In an emergency situation at sea‚ visual distress signals (VDS) can be a crucial tool for alerting rescuers to your location.
Hand-held VDS flares are portable‚ easy to use‚ and can be seen from a distance‚ making them an effective means of communication when you are in danger and in need of help. But‚ it’s important to understand the proper procedure for using these flares in order to ensure their effectiveness and to avoid any potential accidents.
When to Use Hand-Held Visual Distress Signals?
According to the U.S. Coast Guard‚ hand-held VDS flares should only be used in the following situations:
- When your vessel is in distress and in need of immediate assistance
- When your vessel is abandoned and you are unable to signal your position in any other way
- When you are on shore and see a vessel in distress
It’s important to note that hand-held VDS flares should not be used as a substitute for other forms of communication‚ such as a marine VHF radio or satellite phone. These devices should be used first in order to call for help and alert rescuers to your location.
VDS flares should only be used as a backup signal in the event that these other forms of communication are not available or are not functioning properly.
Types of Hand-Held Visual Distress Signals
There are several types of hand-held VDS flares‚ including:
- Parachute flares: These flares are shot into the air and release a bright light that descends slowly back to the ground using a small parachute. They are highly visible and can be seen from a distance of up to 20 miles (32 kilometers).
- Handheld flares: These flares are held in your hand and burn for about one minute. They are less visible than parachute flares‚ but can still be seen from a distance of up to 10 miles (16 kilometers).
- Smoke signals: These flares release a dense‚ orange smoke that can be seen from a distance of up to 3 miles (5 kilometers). They are useful for signaling your location during the day‚ but are less effective at night.
It’s a good idea to carry a variety of hand-held VDS flares in order to have multiple options in case of an emergency. Be sure to check the expiration date on your flares and replace them if necessary.
Using Hand-Held Visual Distress Signals
When using hand-held VDS flares‚ it’s important to follow these safety guidelines:
- Read the instructions carefully: Each type of flare has specific instructions for use. Make sure you understand how to properly ignite and use the flare before you need to use it in an emergency situation.
- Use the flare in an open‚ clear area: Make sure you have plenty of space around you to ignite the flare. Avoid using the flare in enclosed or confined spaces‚ as the smoke and flames can be hazardous.
- Only use the flare when you are in sight of land or rescuers: Hand-held VDS flares should only be used when you are within sight of land or rescuers. If you are out of sight of land or rescuers‚ it is unlikely that the flare will be seen and it could potentially lead to an accidental fire on your vessel.
- Avoid pointing the flare directly at anyone: The bright light and flames from the flare can be harmful to the eyes‚ so be sure to aim the flare away from people and animals.
- Use the flare in accordance with local laws and regulations: Some areas have specific laws and regulations regarding the use of VDS flares. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these regulations before using a flare.
Storing and Transporting Hand-Held Visual Distress Signals
Proper storage and transportation of hand-held VDS flares is important to ensure that they will be in good condition and ready to use in case of an emergency. Here are some guidelines to follow:
- Store the flares in a dry‚ cool place: Flares should be stored in a dry‚ cool place away from heat sources and direct sunlight. This will help to ensure that the flares do not expire or become damaged before you need to use them.
- Check the expiration date: Hand-held VDS flares have an expiration date‚ typically about three years from the date of manufacture. Be sure to check the expiration date and replace any expired flares.
- Transport the flares safely: When transporting hand-held VDS flares‚ be sure to store them in a secure‚ upright position to prevent any accidental ignition. Do not leave the flares in a hot car or in direct sunlight for extended periods of time.
In summary‚ hand-held visual distress signals can be a crucial tool in an emergency situation at sea. It’s important to understand the proper procedure for using these flares in order to ensure their effectiveness and to avoid any potential accidents.
Follow the guidelines outlined above and always be prepared in case of an emergency.
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