Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.^

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AlexC
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Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.^

Post by AlexC » Fri Sep 27, 2013 12:01 pm

OK, I appreciate that I'm in danger of opening a can of worms here... but I'll proceed anyway.


Every now and then I take the kids out in our Sevlylor Inflatable kayak either on a river or a lake or in the sea. Whilst I'm always cautious and try to be as safe as possible there is always the possibility of something going wrong. And I was thinking that perhaps I should be taking some kind of flares out in the boat just in case the worst happens and we get caught in a rip or something.

Don't get me wrong, I fully appreciate that sea kayaking is a serious undertaking. I am not planning anything even remotely challenging. I'm just thinking of trying to make out occasional bimbles a bit safer.

I'm fully expecting to get a barrage of replies along the lines of "if you don't know then you shouldn't be asking" etc...

What should I buy and where?

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Kayaks'N'Beer
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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by Kayaks'N'Beer » Fri Sep 27, 2013 12:28 pm

I'd say, if all you're planning is the odd wee bimble close to shore then forget flares and get yourself a PLB. Worst case scenario, you can't raise help on your mobile (which should be in a waterproof case and your first line of defense), just press the "save me" button and sit tight.

Some people will probably advise VHF, too. Not necessarily a bad idea. Also, it would seem you're worried about getting abused by "rips". Do you know what rips are and how/why they happen? If not, best find out. They're a lot easier to deal with if you know what's going on.

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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by garya » Fri Sep 27, 2013 12:31 pm

If you are on the sea then a VHF may be more useful. These don't cost much and I-com or Standard Horizons are the most popular.

You will be able to talk to the coastguard or other boats near you who may be able to help or be looking for you. the coastguard can also direction find you on VHF so will know your position if you need help.

I personally would be worried using flares near and inflatable in case it caught fire, but I suppose they use them in liferafts. Flares or smoke really work when you can see or hear your rescuers near you or searching for you so that you can pinpoint your position. I use a day-night for this that I carry in my PDF in case I am separated from the boat. I also have two red parachute flares in the boat.

I also have a strobe light and torch as well for attracting attention.

Have a look at this section of the site it has lots of useful information.
http://www.ukseakayakguidebook.co.uk/almanac_safety.htm

These are the main people I use to buy flares and safety kit from.

http://www.safety-marine.co.uk/

Gary A

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maryinoxford
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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by maryinoxford » Fri Sep 27, 2013 3:03 pm

If you decide to go for flares, think about how to dispose of them when they are out-of-date.
Not in Oxford any more...

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Jim
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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by Jim » Fri Sep 27, 2013 7:45 pm

A lot of people don't realise, but flares spit hot phosporous, you will probably prefer the inflatable to stay inflated to keep you all dry and help the rescue services spot you!

So many alternatives that would be good for close inshore work and form part of the modern offshore survival kit too:
Signal mirror
VHF radio (coastgurd can use direction finding equipment on your signal to help a search)
Mobile phone often works well on the coast
Personal Locator Beacon
Laser flare
High power strobe light
Air horn (usually for collision but it will make people in earshot look around)
Loud whistle - same reason!
If your partner or a friend will be on the shore waterproof PMR radios might come in handy.

I'm sure I've missed some.

Jim

Dave28
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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by Dave28 » Fri Sep 27, 2013 10:46 pm

These are the standard responses; and when I paddle my sea kayak I carry a VHF, a waterproof JCB mobile phone with the coastguard's phone number programmed in, and a day-night flare.

The only trouble is that because I like to paddle close inshore through the reefs and along the base of cliffs, I reckon that at least 80% of the time none of them will work, because I'm out of line of sight with radio masts, phone masts, and cliff top walkers. Which is why, if there's any sort of serious swell I paddle with a mate. But then I've already wrecked one boat, so I know just how easy it is to get it seriously wrong!

So the first thing you have to do is refine "cautious" and "as safe as possible". Essentially, especially if it's just you and the kids, it's a good idea to stay in sight of other people - in which case a floatable red smoke you can set off and throw in the water if you find yourself swept out in a rip, or unable to make headway against the wind, is probably your best bet. In our neck of the woods, buying them through a marine safety consultant gives somewhere to take them back when they (hopefully) go out of date.

If you want to go to quiet secret places - and which of us don't - then with children on board, there's a lot to be said for having another boat in company, with a VHF, so that in case of trouble they can make enough of an offing to get a signal and call for help. (see above) A warm clothes safety bag and/or bivy tent is also a good idea. Climbing cliffs to get help, especially in the South West, isn't.

