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Old 21-06-2019, 06:54   #1
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FYI Signal Flare Service Life

In short: Make sure of the expiration dates of signal flares when buying replacements. Do not accept flares that have less than at least 3 years of "legal" life span remaining. They are expensive and one should try to get the longest serviceable life span possible given their cost.

Discussion: As we routinely travel off-shore as well as in-shore, our safety equipment includes a fairly hefty visual distress signals kit in several air-tight containers. (One for the "mother ship", one for the dinghy and a third in our "ditch bag" tethered to our life-raft.)

As a matter of routine, I check/inspect all of our safety gear annually, in June, to ensure that everything is up to date to ensure the greatest likelihood that things will function properly when needed (and, but less so, to ensure we're up-to-snuff in the unlikely event we're subjected to a US Coast Guard Safety Inspection).

In the USA, signal flares intended for marine use have expiration dates 42 months after their date of manufacture; and, after which the USCG considers they do not meet legal requirements (although they almost invariably work long after their expiration dates!). The foregoing means, of course, that one must replace one's signals at least every three years.

Our signals are now "out of date" so on my way home from the boat yesterday, I stopped by my local West Marine outlet to pick up replacements. Much to my surprise, the packages of 25mm aerial flares on the shelf had expiration dates of August 2020! In other words, only 14 months of "legal" service life remaining. Considering that a 4-Pack of these flares is priced at $85.00 USD (or $21.25/flare)--and we need two packs--that would be a substantial investment for only 14 months, No?

The Store Manager agreed and has ordered replacements for us but assured me that if they arrive with less than 36 months of service life remaining we can refuse them (tho' finding more up-to-date replacements may prove problematic given our locale).

N'any case, FWIW...
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Old 21-06-2019, 08:44   #2
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Re: FYI Signal Flare Service Life

There are two LED flares that do not expire and meet the USCG requirements.

The Weems & Plath Sirius LED Flare and the Orion LEDSOS Beacon are both good battery powered alternative to satisfy the USCG flare requirement.

IMO the Orion is very well-built, w/ a nice reflective perimeter tape and a push button on / off switch. It takes two D cell batteries on an annual replacement.

The Sirius is very nice, smaller, w/ a twist on / off mechanism. It takes three C cell batteries on an annual replacement.

The Sirius may be completely disassembled, the Orion cannot.

The Orion has a five year prorated warranty. The Sirius has a lifetime warranty.

The Sirius is my selection when my current flares expire because of the warranty and because of the ability to disassemble.
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Old 24-06-2019, 05:17   #3
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Re: FYI Signal Flare Service Life

Quote:
Originally Posted by wingless View Post
There are two LED flares that do not expire and meet the USCG requirements.
The Orion has a five year prorated warranty. The Sirius has a lifetime warranty.

The Sirius is my selection when my current flares expire because of the warranty and because of the ability to disassemble.
If you drown because either one doesn't work, do you get your money back, or do they send you a new one?
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Old 24-06-2019, 05:25   #4
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Re: FYI Signal Flare Service Life

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Originally Posted by psk125 View Post
If you drown because either one doesn't work, do you get your money back, or do they send you a new one?
They offer a better warranty than on the pyrotechnic flares.
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Old 24-06-2019, 06:24   #5
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Re: FYI Signal Flare Service Life

When my current flares expire, I will move to these permanent solutions. Far safer, and less impact on environment. No dangerous goods disposal afterwards, and no expiry dates.
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Old 24-06-2019, 06:38   #6
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Re: FYI Signal Flare Service Life

As a substitute for hand held pyrotechnic flares, LED and Laser Spectrum "flares" may be suitable. Aerial flares are another matter. A 25mm aerial flare can be seen for upwards of 35 miles (and the US Coast Guard suggests they be launched in pairs of two in quick succession) in day-light or darkness. Burn times are somewhat limited but less so with the SOLAS parachute flares. When 50 or more miles off-shore and beyond VHF range, if needed I want flares that will be as widely visible as possible. N'any case, different ships/different long-splices. The notice was given for the benefit of those relying up pyrotechnic flares.


FWIW...
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Old 24-06-2019, 07:15   #7
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Re: FYI Signal Flare Service Life

I just bought the Weems and Plath. The idea that they will fail and you will drown doesn't pass the makes-sense test to me. It's a whole lot easier to test the LED flair than test a pyrotechnic flair. Also, owning and LED flair doesn't prevent me from carrying all the other devices I choose.
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Old 25-06-2019, 11:08   #8
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Re: FYI Signal Flare Service Life

Note that West Marine has an Independence Day LED and pyrotechnic flare sale from June 27 through July 7. The Orion LED flare is discounted during those dates.
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