Distress signalling equipment

This page has information on the types of flares you maybe required to carry and how to use them.

Many recreational vessels are required to carry two hand-held red distress flares and two hand-held orange smoke signal flares, of an approved type, when operating on coastal and enclosed waters.

Drawing of handheld smoke signalHand held orange smoke signals

These can be seen for up to 4km (10km by aircraft). They should be used in daylight to pinpoint your position. They must comply with Australian Standard AS 2092 "Pyrotechnic marine distress flares and signals for pleasure craft".

Drawing of a distress flareHand held red distress flares

These have a visibility range of 10km, are designed for use at night but can also be seen during the day. They must comply with Australian Standard AS 2092 "Pyrotechnic marine distress flares and signals for pleasure craft".

Drawing of a red star parachute distress rocketRed star parachute distress rocket

These are designed to fire a single red star to a height of approximately 300m. The star burns while falling for at least 40 seconds and can be seen from the greatest distance due to its intensity and elevation from sea level.

Image with the text "Red star parachute distress rockets are required by many vessels when venturing greater than 2nm from the coast"

Be prepared

Everyone on board your vessel should know where the flares are stored and how to use them.

Always delay using flares until you can see an aircraft, or until people on shore or in other boats are in visual range. Ensure that you carefully follow the activation instructions of all flares.

How to deploy distress flares

  1. Read the instructions on the side of the flare
  2. Make sure the wind is behind you
  3. Firmly hold the flare by the handle and hold the flare over the side of the boat. Caution: the metal canister burns hot so DO NOT hold the flare anywhere else
  4. Unscrew the lid on the top of the flare.
  5. Hold the flare away from you at all times
  6. Never look into the top of the flare
  7. With your other hand, pull the yellow tag away from you and let the tag go
  8. The flare may take several seconds to activate
  9. Once the flare is activated, hold in the air, make sure wind is behind you
  10. When smoke or flame has finished, drop the used flare canister in the water. Do not drop the used canister in the bottom of the boat, it could burn through your hull or start a fire. Important points to remember

How to deploy hand-held smoke signals

Instructional image showing how to safely deploy distress flares

  1. Check instructions
  2. Remove cap
  3. Pull yellow knob upward and outward
  4. Hold out and leeward

Lifetime and disposal of flares

Flares hold a serviceable life of three years. You must ensure the flares are current and obtain new ones if their use-by-dates are reached. Expiry dates are stamped on the side of each flare. Keep flares away from fuel or combustibles and store in an accessible dry place.

For disposal, contact your local police station to see if they will accept your expired flares.

Man setting off a marine distress flare

Disposing of expired flares

Hand-held orange smoke signals, hand-held red distress flares and red star parachute distress rockets kept on the vessel for use must not exceed the manufacturers' expiry date. Distress flares have a life of three years – you must ensure the flares are replaced when their use-by-dates are reached.

Contact your local police station for a location to dispose of expired flares.