Only last week I was talking to a very fit couple with two children who told me they took their Sevylor out to Looe Island (about 1km off shore) to look at the seals. While they were out there the offshore wind strengthened (or perhaps they just didn't notice it on the way out), and they could not believe how hard, and for how long, they had to paddle to get back to the beach; and how close they were to total exhaustion when they got there. If it had been just one of them with the kids, I reckon a VHF would have been very comforting - especially if the wardens were on holiday!

I hope you think these are constructive suggestions - they're meant to be!

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PhilAyr
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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by PhilAyr » Fri Sep 27, 2013 11:22 pm

a waterproof JCB
A waterproof one is a great idea but where would they put it ? ? !! ;-)

Seriously though some very good advice David.

Phil

neil_f
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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by neil_f » Sat Sep 28, 2013 2:19 am

Aldi have 'rugged' waterproof phones on sale today. £40.

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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by PlymouthDamo » Sun Sep 29, 2013 3:16 pm

I do the same sort of trips as you - i.e. close to shore, medium distance. I usually use my plastic surf boat, but I've also got an inflatable which I use from time to time when I need to carry my boat with me. I've got a few communications devices: a couple of VHFs, a PLB and a waterproof pouch for my mobile phone.

You have to base your decision on which emergency comms to take on the risks you think you're up against. I plan my routes in such a way that I assess the likelihood of not being able to swim back to shore as extremely low. Therefore, I don't opt to take flares or the PLB - I'm sure I'd be out of the water before a rescuer reached me. More useful to me would be non-emergency comms in the event of finding myself stranded on a beach or breakwater etc. Therefore, I take a VHF and my phone. I assess the chances of having to swim when in my plastic boat as extremely low - I trust my roll. However, there's always the possible of falling out of my inflatable as it's open. Therefore, I wear a one-piece drysuit when in my inflatable to give me a chance if I end up swimming.

Flares and PLBs don't necessarily guarantee a swift rescue. Someone still has to receive your signal and provide accurate location information to a rescuer. Last week, I heard from the skipper of a dive boat that he'd used his PLB when his boat had sunk. 15 hours later, the Falmouth control centre had still not acted on it. That was an exceptional cock-up, but the lesson I take from it is that my best chance of safety is to carry kit and plan a route which maximises my chance of getting myself back to shore.

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Simon Willis
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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by Simon Willis » Thu Oct 17, 2013 8:18 pm

We made this free video (Vimeo page) for the Coastguard and RNLI with advice from the rescue services on Stornoway to help answer these sort of questions. You can also download it free at SeaKayakPodcasts.com.

OK it plugs our DVD, so I hesitated before writing anything. Sincere apologies if I've overstepped the mark and moderators should feel free to delete this entry. However, please bear in mind the Coastguard are promoting this free video because they feel it contains useful advice and information. Hey, they even gave me a chopper to play wth!

We learned a huge amount while working with the rescue professionals. Three people in particlar come to mind; rescue helicopter pilot (Alun Tink), Lifeboat Coxswain (Murty Campbell) and HM Coastguard's National Canoe & Kayak Liaison Officer (Anne Young). All of them are sea paddlers. The advice Gordon Brown delivers in the free video is based on his personal experience and the knowledge those professionals have shared.

We are not saying, "this is what kit to carry". No single approach or set of kit is correct. But when you are deciding for yourself what kit to carry, it's useful to have some background knowledge, and that's what we've tried to provide.

In the video we divide an emergency shout into two parts - the Initial Distress Alert (calling for help) and Attracting Attention. We then consider the effectiveness of different pieces of kit in each phase.

What follows are not the conclusions of the video. It doesn't reach any. We leave that to you. What follows are my decisions about my kayaking kit, based on where I paddle, after speaking to all the above people.

Initial Distress Alert
* A 406 Personal Locator Beacon with GPS seemed to be, in the view of the rescue professionals we spoke to, the most reliable way to make the Initial Distress Alert. Voice communication is better (VHF or phone) but not as reliable. So I now kayak with PLB, VHF and a mobile phone.
* I won't replace my rocket flares. They are too dangerous to use, relatively ineffective compared to the above, and difficult to dispose of. That said, if you have one it could save your life. The sequence of Gordon firing a rocket flare and it hurting his hands is not in the free video.

