Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

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Jersey Kayak
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Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by Jersey Kayak »

The RYA have just sent this article in their newsletter about the use of Pyrotechnic flares, and the availability of modern technology
It is worth reading the article in full.

https://www.rya.org.uk/newsevents/e-new ... ary%202020

There is also a link giving advice on the safe disposal of old flares.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by Chris Bolton »

That's been my personal view for a couple of years now, and I carry a VHF, a PLB, a Greatland Green Laserflare, and some dye, no pyrotechnics. One problem is that (as in the link from the RYA document) Electronic Visual Distress Signals are not yet officially recognised (in COLREGS) as distress signals, so don't rely solely on them. I do take issue with the RYA's statement that laser devices should not be used - certainly an ordinary laser pointer will cause problems for pilots and should not be used, but the Greatland Laserflares are specifically designed and tested to avoid problems for pilots; they have more spread and so are not as intense.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by andynormancx »

Make that much, much more spread on the Greatland Laserflares.

I still wonder how well I’d be at using mine in a moving boat or even in the water.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by robhorton »

I think there's a big difference between parachute and handheld flares here. I won't be buying any more parachute flares but I think handheld flares still have a place - they seem to be a lot safer then parachute flares. I think it's fine to just let handheld flares off in your back garden to dispose of them - that's a lot harder with parachutes because of the risk of the burning bit landing on something.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by Jim »

robhorton wrote:
Mon Feb 10, 2020 9:16 am
I think it's fine to just let handheld flares off in your back garden to dispose of them
No it isn't.
I know people in MRTs that have spent nights searching hillsides on account of out of date flares being let off in back gardens.
Also a handheld flare still spits hot phosphor (or similar) in random directions and can be moderately hazardous for the person holding it, especially if being out of date it doesn't burn the way it was designed to.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by robhorton »

Jim wrote:
Mon Feb 10, 2020 10:20 am
I know people in MRTs that have spent nights searching hillsides on account of out of date flares being let off in back gardens.
Obviously anyone thinking of doing this needs to use some common sense but I really fail to see how a handheld flare let off in a typical back garden is going to result in an MRT callout. Especially in Hertfordshire.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by Chris Bolton »

I did let off a handheld in my garden, many years ago, on 5 November. I doubt it was visible from anywhere but next door, and would have been assumed to be a firework. I wore welding gloves, and was glad I did; it put me off the idea of setting one off in normal paddling gear. However, as Jim says, the spitting may have been worse because it was out of date. I wouldn't do it again; I took my out of date flares to Holyhead CG, by prior arrangement, and they disposed of them. As above, I now don't have any pyrotechnics.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by MikeB »

robhorton wrote:
Mon Feb 10, 2020 1:13 pm
Jim wrote:
Mon Feb 10, 2020 10:20 am
I know people in MRTs that have spent nights searching hillsides on account of out of date flares being let off in back gardens.
Obviously anyone thinking of doing this needs to use some common sense but I really fail to see how a handheld flare let off in a typical back garden is going to result in an MRT callout. Especially in Hertfordshire.
You do of course know that would be illegal. I know this having had the joyous experience of attempting to make merry with flares, and having had both (!) miss-fire. I recommend you don't try and emulate me. The story, in all its embarrassing detail is within this forum, if you care to search for it.

The police weren't amused, although the lads from Army Bomb Disposal were quite sanguine.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by robhorton »

MikeB wrote:
Tue Feb 11, 2020 2:21 pm
You do of course know that would be illegal.
I am aware that is a commonly held belief, but I have never seen a credible explanation of which law it would be breaking, and I am not aware of anyone having been prosecuted. To be clear, we are talking about letting off handheld flares in a private place.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by Owen »

Could be the explosives act, used to have a copy but not anymore so I can't check.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by Chris Bolton »

Explosives Act has an 'saving' (exemption) in section 100 for the master of a ship in an emergency.

The Merchant Shipping (Distress Signals and Prevention of Collisions) Regulations 1996 prohibits the master of a vessel from using distress signals except in an emergency - and there has been a prosecution for setting off old flares from a vessel - but doesn't apply if you're not on a vessel. But if you're not, you can't benefit from the 'saving' in the Explosives Act.

I'm not sure if that's a good argument or not; you could also try The Fireworks (Safety) Regulations 1997 which effectively says that if it doesn't meet BS7114 it's not a firework (and also that firework means a device intended for use as a form of entertainment). Or The Explosives Regulations 2014, The Pyrotechnic Articles (Safety) Regulations 2010 or The Fireworks Regulations 2004. Apart from the last one, most of those are to do with the sale or supply, not use.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by robhorton »

I'm aware there have been successful prosecutions under the merchant shipping regulations but these all seem to involve parachute flares fired from (or near) a vessel, so that's not really the same.

I'll admit I'm not an expert on the explosives act and associated regulations but they seem to be generally concerned with import, sales and storage. There is a possibility something there could be interpreted as being an offence but given there are fairly regular flare demonstrations and there's no evidence of anyone getting prosecuted it seems a bit much to claim it definitely illegal.

Frankly I don't see why the police would be interested in someone letting a hand flare off in their garden anyway - they're basically like a very small firework. Parachute flares are an entirely different matter and letting them off in a garden is clearly a bad idea.

Coming back to the original topic - I think having a PLB makes parachute flares unnecessary but handheld flares have a big advantage over things like laser flares that they're immediately recognisable as a distress signal and they don't seem excessively dangerous.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by Jim »

I don't know which law might or might not apply, but the MCA in the link from the original RYA link state that it is illegal to let off flares other than in an emergency, but just because the press officer says so doesn't necessarily mean it is 100% accurate.

