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Old 10-04-2016, 12:01   #16
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Re: Outdated Flares - How old is old?

Ross-
You'll get all sorts of opinions. Personally, I've had road flares, casually stored in a car trunk for 20+ years, that simply totally failed to work when they were called upon.
And, ten year old marine flares, stored on a shelf with no special packaging, from two sources, all working perfectly on a 4th of July test. (Handheld versus 12-gauge, once you see the difference you'll be amazed.)
Considering that flares "age" from moisture, oxygen, and arguably other breakdowns of chemistry? I keep the new ones to be compliant, and then I keep any and all old ones in a metal ammunition can that has been repainted and labeled as "Pyrotechnics, hermetically sealed, DO NOT OPEN except in emergency". With an inventory list on it.
Metal can because I've experienced spontaneous combustion with other pyros. Genuine military ammo can because yes, they really are waterproof too. And before I close it up, I toss in some silica gel packs (to absorb moisture) and oxygen absorption packs, to remove oxygen. Both fairly inexpensive, the oxygen packs are disposable.
Will they work when and if needed? Hell, if they don't, I haven't really lost anything. But from experience, if you keep them dry and sealed up tight, the odds are that they WILL. At least for the first decade.(G)
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Old 10-04-2016, 12:14   #17
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Re: Outdated Flares - How old is old?

In the past, when the marine authorities here didn't frown on training with parachute flares, I organised some tests/training with outdated flares after obtaining prealable authorisation.

IME, there are 3 failure modes for a parachute (rocket) flare:
1 it doesn't launch
2 when launched, the flare doesn't ignite
3 when the flare ignites, the parachute doesn't open

In case 1, you fear it will start and ignite later. You can't drop it overboard because it floats and children could pick it on the shore. The best short-term action is probably to dunk it in a bucket of water.

In case 2, you try to recover the uningited flare if it falls on the ground. If in the water, no problem.

In case 3, you don't want to be where it falls!

Alain
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Old 10-04-2016, 13:29   #18
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Re: Outdated Flares - How old is old?

Be careful how you test flares. Fired off a couple of old flares in what I thought was the middle of nowhere. Got buzzed by a CG C130 shortly after.
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Old 10-04-2016, 13:48   #19
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Re: Outdated Flares - How old is old?

I think what's missing from this conversation is a description of whether we're talking about conventional Coast Guard approved flares from Orion (principally) or whether we're talking about SOLAS flares from one of the many providers (Pains Wessex, Comet, etc.)

The SOLAS flares are so superior in performance, waterproofing, and cost that it would make sense to both take care of them while they are "in date", and then to keep them to perhaps twice their stated life. One risk of using older older rocket parachute flares is that if the parachute fails to open, the flare drops very quickly quite a ways away, and it can do a lot of damage. This is not likely, but it can happen.

The rules governing offshore race boat equipment used to allow SOLAS flares to be carried (and counted) for 6 years, rather than the stated 42 months, but since no documentation could be found that actually supported this amount of time, the rule was changed to the stated 42 months.

Cheers,

Chuck
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Old 10-04-2016, 13:54   #20
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Re: Outdated Flares - How old is old?

In my travels I have seen Flares over 40 yrs old work perfectly and Brand New ones FAIL. A lot depends on how they have been stored (Namely in a COOL - DRY Container) for an example I like an old surplus ammo can that is in good shape because it is water tight, and will keep anything store in it Cool & Dry if below deck. Secondly I keep all my old hand held flares, because if are in trouble you will need more than what you have, because you are probably in some out of the way location, and if there are any people around they probably would not recognize what they are seeing, unless the are another boater. Also remember to save some of the out-of-date Flares as they will help you start a fire, if you make it to shore.

Another thing you might think of carrying in your ditching bag is a second EPIRB, and/or handheld radio for Channel 16, with Extra Batteries. Both these devices will get you faster than flares.

I know some people have mentioned the New Laser signaling devices are now accepted by the CG, they may be good, but remember if there is no one out there to see them and recognize them, they are not going to help you when you need help.

Stay safe everyone, and think how you will help yourself, if you get into to trouble.
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Old 10-04-2016, 16:30   #21
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Re: Outdated Flares - How old is old?

Any firemen out there with experience with old outdated flares? When buying new flares I keep my old ones for an extended emergency but I don't know how long they are stable or dependable. Can they get too old to work properly? Will they not work at all if too old? Will they burn down my boat? Will they burn me if I use them? You get the idea...what do you think? Thanks, Ross

As a rescuer, trainer, dismantler and recycler, I did over 300 demos of pyrothenics (flares) of all makes, types and manufacturers across the world. I dismantled over 89,000 flares, mob transmitters, elt's and epirbs and have been recycling all the materials, plastic, aluminum sleeves and the powder. In all of those flares, there were some that were used in commercial shipping and pleasure crafts, and some of these were like 40 years old. In Canada, the flares are classified as type : A Parachute (rocket). type : B Para launcher (multi star) with the pull chain and the 12 gauge shell with the plastic gun. type : C handheld with the striker and some with the pull chain and type : D the canister orange smoke flare and the demo. I will not mention Manufacturer names as all of them have some duds at one time or another.