Attracting Attention
* I will not replace my day/night flares. The red end burns for just 30 seconds and was barely visible at night, in a flat calm sea, from the bridge of a lifeboat. That's despite having a GPS fix on the target. We very nearly missed it.
* Instead I will carry two red pinpoint flares which have a much longer burn time and, according to helicopter pilot Alun, are easier to see from the air during the day than orange smoke in a strong wind. I think we see this in the video - I remember hanging out of the door to get the shot...
* Lifeboat and helicopters have direction finding equipment which can lock onto a VHF signal (we show this from inside the helicopter in the video) so my VHF is essential.

We honestly hope the free film is useful. We'll be showing a twenty minute version at the SCA show in Perth on 26th and 27th of this month.
S

Mr Ed
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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by Mr Ed » Fri Oct 18, 2013 9:52 am

Simon,

Fantastic video. I look forward to seeing the full thing.

Did you have a chance to test laser flares at all? How effective were they?

Cheers!

Mr Ed

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John K
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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by John K » Fri Oct 18, 2013 10:05 am

There has been a lot of talk about laser flares on RIBnet over the last few months, and some people have started to carry them.

http://www.rib.net/forum/f8/flares-52703.html

The general consensus seems to be that they are good as a secondary means of attracting attention, for instance guiding in a lifeboat or helicopter that is already looking for you following PLB or VHF alert. Whether they would be recognised by an onlooker as a distress signal seems to be uncertain to say the least. "Rescue laser" is probably a better description that "Laser flare"

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Simon Willis
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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by Simon Willis » Fri Oct 18, 2013 11:32 am

Hi Mr Ed

We did use a laser flare in the main film. 2 paddlers get split from the group at night and have to attract attention of the lifeboat's Y boat.

The laser flare is good but what amazed us at its effectiveness was a rear red bike light! Some of these are very very powerful , water-resistant and can be set to flash.

HM Coastguard are currently wary of laser flares I was told only this week by one of their media team, who are running a 'don't point lasers at aircraft' campaign. We didn't use the laser anywhere near the chopper.

Glad you like the video.

(Sorry if any typos - I'm pecking this on my phone)
S

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John K
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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by John K » Sat Oct 19, 2013 7:10 am

Simon Willis wrote:HM Coastguard are currently wary of laser flares I was told only this week by one of their media team, who are running a 'don't point lasers at aircraft' campaign. We didn't use the laser anywhere near the chopper.
A rescue laser is nothing like a laser pointer as it has a much more dispersed beam. Apparently it's actually better than a conventional flare or high power torch for helicopter crews using night vision goggles.

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Jim
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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by Jim » Sat Oct 19, 2013 12:14 pm

John K wrote:
Simon Willis wrote:HM Coastguard are currently wary of laser flares I was told only this week by one of their media team, who are running a 'don't point lasers at aircraft' campaign. We didn't use the laser anywhere near the chopper.
A rescue laser is nothing like a laser pointer as it has a much more dispersed beam. Apparently it's actually better than a conventional flare or high power torch for helicopter crews using night vision goggles.
You probably hit the nail on the head there John - as soon as people notice that a laser pointer is much cheaper than a laser flare there will be people inappropriately carrying pointers, which are reported as being potentially dazzling/temporarily blinding to pilots, even though the proper thing was designed and tested to be safe. With a proper flare it would still be best practice not to aim directly at an aircraft or other craft but at least accidentally tracking it across line of sight due to bobbing won't dazzle observers.

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Simon Willis
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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by Simon Willis » Sat Oct 19, 2013 3:50 pm

This might clarify my prevous post. When I wrote that the Coastguard were 'wary' of laser flares, my comment was based on this email received earlier this week from the Coastgard head office team:

"Since the video was made there have been some developments over laser flares, it's not an issue as far as the video is concerned. The CAA made contact with us not long ago about laser flares because Air Navigation Order 222 has a relevance which states that a person in the UK must not shine a light at an aircraft so as to dazzle the pilot or an aircraft. It just means that when we post the link we'll have to say 'don't shine lasers at aircraft'. The pilots also really don't like the lasers in their eyes, and we are working with the CAA to find a solution..."

I'm not in a position to make an informed assessment as to the relative safety or otherwise of laser flares, or their effectiveness relative to conventional flares.

