Distress Signals – Flares

Flares signify you’re in trouble and need help. They also provide a location for search and rescue craft and other vessels preparing to rescue you.

A minimum of two red hand flares (for night or day use) and two orange smoke flares (for day use) are required to be carried on all vessels operating 20 nautical miles or more offshore. You should be able to locate and ignite the correct flare in total darkness. Ignite flares only when rescuers are in view and can see your flare.

Most flares have a use-by date of three years and must be replaced before the expiry date. Expired or damaged flares are required to be disposed of correctly. Flares can be disposed of at designated Roads and Maritime Service Centres.

It’s an offence to set off flares except in an emergency.


The National Maritime College (NMC) is a Registered Training Organisation providing competency-based boat training and education. The College offers boat licence and jet ski (PWC) licence courses and tests designed to improve boating skills and awareness. You can expect friendly and professional training from from us. It is the "personal touch" and dedication to improving safety on the water whilst instilling - confidence, knowledge and good boat handling skills that sets us apart.

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