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Pyrotechnic Distress Signals - Flares

Safety measures with flares

Use flares only in an emergency. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions before using flares as a safety measure. Aerial flares should be fired at an angle into the wind. If the wind is strong, the firing angle must be reduced. 

Flares should be located within reach and stored vertically in a cool, dry place (such as a watertight container) to keep them in good working condition.

When buying distress flares, look for a Transport Canada (canadian coast guard) approved stamp or label.

An other common feature of distress flares is that they are valid four years from the date of manufacture, which is stamped on every flare. Ask the manufacturer how to dispose of your outdated flares.

Visual signals are not required for boats up to 6m and for human-powered boats. Distress flares are not required for a boat that will never be more than one nautical mile (1.852 km) from shore, has no sleeping quarters or is engaged in an official competition or in final preparation for an official competition.

What is the number and type of distress flares that are required on board of my pleasure craft boat?

Distress flares

The size of the pleasure craft determines the equipment required. Have a look on the safety equipment required for your boat.

The rocket parachute flare:

  • creates a single red star;
  • reaches a height of 300 m (984’) and comes down slowly with a parachute;
  • is easily seen from the ground or air; and
  • burns for at least 40 seconds.

Rocket parachute flare

Smoke Signal :

  • creates a dense orange smoke; 
  • is most effective for daytime use.

Smoke signal

The multi-star flare:

  • creates two or more red stars;
  • reaches a height of 100 m (328’1”) and each burns for four or five seconds; and
  • is easily seen from the ground or air.

Multi star flare

The hand flare:

  • is a red flame torch you hold in your hand;
  • provides limited visibility from the ground;
  • is best used to help air searchers locate you; and
  • burns for at least one minute.



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