It’s not uncommon, if you’ve owned
a boat for more than a few seasons, to have accumulated expired distress flares.
I’ve seen older boats that have had more than just a few on board- as many as 37
in one case! They’re typically replaced the way they’re sold, in packages of three,
to meet the minimum Federal requirements.
Here’s where to find the expiration dates.
One school of thought says that it doesn’t hurt to keep a few older flares on board
to back up the three fresh ones you just bought. As long as you keep your flares
in a moisture-proof box, this is probably an acceptable strategy. But at some point
accumulating excessive pyrotechnics on board gets to be a safety hazard. They are,
after all, fireworks; extremely hazardous and potentially explosive.
A typical flare kit for recreational boats.
They should always be kept in a readily accessible location in an appropriate container.
Never throw them in the bottom of a locker or under the v-berth. Not only
will you be creating a fire hazard, but they’ll also absorb moisture, rendering
those flares useless when you need them.
Fire Dept. is Best
The most popular piece of advice I‘ve heard, when it comes to disposal, is to check
with your local fire department. They will either dispose of them for you, or they’ll
steer you in the right direction. But depending upon who you talk to this can be
a hit or miss proposition, particularly in areas where boats and boaters are less
concentrated. Another suggestion I’ve heard, for handheld flares, is to find a safe
area in a parking lot to ignite them. I’m not so sure about this one though…
Everyone Needs Practice
My favorite solution, when it comes to disposing of old flares, is to organize an
instructional event. This can be done by a yacht club or marina, and it involves
discussion with your local USCG group, as well as your local marine patrol and fire
department. Not only would an event like this get rid of old pyrotechnics, but it
gives everyone a little hands-on experience with one of the most important pieces
of safety equipment on board.
Here’s how one yacht club solved the expired flare problem.