Distress flares are the essential item of safety equipment. Flares are one of the most effective and rapid means of both signaling distress and indicating your exact position. It is imperative that flares are stored in a water-proof container. Flares can play a key role in assisting early rescue and also reducing a heavy cost of search and rescue operations.
In Tasmania, for example, 48 % of boats are used outside smooth waters, in sheltered or open waters, and are therefore required to have flares on board. Of course, many areas of smooth water can get rough, so the subject recommendation should be applicable to those boats, as well.
The general area of operation of your motor boat determines firstly whether they need to be carried and, secondly, the type of flares and number required. For sheltered, partially smooth waters the requirement is two red hand flares and two orange smoke flares. For open and coastal waters the requirement is two red hand flares, two orange smoke flares, and two red parachute rocket flares.
As various brands of flares have different methods of ignition, it is important to carefully read the instructions to ensure your familiarity with a method of operation. Prior to leaving, it is vital that all your passengers also know how to activate the flare. Your instructions may well save your life.
It is important to check the expiry date and replace any out of date product. Flares generally have three-year expiry from the date of manufacture. Such products can be returned to manufacturer. Be advised that it is an offence to activate a flare unless doing so for rescue purposes or when authorized by Master.
Where possible, hand-held flares should be activated on the downwind side of the vessel. Your arm should be fully extended above your head. Make sure that all other passengers and a vessel superstructure is well clear of this operation. Hand flares, particularly red flares, emit extreme heat, and so do be careful when using them.
The parachute rocket flare is a hand-held self-contained distress rocket which ejects a parachute with a suspended red flare at around three hundred meter altitude. It burns for forty seconds at a brilliant thirty thousand candela. It can be seen from fifteen kilometers by day and forty kilometers or more by night. Rocket flares must not be activated when a helicopter or aircraft is overhead.
Orange smoke flares are the most effective device for daytime use. They emit a vivid expanding cloud of dense orange smoke visible for sixty seconds and can be seen at a distance of up to four kilometers at sea level and even further from an aircraft.
Red flares are most effective at night but may be used during the day, as well. Red hand flares burn for over sixty seconds with an intense fifty thousand candela red light. They can be observed from a range of up to ten kilometers at sea level on a clear dark night and up to twenty kilometers from the air. They can be seen at day light over a shorter range.
Remember, you can be fined for not having the required safety equipment. Always check to ensure your compliance with the applicable requirements before you go boating. Needless to say that having all required safety equipment on board and maintaining it in a good working condition may one day save your life and the lives of your passengers.
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