Expired Flares = No Flares = Fines

“On your mark. Get Set. Go!” Is your boat going to be ready as soon as the season starts? Summer is not far away and there are a number of things you can do in the next couple of months to prepare your boat for the season. One is checking your flares and, if they need replacing, there are some things you should know.

Do your flares need replacing or are you just going to get some new ones and add them to the existing flares on board? If so, you may want to think twice about it.

Before you race out and just grab what’s on your marine store’s shelf, consider the following.

What do you have?

Check what you’ve got aboard. How many? What type? What is the date of manufacture? Compare this with the requirements for your boat in your province or state. See the links at the end of this article

How old is too old?

How old is too old? The Coast Guard and Marine Police consider flares expired after 4 years from the date of manufacture.

Typically, this means that you must replace your flares every three boating seasons. The Coast Guard regulations require that each pyrotechnic signaling device must be stamped with the expiration date. If they have expired or will expire during the boating season, you must replace them…it’s the law!

The fine

The fine in Canada for expired flares or no flares aboard is $150.00. In the U.S., there is a penalty of up to $1,100 for failure to comply with equipment requirements.

Don’t spoil your summer. Do the check and replace when necessary. It is not only the law, it is your family’s potential rescue time you are risking. Do the right thing.

Don’t buy old stock

Get your money’s worth when you buy “new” flares. Check the date of manufacture before you buy. For flares that are already a year old, they are only good for 75% of their intended life and therefore, worth only 75% of their retail value. And so on. Don’t buy old stock, without the appropriate pro-rated discount.

Expired Flares

Expired flares can be saved as back-up flares for about 10 years to expand signaling time in the event of an emergency. Then, they become unstable and should be disposed of.

Old Flare Disposal

To dispose of expired marine distress signals, you can:

  • Turn them over to the Police or Coast Guard
  • Donate expired flares to local Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron for use in their training classes.
  • Contact your local law enforcement or the fire protection agency for their advice on proper visual distress signal disposal.

Never Do the following:

  • NEVER jettison distress signals overboard.
  • NEVER activate marine flares in a non-emergency situation. You could be charged with the cost of an unnecessary rescue.
  • NEVER dispose of flares in household trash.

For more details refer to your Safe Boating Guide or go to –

US Coast Guard – Office for Boating Safety

Transport Canada – Office for Boating Safety

Doug and Brenda Dawson


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