How to use flares

Different types of flares and how to safely use them.

Steve Lague: There are three main types of flares that we use in Australia. Doug, can you tell us what they are, and what they're used for?

Doug King: Yeah. First of all, we've got an orange handheld smoke flare that's used during the daytime. Then there's a red distress flare that's used for night. Again, it's handheld. And for those people that are going to be a fair way from shore, out in open water, there's a red parachute flare that fires a flare 300 meters up into the air and then sinks underneath the parachute.

The way that you use these, for the two handheld flares, they've actually got a handle on the bottom of them. The first thing you've got to think about is, which way is the wind blowing? Because you don't want the smoke blowing back into the boat, or into your face, for that matter. So, it's a matter of the two handheld flares have got a screw cap on the top. If you undo the screw cap, there's a trigger mechanism that you need to pull, and it will fire. So that the process is, you need to take the cap off, fire it, extend your arm away from your face, away from anything else that it can burn, hold it up, and let it extinguish itself. They'll fire for about 60 seconds. When they're out, into the water with them. You don't want it back in the boat. Too dangerous.

The red parachute flares are a little bit different. They're a lot larger. You still hold them. About the middle on these, and they've got a cap on the bottom you need to remove. Once you remove that cap from the bottom. It's got a trigger mechanism that you pull to fire. It will then fire a flare about 300 meters up into the air, and it'll sink slowly under a parachute.

Steve Lague: If you do find yourself in a situation where you do need to use your flares, when's the best time to do that?

Doug King: Best time to use the flares, obviously, is when there's a vessel, shore, or an aircraft in sight. Otherwise, you're just going to waste it.

Steve Lague: What about expiry? Do they have a lifespan?

Doug King: All flares have an expiry date written on the side of them. They have a lifespan of three years from the date of manufacture. The other thing that's written on all flares, and everyone should take note of this, they have instructions on them on how to use them, and they should read them first.

Steve Lague: Most boating clubs and marine groups hold regular safety demonstrations, so if you want to see how flares work first-hand, contact your local club or authority.

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