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Thread: old flares

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    Member halibutcollier's Avatar
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    Default old flares

    quick question: whats the oldest flare anybody has launched off and it still worked? not looking for a lecture about safety practices or survival equipment, just wondering if anybody has maybe run across a 10 or 15 year old set of aerial flares and tried them out

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    Member Blue Thunder's Avatar
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    I had to replace all of my flares and such this year. They were out dated last year and they slipped through the cracks on things I need to do. I kept the old ones in my ditch bag along with the new ones just in case. I would love to take some of the old stuff and see if it still works. I have been told it is illegal to shoot this stuff off, if it is not an emergency.


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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Think of it more like following the speed limit. You're not supposed to "shoot it off", but if you're not near the ocean and no one is looking, it will be fine to "test" it. I recommend going to a remote gravel pit or similar "non-flammable" location and shooting your flares in a near horizontal direction instead of upward. If you can't find a large enough land area that isn't flammable, then go to a remote lake large enough that the flare will land in the water when you shoot it horizontally. The final and easiest alternative is to just wait for winter and test your flares where they will land in snow and not be seen as a signal by anyone else.

    All that said, I've accumulated a bunch of "expired" stuff over the years as well. So long as there's enough good stuff, the "expired" stuff is just bonus and stays with the kit. Last New Year's Eve I touched off 3 of my oldest flares that "expired" in 1988 while the rest of the neighborhood was shooting illegal fireworks anyway. They all worked perfectly. Go figure.
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    I remember last year while out on my boat in PWS someone talking on the radio to the Coast Guard. He said that he wanted to fire off a flare to see how high it went, what it looked like, etc. and asked the CG if it would be ok. Strangely, they said yes. It just didn't make sense to me that someone would want to do that and made even less sense that the CG would ok it.

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    A friend had some old flares, maybe 10 y/o that he fired off, and all of them went off.

    I keep my old flares as extras in my ditch bag, which is what the cg will unnoficially suggest you do. It's better to have more flares than less in an emergency, so you might as well keep the out of date ones as extras.
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    I lit off a hand held flare that expired in 2002 this past 4th of July. Worked fine. One thing I quickly noted though is that if you light one off on a boat (I was on land) you want to make sure you are holding it over the side. Some pretty hot crap drops off those things as they burn.

    Might also want to put sunglasses on. At arms length, it is mighty bright and it is hard not to catch it in the corner of your eye as you try and keep from setting something on fire with it.

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    Here's the deal with marine pyrotechnic Visual Distress Signals (flares); Yes, they have expiration dates. The dates are intended to ensure the most consistent performance (an important factor should you need a flare during an actual emergency). Pyro, when kept dry, retains a high percentage of functionality for years...I've fired off flares that have been over 20 years old. At the same time, flares that are allowed to absorb moisture may not fire even if they're within their expiration dates, so at least some reasonable care is required. I also see some comments regarding firing off flares in non-distress situations; here's something to consider: The Coast Guard is obligated to assume there is a distress situation when a distress signal is seen and reported. When we get a distress signal notification, there is a procedure we follow to investigate, which could include launching a helicopter and/or boats to respond. A false distress signal can run up a huge bill to the taxpayers, not to mention that any assets used to investigate a false distress might not be available if an actual distress occurs elsewhere at the same time. If you call us and let us know that you want to fire off a flare; we then are aware that it is a non-distress situation and don't need to launch assets. The problem is with people who light off expired flares for the wrong reasons and many times they assume that no one can see them...not realizing that an aircraft many miles away can easily spot an aerial flare or another boat who then turns around and reports a distress signal to the CG. Incidentally, there is a very hefty fine/jail time associated with non-distress signaling, including false Maydays on the radio, uncorrelated flare launchings and EPIRBs going off...it's a much bigger issue than most people might imagine. Boat Safe! Mike

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    Member AK Ray's Avatar
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    This came up on another forum. Some east coast boaters are claiming that they are being cited for having both current and expired flares on board.

    This is cut and pasted from the FAQ section of the USCG website.

    Expired Flares , posted: 12/7/2010
    Question: I have old flares that have expired. What is the best way to dispose of flares? Is it legal to keep old flares as backup as long as you have up-to-date flares on your vessel? Does the Coast Guard Auxiliary collect expired flares and dispose of them?

    Answer: There is no reason to dispose of flares just because they are expired. You are encouraged to keep those flares on board and use them first in an emergency. The U S Coast Guard Auxiliary does not collect flares for disposal. Some Auxiliary units may use expired flares for training or demonstrations. Because of their pyrotechnic nature, flares are considered hazardous waste and need to be disposed of properly. The best source of information would be your local waste management authority.
    George R Bores, BC-VTR
    National "V" Department Staff

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    Moderator bkmail's Avatar
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    I have lit off some of my fathers old flares from his Navy days, stamped expiration on them was in the 70's, and they worked!
    Been stored dry in an ammo can for a long time.
    BK

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by CG Boating Safety View Post
    If you call us and let us know that you want to fire off a flare; we then are aware that it is a non-distress situation and don't need to launch assets.