People do seem to have an idea that hand held flares are much safer than launched flares, but from most of the reports I've heard from people who have used them they still seem pretty hazardous.

Of course things are different in other cultures, when we ran out of fuel in California some years ago the police happened to pass us and stopped to see if we needed help, their first action was to position flares in the road in front and behind us to warn other traffic, more effective than a reflective warning triangle! Of course the copper didn't actually have to keep hold of them, they were designed to be stood up in the road and left alone.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by Douglas Wilcox »

Two years ago in a similar discusion I posted this.....


Let's look at it another way, let's say the status quo was PLBs and DSC VHF. Someone comes along tomorrow from the Save your Soul pyrotechnic company, (imagine someone like Jeremy Clarkson) and says

"Look forget about those invisible electron thingies, we have developed this great new rescue technology based on exploding chemicals. When you let one of these babies off you really know you have called for the cavalry! We give you recoil, noise, heat, light, burning sparks, smoke and... did I mention the smell? Oh I love the smell of napalm in the morning! We have even managed to slow the explosion so that our budget models burn for 20 seconds and our premium products last an amazing 40 seconds! And unlike batteries you don't even need to bring your old ones back for recycling, our shops will be happy to sell you new ones without a recycling bin in sight! "


Does anyone seriously think for a moment that the Save your Soul company would be able to introduce their exploding chemicals as a new product (to replace PLBs DSC VHF and laser/LED flares) to the recreational marine market today? Of course not, they are far too dangerous and are an environmental nightmare to get rid of responsibly.

Douglas

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by pathbrae »

People do seem to have an idea that hand held flares are much safer than launched flares, but from most of the reports I've heard from people who have used them they still seem pretty hazardous.
A cautionary tale.... Many years ago, when the coastguard / RNLI organised dates to come and fire off expired flares under supervision, one of them, while discussing the problems of hand-held flares and the need for gloves gave an interesting demo. He fired a red hand-held and said - "OK - my hand is getting too hot, I'm getting sparks in my eyes, I can't see for the smoke - what should I do with this?" "Chuck it in the water" said a few of us.

"Watch this...." dumped in the water the flare didnt sink, go out or just float off - it fizzed around on the surface and repeatedly hit the side of the slip.

"That's one hole in your life-raft...... two holes....... three... four...... now your in trouble!"

An interesting demonstration and one of the reasons I stopped carrying flares.
So much sea - so little time to see it.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by John K »

robhorton wrote: I am aware that is a commonly held belief, but I have never seen a credible explanation of which law it would be breaking, and I am not aware of anyone having been prosecuted. To be clear, we are talking about letting off handheld flares in a private place.
Letting off a hand held flare on private property where it will not be confused with a distress signal is no more illegal than standing in your garden waving your arms up and down.

Parachute flares are trickier though as they can be seen from much further away which makes a false alarm more likely. They also burn all the way to the ground so can be hazardous.

I’ve let off dozens of hand held flares with no issues, but wouldn’t do it with parachute flares.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by MikeB »

John K wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:53 pm
robhorton wrote: I am aware that is a commonly held belief, but I have never seen a credible explanation of which law it would be breaking, and I am not aware of anyone having been prosecuted. To be clear, we are talking about letting off handheld flares in a private place.
Letting off a hand held flare on private property where it will not be confused with a distress signal is no more illegal than standing in your garden waving your arms up and down.
I'd forgotten about this. I wrote to MCA about this. Here is their response.

"Thank you for your email to the MCA Infoline about the use of out of date flares and firing them in non-distress situations.

The Statutory Instrument that brings the legislation in under COLREGs constitutes a potential offence when a connection can be established to a boat, but this would normally be considered on or near a boat or ship and in a maritime or coastal environment. In addition to the non-use in non-distress situations offences may also be committed under the Firearms Act, Criminal Damage Act, Explosive Regulations 2014 and Offences Against the Persons Act (in the event that a person has been injured). The Sporting Events Act prevents the use of flares, smoke bombs and fireworks at sporting events and outside sports grounds, and consideration is being considered to extend powers under the Serious Crime Bill

We also recommend that out of date marine pyrotechnics are not fired as the chemical compounds within the pyrotechnics may degrade which can cause erratic flight, misfires or a failure to operate as intended which can result in a pyrotechnic firing unexpectedly."

That there appear to be few - if any - prosecutions brought is either unfortunate, or sensible application of the law, according to your view.

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by OMarti »

Coming back to the original subject, I want to report an experiment done in France with pyrotechnic flares, in the middle of the 80's.

30 years ago or more, the expiry date of pyrotechnic flares was 3 years from the construction date. Then the lobbying of flare makers persuaded french authorities to set the validity to only 2 years !

Les Glénans, the well know sailing school, was a bit upset by this. They organised a big test, in presence of french authorities and representative of flare makers. They had kept old flares from 40 years before. They made an extensive test, by firing all their collection (rocket parachute flares and hand-held red light flares). The conclusions were :

- An old flare has never been subject to auto combustion
- If the package is damage, with humidity or rust, the flare has a large probability to fails
- If the package is neat, the flare has a very big chance to success
- The flare age has nothing to do with the probability of success
- No flare, even the damaged one, where dangerous to fire

It was a total success, as french authorities set the validity to 4 years ! And sailors were allowed to keep old flares on their boat.

Olivier

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Re: Pyrotechnic Flares – past their sell-by date?

Post by nickcrowhurst »

It would clearly be irresponsible to fire these on November 5th at the height of the local celebrations. Jest sayin', jest sayin.....

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