Boating Distress Signals



Hello, I’m Petty Officer James Harless with the Seventh Coast Guard District. The coast guard always stresses boating safety. Today we’re going to be talking about signaling devices and how they could help save your life.

Lt. Cmdr. Kristi Luttrell: It’s very beneficial if a boater has a flare kit that’s operable in the boat at all times along with other good tools that the boaters can use to protect themselves from harm on the ocean such as an EPIRB or a VHF radio – all of those are great tools. I think that the best and safest thing to do is to make sure that you do have an operable flare kit on your boat at all times. That means that they are not expired. There’s no guarantee that an expired flare will operate when you need it.

Thank you, Ms. Luttrell. And now we take you to Petty Barry Bena with more information.

Petty Officer Bena: Visual distress signals – what’s available to me? What do I need? These are all important questions that any mariner should be asking themselves before they go out to enjoy a beautiful day on the water. To help clear up any confusion with these questions, we have Mr. Bruce Wright. He is the coast guard 7th district recreational boating safety specialist. Bruce, can you tell me a little about what we have here today?

Bruce: Well, Barry, we have a couple of options that are available. We have a distress flag for daytime use. We have an electronic beacon which flashes S.O.S. for night time use. These are all non pyrotechnic devices. If a boater elects to go with a pyrotechnic, we have hand held flares; you have an aerial flare that is shot out of a 12 gauge or 25 mm gun.

Petty Officer Bena: What if I have some road flares in the back of my car? I mean, those are cheap. Can’t I just use those? They do the same thing right?

Bruce: Not only no, but absolutely not! The only flares that are acceptable under state or federal law are coast guard approved flares.

Well, Mr. Bruce, thank you for clearing up some of the confusion we have had with signaling devices. I’m Petty Officer Barry Bena. Back to you, Mr. Harless.

Petty Officer Harless: Petty Officer Bena, Mr. Bruce Wright, thank you. The coast guard cannot stress enough the important of having a signaling device on board your vessel. If you find yourself in a distressed situation at night, you’ll be thankful you had one. From the 7th Coast Guard District, I’m Petty Officer James Harless.

For more information on boating safety, visit uscgboating.org.

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