For most of these flares they are very good during the time they are allotted for, 4 years, in some countries they only allow 3 years. Some of type B would not fire after 3+ years and we use to demonstrate how many would not fire. I have been aboard a vessel where 60 flares were kept for backup! Let's be reasonable here. Are there dangers of keeping so much? Yes! Some handheld type C with the cardboard handle can deteriorate to the point of ignition.

Type A, Parachute (rocket) very good, most dangerous to launch, hang on very good, aim straight up, learn the bottom of the launcher on your top of your leg as it will give you some kick. I have never hit a dud in these. They are usually well kept in their plastic bag and well kept in their own plastic shield or sleeve. Look at the instructions very carefully. Some of these will reach 300 meters (1000 feet) in height, straight up. If you have Russian one, they will reach (1500 feet at 45 degrees). This is indicated in the instructions. Brace yourself! When it reaches it's height the flare will ignite and burn and float down with the parachute. The brightest of all types of flares 40,000 candelas.

Type B Para launcher or cartridge will go up 100 meters and display 2 stars. Para launchers with the small pull chain are good but not easy to fire. The pull chain connected to a wire is under or the bottom of the flare. Never seen those on commercial vessels (do not know why). The gun type shell is very good but you need coordination to have 2 up in the air every time you fire. 2 shells = 1 flare. The drawback of the single shell is that the barrel of the gun needs to be cleaned immediately after use as the inside of the barrel gets gummed up and in the future when you fire again, the gun hinges and the shell comes out backwards and can hit you in the face. Now this type you can buy replacement shell that is a sleeve (twice the length of a single shell) that slides in the barrel and fire twin stars. The sleeve is the same length as the barrel. Much safer and do not gum up a barrel and your gun will last much longer. Brightness 5,000 candelas.

Type C the handheld flare. the ones with the striker is very good, One draw back, if you are in the water and you try and ignite it, make sure the flare did not get wet as it will be very hard to strike an ignition. The ones with the pull chain ignite when wet. Read instruction well as some try to fire these with the flare pointing down. In other words the handle it in one hand and the opposite end is the pull chain and is the fire end. Handheld, (hold it downwind) therefore do not look at it when it burns. You will lose the ability to see properly for 15 minutes if you look at the burn at night. Once completely burned the barrel will be red red red hot. Dispose over the side not the garbage can...! Brightness 15,000 candelas.

Type D the orange smoke flare. One of the safest one. A pull wire and the ignition is done internally, the canister will become very hot! Throw it in the water. Once ignited bright orange smoke will pour out through a small hole and rise 15 meters in light to moderate winds and can travel for 15 miles. Daytime flare only, if use at night, you will lose a flare. You cannot see this at night, not even with a flashlight. The burn happens inside the canister. Not hard to look at. Throw this in the water down wind as the smoke will dirty the boat. Very easy to clean. Never hit a dud in this type.

Will flares burn my boat? All flares can burn your boat if they get direct contact with fibreglass or other combustible material. Do not let children fire these, not even for training purposes.

To dispose of these flares "can" be handed to the fire department, some police departments. some US Power and Sail Squadrons (those that have flare disposal programs) and some Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons (those that have a flare disposal programs).

Hope I have answered all your questions... Roger
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Old 10-04-2016, 17:51   #22
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Re: Outdated Flares - How old is old?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hydra View Post
In the past, when the marine authorities here didn't frown on training with parachute flares, I organised some tests/training with outdated flares after obtaining prealable authorisation.

IME, there are 3 failure modes for a parachute (rocket) flare:
1 it doesn't launch
2 when launched, the flare doesn't ignite
3 when the flare ignites, the parachute doesn't open

In case 1, you fear it will start and ignite later. You can't drop it overboard because it floats and children could pick it on the shore. The best short-term action is probably to dunk it in a bucket of water.

In case 2, you try to recover the uningited flare if it falls on the ground. If in the water, no problem.

In case 3, you don't want to be where it falls!

Alain
Last time I was cruising in the Bay of Biscay, I witnessed a mass flare trying-out event somewhere, IIRC Douarnenez. Supervised by the coast guard. I thought -- what an enlightened way to get rid of expired flares.

Please don't tell me that this has been forbidden
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Old 10-04-2016, 18:23   #23
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Re: Outdated Flares - How old is old?