S

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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by RescueFlares » Sat Oct 19, 2013 6:29 pm

Simon Willis wrote:This might clarify my prevous post. When I wrote that the Coastguard were 'wary' of laser flares, my comment was based on this email received earlier this week from the Coastgard head office team:

"Since the video was made there have been some developments over laser flares, it's not an issue as far as the video is concerned. The CAA made contact with us not long ago about laser flares because Air Navigation Order 222 has a relevance which states that a person in the UK must not shine a light at an aircraft so as to dazzle the pilot or an aircraft. It just means that when we post the link we'll have to say 'don't shine lasers at aircraft'. The pilots also really don't like the lasers in their eyes, and we are working with the CAA to find a solution..."

I'm not in a position to make an informed assessment as to the relative safety or otherwise of laser flares, or their effectiveness relative to conventional flares.

S
I am the UK Importer of Greatland Rescue Laser: I will comment on Air Navigation 222 - quite right, and this includes shining high powered torches etc too - Nobody should shining High powered focused Laser Pointers at aircraft or High Power Torches - I have 1700 Lumen Fenix Torch - its bright can spot 800 yards!

BUT The Main Point is Greatland Rescue laser flares DONT cause dazzle to Aircraft. In fact I would guess that the aircraft pilot would NOT know it was a laser as source.

Greatland Rescue Laser Flare has been test by the DSTL (Defence Science and Technology Labs) the UK governmental agency and have UK Military Laser Safety Certificates.

Extracted from the MSLC:

AVOID DIRECT EYE EXPOSURE TO THE BEAM.
§Do not point at people who are less than 13 feet (4 meters) away.
§Do not point at binoculars who are less than 150 feet (46 meters) away
§Possibility of skin damage –If not wearing gloves ensure laser is not operated within 30cm
of skin.
§During the performance of routine maintenance procedures such as cleaning the exterior or
changing batteries the power should be turned to the off position.



The USA have similar law: Quote Greatland Website:

In February 2012, the United States Congress passed into law HR658 authorizing appropriations for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for fiscal years 2011 through 2014. Included in the law is Section 311 "Prohibition Against Aiming a Laser Pointer at an Aircraft". Section 311 39A(c)(3) on page 56 specifically exempts "an individual using a laser emergency signaling devices to send an emergency distress signal."

Greatland Laser has sold its patented laser emergency signaling devices throughout the world for over 10 years. We have never had a safety issue with the products. Under the exception provided in this federal law, Rescue Lasers are legal to signal an aircraft for help in an emergency.


More details & report:

http://www.sprmarine.co.uk/content/usef ... lares.html

Doug Ritter Report Equip to Survive: http://www.equipped.org/rescuelaser.htm

The RNLI Coastal Accident Prevention Team - currently have Greatland Rescue Lasers in there demo kit.

The MCA Postion on Rescue Lasers:

MCA Notice http://www.dft.gov.uk/mca/min_464_final_version.pdf

Quote from: Marine Offshore Rescue Advisory Group: Good practice in offshore rescue.

http://www.hse.gov.uk/research/otopdf/2001/oto01040.pdf

"Image Intensifiers. The most appropriate form of image intensifier is that used in Night Vision Goggles (NVG). These are already widely used in the armed forces and, if used by those searching for survivors at sea, would, according to the HSE report, significantly increase their chances of detecting and locating survivors at night. They could also provide rescuers with greater freedom of action when actually rescuing survivors.

A limitation of NVG is that bright lights such as flares or searchlights can temporarily blind the equipment. However careful operation can reduce the risk of this happening and, if it does, the search can still be continued with the naked eye until the NVG regain efficiency.

It is expected that the use of NVG would significantly enhance the chances of detecting survivors at night, particularly if they are wearing strobe lights or reflective tape (with the search vessel using a searchlight screened from the NVG).
So carrying traditional flares or shining bright torches will affect your rescuers helicopter if they have night vision (NVG). "

Greatland Rescue Laser Flares dont affect NVG and are picked up by NVG

Police Aviation News 18th Feb 2006 – (British Based and was the Reason for selling UK)

http://www.policeaviationnews.com/Ac...February06.pdf Page 13

"Greatland Laser of Anchorage, Alaska, has announced that its Rescue Laser Flare® emergency signaling devices are both safe and the most effective product of its type available.

These products can be legally used as a distress signal in an emergency as well as tactical situations.