    The problem I have with this is the possibility that someone actually fires off a flare in a real emergency about the same time as (or instead of, if the original caller ends up not shooting off his flares as originally planned, or later than planned) the original caller and when someone reports the real distress signal it is dismissed by the CG. I think the best place to practice with distress signals is somewhere away from the water.

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    Last 4th of July I disposed of some expired aerial flares, they were the small handheld type, three expired 1996, and all three failed , the other three expired 2001 and one failed to fire one fired but had a short burn time and one worked as designed. All the expired shotgun type flares we disposed of worked fine. Another time we launched some large expired parachute flares, they all fired but half had parachutes that failed. I would not count on expired flares as backup.

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    This is really funny timing for this topic to pop up as I just watched 2 dozen coast guard members fire off every type of pyro distress signal from their dock in downtown Juneau, hahahahaha!

    I was surprised how short the burn time is for the unparachuted flares and the smoke sticks. It was a good reminder of what they all look like and how long they burn.

    I guess they must have called themselves to report what they were about to do?

    Erich

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    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    I thought the Homer coast guard had a marine safety day where you could bring your old flares and fire them off while they supervised? Maybe it was the Homer Auxilliary?
    Anybody remember anything about this? It seems I heard it on the radio last spring.
    I also save my old flares and keep them close to my other ones. If I ever really needed flares fire off the old ones first. You never know when you might need the extra flares in a true emergency so having threee extra couldn't hurt.
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    Member Frostbitten's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skydiver View Post
    The problem I have with this is the possibility that someone actually fires off a flare in a real emergency about the same time as (or instead of, if the original caller ends up not shooting off his flares as originally planned, or later than planned) the original caller and when someone reports the real distress signal it is dismissed by the CG. I think the best place to practice with distress signals is somewhere away from the water.
    ...or, do it right up the beach from the harbor. A few years ago we did this off the beach about a mile from the Seward harbor. Coordinate with the harbormaster, make the appropriate call on the radio that you are doing flare training prior to starting and after you are done, let them know you are done. There's little chance of a false response right outside the harbor.

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    Member Grayling Slayer's Avatar
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    adn.com/2010/07/20/1374361/witnesses-sound-alarm-on-coast.html

    Last year the coast guard got in a little trouble themselves over flare training.
    "I'd rather be fishing!"

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    I learned something when I set mine off - mainly that I didn't want to be standing in the middle of the flybridge while it burned. I think there is tremendous value in knowing how your emergency stuff works.

    Like I said, I did it on the 4th of July. It was in the evening with plenty of fireworks going off around me. I think New Years eve around midnight would be another time to test one without causing a false alarm.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NRick View Post
    I learned something when I set mine off - mainly that I didn't want to be standing in the middle of the flybridge while it burned. I think there is tremendous value in knowing how your emergency stuff works.

    Like I said, I did it on the 4th of July. It was in the evening with plenty of fireworks going off around me. I think New Years eve around midnight would be another time to test one without causing a false alarm.
    Skydiver mentions the possibility of a flare demo coinciding with an actual emergency in the same area; almost a parallel scenario with NRick's comments about 4th of July/New Year's Eve....as one who has been launched to investigate a marine distress signal at 0200 on the 4th of July (more than once), I can tell you that fireworks and marine distress signals look distinctly different and the Coast Guard still considers a marine distress signal exactly that...and not fireworks. 4th of July and New Years are about the only times during a year when marine distress signals are commonly intermixed with other pyrotechnics...and, the odds of having an actual emergency to coincide with with a flare demo any other time of year must be astronomical...not to say it couldn't happen, just that it is highly unlikely. That being said, I would think that someone who has voice comms with the CG during a flare demo would be aware if an actual distress signal is sighted simultaneously nearby and could easily verify that the sighting was not part of the demo...and we would then consider the sighting a valid distress. I guess the point of all this is the advice about the appropriate time/place for flare demos...and what you need to be thinking about before you light one off. Mike

  18. #18

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    I have some handheld orange smoke ones that are only a few years expired, the white caps are turning orange. They are not even five years old, what's that all about? I light my fire pit with expired handheld flares, usually keep all the old ones I can store on the boat until I rotate them out with newer expired ones to add to my arsenal of current ones.

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    Member SkinnyRaven's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by halibutcollier View Post
    quick question: whats the oldest flare anybody has launched off and it still worked? not looking for a lecture about safety practices or survival equipment, just wondering if anybody has maybe run across a 10 or 15 year old set of aerial flares and tried them out
    If your flares are outdated it time for a new boat.

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    Member JOAT's Avatar
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    Pyro storage is a good talking point. What I've usually done is to take each type of device and vacuum pack them in a clear bag. Somethings won't fit well in a vacuum bag, so you've got to store them in just a large ziploc or other watertight container. On vac bags, just cut a few little notches about an inch in from each corner to give you a tearing point to rip the bag open during an emergency. Obviously, the lighter weight Foodsaver type bags are the best for this. Usually have to replace and reseal the bag every year or two if they get damaged and lose vacuum. But the combo of keeping the devices clean, dry, air-tight, and out of sun or any UV light will keep your pyro devices like new and fully functional for decades.
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