Using safety flares
, like insurance, is a situation no one is voluntarily placed into, but things go wrong and in certain circumstances the use of a flare can save a life. The introduction of pyrotechnics as a signaling tool at sea was highly successful as they are relatively inexpensive, fairly reliable and not too dangerous and effective. Pyrotechnics do have their shortfalls such as being prone to malfunctioning, have a finite shelf life and are difficult to dispose of. If one was to board multiple boats, it is expected to find expired flares aboard a surprisingly large number of them.
Electric distress lights have been around for many years and have evolved with time from a large bulky unit to an incredibly compact and effective units. Originally a Coast Guard approved strobe light was the size of a human fist excluding the power pack and today the combined unit with power is no bigger that a golf ball and can operate uninterrupted for hours making the ideal for PFD strobe lights
With the development of light emitting diodes (LED) together with solar cells and modern battery technology, small clear epoxy encapsulated super bright lights are inexpensive, super safe, reliable and are now commonplace in locations such as life rafts or as a life jacket light. An original rescue strobe light used a Xenon filled glass tube to produce the bright light. It is now possible to produce the same light using LED’s. The advantage of using LED is they use a fraction of the power, are programable to flash at specific intervals or luminate constantly, making them ideal for a waterproof strobe light
with additional features.
A distress strobe light can also be also a Coast Guard approved strobe light such as the portable personal waterproof strobe light manufactured by ACR Electronics
. The ACR Firefly Pro Waterbug
offers an amazing 56 hours runtime as a strobe and boasts additional features such as a SOS mode and more. Electric distress lights for boats have evolved and there are plenty of options available and it is always advisable to make sure that the product does have a certification from either the USCG or SOLAS.
It is no surprise to see the demise in pyrotechnics aboard a vessel with the welcomed introduction of miniature electronics and LED’s. Electronic flares are a legal substitute for pyrotechnic flares in the USA if they are of USCG approved. ACR Electronics
, Orion Safety Products
, and Sirius Signal
are a few manufacturers that produce a range of electronic flares that come in various shapes and sizes with additional functions depending on the model.
Small hand held electronic flares with optional settings are not restricted to maritime use and are also suitable for other activities such as hiking or camping. Unfortunately, all electronic flares use batteries that require changing, so it is important to consult the OEM manual to review the maintenance schedule for the flare. Prior to purchasing a marine electronic flare and discarding the pyrotechnics it is advisable to seek guidance from the local authorities as to the requirements in your location.