Expired Flares

Expired Distress Flares – what should you do?

Most manufacturers tend to date their distress flares to expire at the end of December, so your winter inspection routine is a good time to check them.

If any have expired or appear to have deteriorated through damage or through being left in water, then quarantine them immediately in a separate container and remove them from the vessel as soon as possible.

DO NOT keep them as back-ups and DO NOT set them off on bonfire night. It is a criminal offence to set a distress flare off, other than in a genuine emergency.

Using a distress flares that has past its expiry date could easily lead to serious injury and could potentially cause damage to a vessel or other property.

Once a distress flare has passed its expiry date the chemical compounds inside will begin to degrade. The problem with this degradation is that you will never know to what degree the compounds inside have deteriorated and as a result the way it behaves when it is ignited will be totally unpredictable.

One possibility is that the distress flare may fail to ignite properly when you pull the cord or push the lever. NEVER, hold a distress flare close to your face to see what is happening once you have activated the firing mechanism. It may just be burning slowly and could instantaneously ignite causing terrible injuries.

If a distress flare fails to go-off in the way you are expecting then place it in a bucket of water for 24hrs. Then dispose of the flare following the guidelines below.


If you are a commercial organisation, you’ll need to make your own arrangements. The following instructions are for recreational users only.

Method 1. If replacement flares are bought at Bosuns Locker at Port Edgar Marina, they will dispose of your old pyrotechnics for £1.80 each, provided the quantity is within reason.

Method 2. Phone HM Coastguard in Aberdeen 01224 592334 to arrange an appointment for dropping off modest quantities of old pyrotechnics at their base in St.Andrews. The base is not permanently manned. There is a limit to the quantity they can accept at any one time due to limited storage capacity for this potentially dangerous material.