Know your flares; save a life

Simon Barker with some of the distress flares for Saturday’s demonstration. Photo: Chris Callinan.

Distress flares are sometimes the boatie’s last resort for attracting attention. If the motor doesn’t work and the VHF’s broken, a flare can be the last chance to call for help – provided it’s seen, and recognised for what it is.

Tauranga Volunteer Coastguard is organising a flares demonstration for Saturday September 17, at three separate sites, says operations manager Simon Barker.

“The purpose is twofold: to demonstrate the correct deployment method and usage of flares; and to educate the public on what to expect when they see one that has been deployed.”

It is essential that the public know how to spot flares, and efficiently report sightings – so that boaties in crisis aren’t left to drift away.

To better simulate a realistic deployment, two Coastguard vessels will send red parachute flares up at sea: two kilometres off Leisure Island, and two kilometres off Papamoa Beach, at approximately 6.30pm, 7pm, and 7.15pm.

“This will cover the time as darkness approaches, while still enabling video footage to be shot for educational purposes, going forward,” says Simon.

The harbourside demonstration site is the Sulphur Point Yacht Club, where volunteers will light red handheld signalling flares and a number of orange smoke flares at 6.35pm and 7.05pm.

A presenter will discuss safe flare use, keeping practices, and replacement upon expiry.

Vital information:

Marine emergency parachute flares are always red in colour, and are rarely seen in their ascent phase.

From a maximum height of about 300m, they descend slowly, with the aid of a parachute. They will generally burn for 30-40 seconds.

If anyone sees a red parachute flare, there are some vital steps to take, says Simon.

How to save a life:

Note your exact position – street name, a particular landmark – and take notice of the exact direction of the flare from your position, as accurately as possible.

Don’t forget to take down the time you saw it.

Estimate the height of the flare, because that will help estimate the distance.

Call 111 to report the sighting. Ensure you leave your contact details; an officer may well contact or visit you to discuss your sighting.

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