Last time I was cruising in the Bay of Biscay, I witnessed a mass flare trying-out event somewhere, IIRC Douarnenez. Supervised by the coast guard. I thought -- what an enlightened way to get rid of expired flares.

Please don't tell me that this has been forbidden.

In maritime law it is clearly noted that it is against the law to fire off flares in other circumstances other than distress. However you have just answered your own question. You participated in an activity that was supervised by the Coast Guard. Great! They have the resources to advise all involved in fast response or emergency personnel. That way no one will be charged for false distress. This is the concern, the costs for initiating a false distress. On another note, I have never seen anyone charged under this act.

The second concern for firing off distress flares is what if you burn down someone treasures... who will cover the burnt down what ever? This is why there has to be very careful planning and get all players involved. As a courtesy I invite all emergency personnel to participate as many of them have never seen flares up in the air. The fire department, the police, local and regional and provincial etc. I also advise the marine rescue coordination centre. I indicate to the rescue centre that I will call them immediately before starting the exercise and immediately after and also give an exact position. I also inspect all the flares that will be fired off, for safety sake.
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Old 10-04-2016, 20:18   #24
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Re: Outdated Flares - How old is old?

Here's what happened to me when trying about a dozen expired flares. Half were duds and then there was this one. I would hate to think what would happen if I was aboard my boat or this happened on the first shot in emergency.
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Old 10-04-2016, 20:27   #25
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Re: Outdated Flares - How old is old?

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Originally Posted by meridian28 View Post
Here's what happened to me when trying about a dozen expired flares. Half were duds and then there was this one. I would hate to think what would happen if I was aboard my boat or this happened on the first shot in emergency.
Yours did not open and fire backwards. It blew up in the gun. The barrel must have been very dirty. Hope no ne was hurt... Roger
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Old 10-04-2016, 20:33   #26
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Re: Outdated Flares - How old is old?

I had only fired one other flare before this one. Barrel was clean when fired. It must have burned for 15 seconds or so. I was shooting these into a snow bank.
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Old 10-04-2016, 20:41   #27
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Re: Outdated Flares - How old is old?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rossny View Post
Hi All,
Any firemen out there with experience with old outdated flares? When buying new flares I keep my old ones for an extended emergency but I don't know how long they are stable or dependable. Can they get too old to work properly? Will they not work at all if too old? Will they burn down my boat? Will they burn me if I use them? You get the idea...what do you think?
Thanks,
Ross

The way flares are stored probably has a lot to do with their reliability, but there is also a strong element of luck. I am not a fireman, but you might find the following experiences informative.
I have attended about 15-20 flare demos over the years, each with an average 20-30 flares let off. At one extreme, a 50 year old parachute flare from the Queen Mary worked OK (that's the original QM). On the other hand, and rather worryingly, about 30% of the in-date flares did not work. They were recently bought by professional safety officers, so probably not a storage or operator problem.
Regarding the danger of flares, there have been a few instances of accidents and injuries from both in-date and out-of date flares. Perhaps the most famous flare-induced injury occurred in April 2006, when sailing school proprietor Duncan Wells was shot in the abdomen and badly injured by a faulty in-date flare while filming a programme on their correct deployment. He spent nine months in hospital, four of those in ICU, and six weeks in a coma.

I hope we will soon see the end of pyrotechnics, now that there are good 21st century alternatives (subject of a separate thread!)
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Old 11-04-2016, 16:57   #28
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Re: Outdated Flares - How old is old?

My 2 cents( sorry 5 cents, I'm in Canada). I have expired flares, I have flares that are not expired and legal. My flares are kept in a water tight container with a silica gel pack. Half the year they are frozen. For me if the boat is sinking I will fire the new flares and then the expired ones, Lake Ontario is pretty cold in June, July and August, I'de like to be found.
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Old 12-04-2016, 00:28   #29
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Re: Outdated Flares - How old is old?

I have LOTS of flares, but the last of them expired this year. I bought a Sirius Signal and will not be buying any more flares. I have fired off hand held flares in the past that were over 20 years old. They lit just fine. So I'm legal (in the U.S.) and still have plenty of flares to use in emergencies. But really, I have something like 30 flares, do I really need to buy more of them? I think I have made Orion enough money.
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Old 20-04-2016, 23:36   #30
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Re: Outdated Flares - How old is old?

I was once stranded on a remote desert beach in Baja when a "chubasco" put us on the rocks and the boat was lost. We spelled out "SOS" on the beach in big letters with stuff from the boat for passing planes to see. At night we fired off every rocket flare and hand held flare on board at passing boats. We were finally rescued by a passing shrimp trawler when we got its attention with a 3 X 5 inch mirror.
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