If you are in an emergency on the water and need help, you can use distress signals, flaresand EPIRBs to show you are in distress.
Distress signals are used to show that you need help and require immediate assistance. The signals are internationally recognised and must only be used if you are in distress.
Use flares to get the attention of other boats or aircraft in the area if you need assistance. Flares that are in date must be carried on all boats and personal watercraft (PWC) that operate beyond smooth water limits, except tenders that don’t need registration. Both orange smoke and red hand flares are needed as part of the safety equipment for these boats.
Your flares must be in date. Flares have a life span of 3 years and must be replaced before they expire. The expiry date is printed on the flare.
Always read the instructions and make sure you understand the manufacturer’s directions before storing your flares on board your boat. Flares should be stored in a dry place where they will be easily accessible in an emergency.
There are 3 types of flares that are designed for day or night use. Effective ranges of flare in conditions of good visibility are:
|Flare type||At night||During the day|
|Parachute flare||25 to 35 nautical miles||Are red in colour and can be used during the day.|
|Red hand flare||5 to 10 nautical miles||Are red in colour and can be used during the day.|
|Orange smoke flare||Not suitable||Very limited—visibility up to 1.4 nautical miles (nm) but better from the air.|
There are severe penalties for misuse of flares including—the cost of labour, risk incurred or loss sustained as a result of misusing flares.
Make sure you dispose of expired flares correctly.
An EPIRB is a small electronic device that, when activated in an emergency, can help search and rescue authorities pinpoint your position.
Once activated, EPIRBs continuously send out a signal for at least 48 hours. Search and rescue authorities respond to all EPIRB activations—you must only activate the EPIRB in an emergency and you must tell them immediately if you no longer need help.
All boats and PWCs operating beyond smooth and partially smooth waters must carry a 406MHz digital EPIRB when more than 2nm from land or when they are more than 2nm from the limits of partially smooth waters.
EPIRBs must be registered, for example:
Do not dispose of old EPIRBs in general waste as it will end up in landfill and could be accidentally activated. Battery World stores will dispose of your old EPIRBs.
Personal locator beacons are designed for personal use on land and water but they are not a substitute for EPIRBs.