Thanet RNLI Community Safety

Out of date flares – How Do You Dispose Of Them Safely?

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:

CGOC Aberdeen (licensed site: Buchan coastguard operations base) Tel: 01224 592 334.

CGOC Aberdeen (licensed site: Inverness coastguard operations base) Tel: 01224 592 334.

CGOC Aberdeen (licensed site: St Andrews coastguard operations base) Tel: 01224 592 334.

CGOC Belfast 02891 463 933.

CGOC Belfast (licensed site: Girvan coastguard rescue equipment store) 02891 463 933.

CGOC Falmouth 01326 317 575.

CGOC Falmouth (Licensed Site Paignton coastguard operations base) 01803 882 704.

CGOC Holyhead Tel: 01407 762 051.

CGOC Humber Tel: 01262 672 317.

CGOC Humber (North Norfolk coastguard operations base) Tel: 01262 672 317.

CGOC Milford Haven Tel: 01646 690 909.

CGOC Shetland Tel: 01595 692 976.

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.
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Photo Credit: Margate Coastguard Rescue Team
  • 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.
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Margate’s All Weather Mersey lifeboat – Photo credit: Sarah Hewes

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.

Acknowledgements

HM Coastguard, Greenock Coastguard Rescue Team

RNLI

 

More useful links

HM Coastguard

British Sub-Aqua Club