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Coastguard warns about misuse of flares

10 November 2010

Jersey Coastguard is warning people not to use marine flares unless it is a genuine emergency.

Over the weekend there were 15 reported sightings of distress flares, all of which had to be investigated by the coastguard.

In all cases the flares were spotted on Friday night by the experienced mariners on board the Commodore Goodwill, which was anchored in St Aubin’s Bay.

Deputy Harbourmaster, Captain Peter Moore, believes that people were using the rocket flares instead of, or as part of, their home firework displays.

He said “Setting off marine rocket flares for fun is hugely dangerous and irresponsible. Our coastguard team have to log and investigate each and every incident in case it is a real emergency which of course takes up their time and valuable resources and, more seriously, could detract from genuine flare sightings. It is also hugely dangerous for those setting off the flares, which, as they are quite costly, we suspect are also probably out of date.

“Marine guidance notes explain that all old flares need to be disposed of correctly. Rocket flares degrade with time and there have been cases where the rocket propellant separates from the parachute and you are left with an uncontrolled flare which then comes back down and hits the person who has fired it off.”

Islanders are also reminded that whenever they hold their own events which include items that could be misinterpreted as marine distress flares, such as sky lanterns, then they need to advise Jersey Coastguard, Jersey Harbours and Jersey Airport in advance, to minimise any unnecessary false alarms. 

Last year Jersey Coastguard had 61 false alarms or AGIs (alarms with good intent).

In total they responded to 175 call outs, which include all incidents at sea such as:

  • body recovery
  • full search
  • rescue operations
  • vessel break-downs
  • reports of pollution
  • flare sightings

So far this year the Jersey Coastguard team has carried out 140 call outs of which 32 have been AGIs.

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