I thought that I had posted a follow-up, but don't see it so I will try again.
When I finally got through to Sirius Signal about the failure of my SOS device (LED strobe light), they were happy to replace my unit in a manner that was convenient to me given that I'm in CA but my unit is on my boat in NC.
As for customer service, they seem to be willing to help, but the difficulty is in contacting them from their website by phone
. Yes, you can leave a phone
message for them, but when sailing telephone tag can be difficult. They do have an online contact form. But I've never seen a company that doesn't have someone to answer a phone ... even Amazon does though they make it hard to find the phone number.
As for the SOS strobe light, I think that it is a reasonable replacement for nighttime hand flares. The nice thing is that it will operate much longer that say a half dozen flares.
I don't think it is a replacement for parachute flares if you carry them. Parachute flares increase the affective distance it can be seen.
In theory, if you can see a ship and their deck
or pilothouse is at least as high off the water
as their running lights, then you should not need parachute flares.
But if the boat is a sailboat, then you might be seeing a tri-color at the top of the mast
. If they are 5 or 6 nm away, you may see that light, but they will not see a flare at your deck
level. I.e. you need a parachute flare.
The SOS strobe light is not useful in daytime. They sell it with a piece of orange plastic for daytime use, but in my opinion that is worth zero. For daytime I carry smoke flares.
Finally, if you buy an SOS strobe light to replace nighttime flares, and keep your out-of-date traditional flares, be aware that the Coast Guard requires that you keep out-of-date flares separate from in-date flares so that it is easy to distinguish between those which are good or possibly bad.
I personally think that keeping old flares, within limits, is good because they don't all of a sudden go bad.