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Your Basic Visual Distress Signals

Insider : maritza

Visual distress signals are very important to any boater. It could be the one thing that saves your life when you're in a critical situation. Did you know that the U.S. Coast Guard requires vessels over 16 feet length overall with mechanical power to carry readily accessible, serviceable visual distress signals (VDS) on board for both daytime and nighttime uses? Visual distress signals include pyrotechnic and non-pyrotechnic devices such as flags, flares and lights. If you aren't sure about which signal to use in a certain situation, just continue reading below!

Nonpyrotechnic

  • There's only one flag approved by the Coast Guard that's approved for daytime use. The flag has to be 3ft by 3ft with an orange background displaying a black square and a black circle.

flag

  •  While these flags are easliy accesssable, cheap, and never expire, they don't get as much attention as other daytime signal would such as somke signals.

 Eletric Lights

 SOS-Electronic-Distress-Light C-1001_lifestyle_340x340

  • Note that in order for the light to be compliant, you must also carry a distress flag or any other approved daytime signal.
  • This light floats, fits in a rod holder, and flashes a continuous SOS for hours.
  • However some boaters are trained to look for a red burning flare instead of a bright-white light.
  • So for an even better signal, use the light and a flare. 

Flares

Flare1 91WAyoV5qPL._SX450_

Pyrotechnics

  • I mentioned Flares Pyrotechnics above.  
  • Flares fall into three classifications: floating, handheld and aerial (meteor and parachute)
  • Daytime approved flares are loating and handheld red-smoke only. 
  • However red flares, whether handheld or aerial, can be used in the daytime or nighttime.

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  • When deciding which one to choose, think about the distance from which it's visable to a rescuer at sea level
  • Pyrotechnic signals are reliable, highly visible, and are well recognized as a traditional distress signal.
  • Flares have been known to cause physical injury such as burns and in rare occasions, an onboard fire when they're  not properly ignited or handled.
  • The downfall to flares is they have to be replaced often in order to meet Coast Guard requirements. Local Ordinances vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so deposing of them an be a difficult task. Be sure to check your local EPA office or nearest Coast Guard facility for current rules.

 The Coast Guard is currently working with the Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services to develop better battery-operated electronic visual distress signal devices (eVDSDs). The goal is to enhance operation times and increase user safety. If you would like to read more articles on boating tips, click here. Thank you for reading and have a wonderful day!

 

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