Rescue Laser devices send a conventional laser beam through a special optic that creates an expanding plane of light instead of a potentially harmful focused dot like a laser pointer making it easier to hit the intended target. Pointed at nearby wall produces a line a foot or so long. Pointed and slowly swept back and forth at a rescuer ten miles away and this same
line expands to 3,600 ft high.

The line cannot miss anything in its path—any portion of the line viewed by rescuers appears as a distant red flash like a red light on a police car distinctly different from other background light."

As Posted Previously - RIBnet my user ID over there is SPR - I joined this Forum few years back, to answer any questions since my Brother & his Wife is Kayaker - http://www.KELPscotland.com is there adventures.

Any Question feel free to ask me, or email scott@sprmarine.co.uk

Scott Roberts
www.sprmarine.co.uk

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Simon Willis
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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by Simon Willis » Sat Oct 19, 2013 8:08 pm

Thanks Scott - that's comprehensive and really helpful. Incidentally, the MCA link you quoted didn't open for me.
S

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RescueFlares
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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by RescueFlares » Sat Oct 19, 2013 8:31 pm

Simon Willis wrote:Thanks Scott - that's comprehensive and really helpful. Incidentally, the MCA link you quoted didn't open for me.
S
Yes - see it has 404 error now, but looks like there website under maintenance too.

http://www.dft.gov.uk/mca/mcga-mnotice. ... C48A7C59B7

PDF Version: http://www.dft.gov.uk/mca/min464.pdf

Actual Text:

1. Background

The international regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea (COLREGS) apply to all vessels at sea and by special application to vessels on inland waters. Annex IV of these regulations sets out the signals used to indicate if a vessel is in distress and in need of immediate assistance. The equipment needed to make some of these signals (e.g. pyrotechnics) is required to be carried on all seagoing commercial vessels, and most non–seagoing commercial vessels. They are also required to be carried on all pleasure vessels of 13.7 metres in length and over. The Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention describes the standards that distress equipment must meet and whilst not mandatory for all pleasure vessels it follows that to avoid confusion similar standards need to be adopted.

The MCA is aware of the development and marketing of hand-held non-pyrotechnic devices offered as alternatives to pyrotechnic flares; these will be referred to in this document as Electronic Visual Distress Signals (EVDS). Whilst noting the likely benefits of these such as cost, safety and ease of disposal, from a practical perspective the signal produced by these devices is different to that produced by a hand-held pyrotechnic flare and may not be recognised as a distress signal. This may have potentially fatal consequences.

Current Position

To be effective, distress signals must be internationally recognised and whilst acknowledging the potential benefits of EVDS the MCA considers that a change would be needed to Annex IV of the COLREGS to permit these devices full recognition as distress signals.

Work has commenced in this area, the US Coast Guard for example has commissioned the international standards organisation, Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services

(RTCM), to research the effectiveness of EVDS. The MCA positively supports this initiative, through monitoring progress, contributing views, and supporting this work in the appropriate international fora. The ultimate aim is to work towards recognition of these devices, if they are shown to be fit for purpose, by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and a subsequent change to COLREGS Annex IV regulations.

When the US research is concluded further information on the current position will be published.

Advice for Mariners

Where the carriage of flares is mandatory, hand-held distress flares must meet the requirements of the Marine Equipment Directive which incorporates European and IMO requirements. None of the EVDS on the market that we are aware of, currently meet the light intensity required by the IMO Life Saving Appliance Code and as such do not conform to the Directive. This means that they cannot be carried as a substitute for pyrotechnic flares on vessels to which mandatory carriage applies.

Where carriage of flares is non–mandatory and due to the possibility that EVDS may not be recognised internationally as a distress signal, the MCA advises that EVDS, for the time being, should not be carried as a substitute for conventional pyrotechnic flares. However, for all pleasure vessels, seagoing commercial vessels, and most non–seagoing commercial vessels EVDS may be carried and used as a locating device, though their limitations should be recognised and all parties involved made aware of the type of signal being generated.




I have just purchased your DVD btw, always interested in seeing new material especial as it features a Greatland Rescue Laser - we have added sighting rings to model - if you in contact, I will send up the sights free of charge a free carry case for the presenter. email an address

Scott

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Re: Emergency Flares, what to buy and where.

Post by Simon Willis » Sat Oct 19, 2013 9:29 pm

Thanks Scott - I saw the order. I don't have a laser flare, but thanks for the offer. I've emailed you.
S

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