RNLI advise on risks and the law

The RNLI are warning people of the risk of firing distress flares as a source of entertainment this Firework Night 5 November.

The RNLI point out it is not only dangerous but also illegal.

Marine pyrotechnics, commonly known as flares, are designed to be fired over water. When the flare comes back down to the ground, it is likely to be extremely hot and can cause serious burns or a fire.

Any misuse of flares, such as for entertainment during Halloween, firework and bonfire night celebrations, could divert search and rescue assets away from a genuine emergency.

The misuse of flares equates to just under 3% of the 8,141 lifeboat launches in 2007, the RNLI say it is crucial that flares are not fired unless in a distress situation.

In the past five years lifeboats have launched a total of 1,175 times to incidents where flares were fired in false alarms or as hoax situations – an average of 235 lifeboat launches a year.

Peter Chennell, RNLI Sea Safety Manager, says: “Because it’s illegal to let a flare off in a non-distress situation, they are not a part of your marine safety kit you can easily familiarise yourself with.

“That’s why the RNLI offers free flare demonstrations to boating clubs or groups of sea users.

“We explain the differences between types of flares, how to use them and also show the correct and safe way to fire flares if you’re faced with a distress situation. After all, the worst time to be reading the instructions on a flare is the time you actually need to use it in a real life situation!”

When flares reach their expiry date they should be carefully disposed of. Guidance on the disposal of time-expired pyrotechnics is available on the Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s website www.mcga.gov.uk

Click here for flare disposal advice.