine
Nearly 20% of all Lifeboat call-outs are to sailing and motor cruisers suffering from mechanical failure. Having a good knowledge of your boat’s engine, carrying spares and being able to fit them could make the difference between having to call for help and being able to help yourself. The RYA run disel engine courses which are highly popular. The RNLI produces some free downloadable resources to help you with engine maintenance.
On 2nd May 2015, 14-year-old Emily Gardner tragically drowned in a boating accident. An ill-fitting buoyancy aid snagged on the cleat of a capsized speedboat. In her memory, her family helped draw up the following mnemonic to highlight key safety messages and they provide a great rule of thumb for any sailor to follow:
5. Check the weather & conditions
The weather can make or break your day. Regularly checking the weather forecast and sea conditions can help you if you planning a lengthy voyage. Downloading the SafeTrx App provides key Inshore waters weather forecasts, as well as tracking your trip and alerting your emergency contact if you are overdue.
6. Calling for Help
Life-threatening incidents can occur at any time without warning and in any weather! Having a means of ‘calling for help’ and that everyone on your crew/passengers knows how to use them will enable you to get help to you should an incident occur as quickly as possible. Incidents can go unnoticed even in busy waters close to the coastline.
There is a range of different devices for ‘calling for help‘ on the market. Whichever one you choose and we recommend you use more than one – you must be able to reach it easily in an emergency. Don’t rely on a single method of calling for help as one may not work. We have included a range of ‘calling for help’ devices below:
7. Advice on Board (AOB)
Advice Onboard is a totally free of charge service that’s suitable for anyone who goes to sea on a pleasure vessel of less than 13.7m. It’s available in all parts of the UK and Ireland. It’s tailored to your particular vessel and the type of boating you do.
Whether you are highly experienced or a complete novice sailor or boater you’ll benefit from this free and friendly service. The safety advice session takes place onboard your vessel at a time that’s convenient for you.
This service is provided by experienced and highly trained RNLI volunteers and will provide you with independent advice about your boat’s safety equipment. You’ll also have an opportunity to ask any of those burning questions about safety drills, equipment or emergency procedures that you may have put off asking for some time.
We hope that you have enjoyed this blog. If you would like to book an Advice on Board session or lifejacket check/clinic with our team you can get in touch by emailing Andrew_Mills@RNLI.org.uk
SAFETY CHECK LIST
Always wear a properly serviced and fitting lifejacket or personal floatation device
Always carry a means of calling for help eg VHF radio, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), flares, EIRB, mobile phone with SafeTrx app
Have an emergency action plan and make sure everyone aboard receives a detailed briefing (covering the location and use of the safety equipment, including the spare kill cord for powerboats. Practising ‘man overboard’ drills is very important).
Arrange to attend some training from an approved training provider
Always check the weather and tide times before you embark on your voyage
Tell someone ashore your voyage plan and who to call if you don’t return on time
Always drive your boat at a speed that is appropriate to the weather conditions and to the environment you are operating in
You may have heard of our Community Safety Team through our social media channels or face-to-face at local community events. Incase you weren’t aware of our team’s work this blog is designed to increase your awareness of what we do to prevent drownings and other water safety incidents.
The RNLI recruited Volunteer Community Safety Teams to raise safety awareness at local level by developing lifesaving plans, including identifying ‘at risk’ groups and providing targeted safety advice.
The four Coastal based activities that we target in the Thanet area are as follows:
Yacht sailing and motor boating
In-water play and beach users
Inorder to effectively target these activity areas the team uses a range of tactical interventions. Some of these are described below.
1. Lifejacket Clinic’s
Lifejacket clinics are run on a regular basis either at a yacht club, Lifeboat Station or on one of our harbour ‘walking the pontoon’ initiatives. Our team will check the overall integrity of the individual jacket, gas cyclinder and firing mechanism. They are unfortunately unable to conduct a full service, supply spare parts or inflate the jacket. We recommend that your lifejacket is serviced by a manufacturer or service agent. Further information on lifejackets can be found on an earlier blog post.
2. Incident Prevention Engagement (IPE)
This is conducted where an incident has already taken place and engagement is required to try to deter a repeat incident. An example of this is where our team deployed to the area of Botany and Kingsgate Bay after several incidents of people being cut-off by the tide. More information on how we are helping to share tidal cut-off information can be found here.
Our ‘pop-up’ Respect the Water and Drowning Prevention stands are held at a variety of community events, places of worship such as Mosque’s, Gurdwara’s and church’s; and other venue’s where our message can be shared effectively.
6. Transport Hub Engagement
During the busy Summer months our team visit Margate main sands and the railway station area to chat to beach visitors to highlight key safety messages. This is an exciting development as a significant proportion of people who are rescued by the lifeguards and lifeboat crews are from outside the Thanet footprint.
Briefing to Thanet Royal Air Force Air Cadets
7. Talks to outside groups
Our team are able to deliver bespoke presentations to outside groups on a variety of water safety topics, some of which include: an interactive discussion on emergency alerting for sailing and boating clubs. This presentation is supported with a broad range of emergency alerting equipment including Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB’s), Personal Locator Beacons (PLB’s), Marine Band VHF Radio’s, Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) Search & Rescue Transponders (SARTS), Distress Flares and Emergency Visual Distress Signals (EVDS). Other presentations include: tombstoning to youth groups, coastal walking, open water swimming and diving amongst others.
If you are interested in one of our team visiting your group and delivering a presentation then contact our team via email Andrew_Mills@RNLI.org.uk or private message us on Facebook.
8. Advice on Board (AOB)
An AOB visit entails an open discussion with any boat user (sailing, kayaking, angling etc.) on how to use safety equipment, how to maintain it and how to plan for things that might go wrong out at sea. These visits take place wherever the users boat happens to be – a harbour, marina, boatyard or on the back of their trailer at home. Book an AOB via our Facebook page
Boating should be fun. Every year the RNLI launches their lifeboats to thousands of incidents, many of which could have been prevented by following simple safety precautions or having a plan in the event of something going wrong. The RNLI Community Safety Teams can help you make your boat as safe as possible.
Advice on Board
The RNLI provides a wide range of safety advice to participants of all types of water based activity. One of the specialist areas that our Community Safety Team can provide is an ‘Advice on Board’ session. This can be at a marina or harbour where your boat is moored; at your home or work address or other location where your vessel is stored. It can include any almost any type of leisure craft and be tailored to a time and date that suits you.
The aim of the ‘Advice on Board’ session is a confidential one-to-one discussion with you about onboard safety and equipment. The session is not a ‘pass or fail’ inspection. It is not a safety check or an MoT like a garage would provide for your car, but a useful way of you thinking about: ‘what am I already doing about safety and how can I improve it’.
Here are just some of the discussional items that we will include during an ‘Advice on Board’ session:
Do you and your crew practise regularly a MOB drill (‘man overboard’ drill)?
How often do you get your lifejackets checked and serviced?
What ‘calling for help’ devices do you carry and do all your crew know how to use them?
What spares do you carry to undertake basic repairs to your vessel?
What navigational aids do you carry?
Newcomer or Experienced boater?
Whether you are a newcomer or an experienced boater, our unique one-to-one service will give you an opportunity to ask those niggling questions on equipment or emergency procedures that you have always wanted to ask.
Is Advice on Board definitely FREE?
Absolutely, the RNLI believe that prevention is better than cure and we want make sure that everyone receives the right advice. So, the whole Advice on Board session including any phone calls or email is totally free!
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