Expired Distress Flares – what should you do
Most manufacturers tend to date their distress flares to expire at the end of December, so your winter inspection routine is a good time to check them. If any have expired or appear to have deteriorated through damage or through being left in water, then quarantine them immediately in a separate container and remove them from the vessel as soon as possible.
DO NOT keep them as back-ups and DO NOT set them off on bonfire night. It is a criminal offence to set a distress flare off, other than in a genuine emergency.
Using a distress flares that has past its expiry date could easily lead to serious injury and could potentially cause damage to a vessel or other property. See BBC: Flare struck boat as family slept
Once a distress flare has passed its expiry date the chemical compounds inside will begin to degrade. The problem with this degradation is that you will never know to what degree the compounds inside have deteriorated and as a result the way it behaves when it is ignited will be totally unpredictable.
One possibility is that the distress flare may fail to ignite properly when you pull the cord or push the lever. NEVER, hold a distress flare close to your face to see what is happening once you have activated the firing mechanism. It may just be burning slowly and could instantaneously ignite causing terrible injuries.
If a distress flare fails to go-off in the way you are expecting then place it in a bucket of water for 24hrs. Then dispose of the flare following the guidelines below.
The Maritime & Coastguard Agency has awarded a new contract to undertake the collection and disposal of Time Expired Pyrotechnics (TEPs) from Certain Coastguard premises by Ramora UK Ltd (www.ramorauk.com)
The Coastguard plans to achieve this by concentrating available disposal services at 18 sites evenly spaced across the country. Analysis of the quantities of TEPs deposited with the MCA indicate that up to 70% of items find their way to the vicinity of the 18 proposed sites which will accept TEPs.
The following sites have therefore been identified, and the public can now drop Time Expired Distress Flares off to the following MCA premises –
WARNING: If you go to one of these sites without an appointment, you will be turned away.
The disposal sites can ONLY accept small quatities of out-of-date or damaged flares from members of the public.
If you are a commercial organisation, you'll need to make your own arrangements by contacting Ramora UK Ltd (www.ramorauk.com)
• Shetland MRCC Tel: 01595 692 976
• Stornoway MRCC Tel: 01851 702 013
• Belfast MRCC Tel: 02891 463 933
• Liverpool MRCC Tel: 0151 931 3341
• Holyhead MRCC Tel: 01407 762 051
• Milford Haven MRCC Tel: 01646 690 909
• Falmouth MRCC Tel: 01326 310 800
• Brixham MRCC Tel: 01803 882 704
• Poole RNLI HQ Tel: 01202 336 336
• Solent MRCC Tel: 02392 552 100
• Dover MRCC Tel: 01304 218 500
• Thames MRCC Tel: 01255 675 518
• Humber MRCC Tel: 01262 672 317
• North Norfolk Sector Base Tel: 01493 851 338
• St Andrews Sector Base Tel: 01333 450 666
• Inverness Sector Base Tel: 01224 592 334
• Cruden Bay CG Tel: 01224 592 334
• Girvan CG Tel: 01475 729 988
Alternatively, you could also contact a reputable Liferaft Service Station who often have proper storage and disposal facilities. They may charge you a few pounds for the service, so ring them up first to get a quotation based on the quantity you want to dispose of. By offering this friendly and helpful service they are more likely to receive your future business when you need to get your liferaft serviced or when you want to buy some new distress flares to replace your old ones.
See List of UK Liferaft Service Stations