Letting off old flares

pugwash

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I've got a barrel of offshore flares five years out of date in my shed. Good practice for the crew, I thought, to let them off on Guy Fawkes night. Somebody said to do it on a riverbank so if the phosophorous doesn't quite ignite you can chuck it in the water. Is there any other danger inherent in messing about with old flares? Apart from doing it near the coast and triggering an S&R operation of course.
 

James_Calvert

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Don't! I let a parachute one off at a friend's Guy Fawkes party - very impressive except as it drifted back toward his house it headed towards his roof.... Fortunately it got hung up in a tree in his front garden. We were in his back.
 

KrisHansen

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I remember a student prank related to me by some friends, who met up with old school chums near their Dorset home village. Most brought fireworks, but the guy who was working in Military Stores was kind enough to bring the biggest distress flare the world has ever seen. Did it light up the whole area for miles around? Yes. Did it deploy a parachute with some military wording on it? Yes. Did they run for it? Oh yes....

- Kris Hansen
 

charles_reed

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I've made it a practice to let the flares off as part of the Guy fawkes memorial for the last 10 years.

There are a number of caveats to beware.

1. Don't let them off on a built-up area.
2. Expect the parachute flares to under-trajectory, so, make sure you let them off down wind into a non-flammable waste area.
3. With flares more than 3 years old you'll have a lot of duds - have a bucket of water to douse them in if they don't fire.
4. Don't let them off anywhere near the coast, think of the CG's reaction.
5. Ditch the smokes - they cover everything with yellow powder.

My experience of trying to hand them in to the authorities is bafflement, verging on suspicion.

Good luck, better to find out how to use them in a controlled non-stress situation than at sea in a F9 in the dark.
 

jamesjermain

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The police are supposed to have facilities to take in old flares but, as you say, Charles, the usual reaction is bafflement, particularly if the station is more than a mile or so from the coast.

The most extreme case of this was related in YM a few years ago:

A yachtsmen went into his local police station. 'I understand you have facities to take in, and dispose of, old flares'.

The constable looked puzzled and went to consult the desk sergeant. 'I'm sorry sir, we can't help you', he reported back. 'May I suggest you try the Women's Institute. They collect clothes for refugees'.

JJ
 
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There is a MAJOR difference....

... between Aerial Pyrotechnics (rockets) used in pleasure displays and marine distress flares that makes flares extremely dangerous for use on land and particularly in populated areas.

That is the fact that fireworks are made so that their display ceases and they extinguish whilst still airborne at a safe height leaving only the stick or at worst a glowing cinder to return to the ground (or bitumastic flat roof or washing line or conservatory acrylic roof - get the point?). Distress flares rely upon the sea to extinguish them and indeed are better (because of a longer burn time) if they do fall into the sea still burning. This would of course be disasterous if a flare landed on your neighbou's vulnerable property. You could also be charged with a criminal offence.

Take 'em to your local yacht club or coastguard for disposal.

Steve Cronin
 

claymore

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I used to teach on RYA shorebased evening class courses and used to inject a practical element by having a flares session somewhere near Nov. 5th. I always let the local Police and Coastguard know and they were fine about it. The useful lesson for me was seeing if out of date flares worked. They do tend to if they've been stored well so the practical application of that knowledge is that I have a tub of In-date flares on board and also keep my newest out of date ones as well - as a belt and braces last resort measure.
 

Twister_Ken

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That\'s what Pains-Wessex said

I asked this question on their stand at last year's Earls Court. "Have an in-date set, and keep the last out-date set as back-up. When the in-date ones go out-date, buy new and at the same time return the oldest out-date set to the chandler who will return them to us for disposal" was roughly what they said.
 

pugwash

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How new is new ?

There must come a point when it's not worth keeping old flares on board. Any idea when the cut-off is? Mine are five or six years out of date.
 

claymore

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Re: How new is new ?

Hmmm
I'd not like to be dependent on 5 or 6 year out of date flares as my back-up. My oldest are 2 years at the moment and the 3 year old ones were disposed of and replaced last May. I have heard of 10 year old ones working(not in anger I hasten to add) but maybe thats just chancing things a bit far
 
G

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Re: How new is new ?

Because I work for the RNLI as a volunteer, I have to attend various "training" w/ends one of which is soley to do with flares and we are told in no un-certain terms that it illegal to let off red paras (we use greens). It may have escaped your notice but there are never any fireworks which mimic a red distress flare, nothing burns for that length of time. Sure the CG may take a bearing and decide that it is highly unlikely that some would be in distress 10 miles inland, but it does generallly p**s them off to have these flares lighting up the sky on Nov 5th. Think if you were out on that night and was in trouble??? Why not take them to your nearest CG station and whilst there ask them for a tour to see how the other half live I'm sure they would be only to pleased.
 
G

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Re: How new is new ?

I seem to remember a PBO test of old flares quite a few years back and the conclusion was that the old ones worked as well as and in some cases better than the new in-date flares. Personally I keep old ones and have about 4 sets. Last time I used them which was years ago, I used the old out of date ones first and as they worked fine didn't even need to use the new ones. Mind you we only used two at the time when the CG was close.
 

pugwash

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How far inland is inland?

Peter, Your point is well-made but I wouldn't dream of letting the things off anywhere near the coast. I can't imagine the CG being seriously alarmed by a flare that goes off ten miles inland on Guy Fawkes night, or in West London for that matter. There has been a lot of useful info given by different posters, especially the reminder that parachute flares come down red hot and might set your neighbour's roof on fire, which I hadn't considered. On balance I think I will give my crew the chance to practice with the hand-helds and dispose of the parachutes. Thanks to all.
 

claymore

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Re: How far inland is inland?

Seems a bit drastic getting rid of the parachutes - what about going out and ramming a container or something then then run a live practice session?
 
G

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Re: How new is new ?

Some flare tips I have accumulated! (1) Old (at least up to about five years) are at least as good as 'new'. In fact 'old' may work and not a new one. (2) White flares used for signals, almost always get mistaken for red. If people stare at them it tends to look red to the eyes. I have warned CG of impending white flares (for racing etc) and then people have telephoned them to say they saw a flare - not sure what colour. (3) For disposal I ignite hand held flares in my own grounds near a bonfire (garden not 5 Nov) (4) Others can be sunk at sea in reasonable depth of water. (5) As others have stated here, taking them to authorities is a joke: they have not a clue and are more dangerous than a sailor who knows what they are and their history.
 
G

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Re: How far inland is inland?

Pugwash, for what its worth I agree with you, but be warned that once lit you cannot extinguish a handheld even in bucket of water. You can get a lot of hot dross from an old flare so if you are going to let your crew have-a-go make sure you have somewhere that they can safely throw the flare (if it starts to burn them) to let it burnout safely.After its burnt out by all means throw it in water.Best of luck
 

claymore

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Re: Great idea, can I borrow your boat? nm

Very Droll
Mind you - it would save all that tedious craning out, taking off the cushions, draining the.......
 
G

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As an RYA demonstrator for over 25 years I have attended more training days with Pains Wessex than I care to remember, and I am amazed at the ignorance of some of the replies to this thread, and some of the illegal advice given. It is illegal to discharge distress flares anywhere for purposes other than distress (IRPCS Annex IV para 2) and it is illegal to dispose of them at sea. Further info is available from BMIF (01784 473377). At the same time why not get a group together and ask the RYA for a demo when you will be given the latest low down on flares and their disposal as well as their uses.
 
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