Around 50 people gathered on Stanmore Bay beach on a cold wet winter’s night to find out more about flares.
Coastguard Hibiscus holds a Flare Demo evening every year as a training session for crew and boat owners, highlighting the importance of carrying flares and knowing how to use them in an emergency.
Flares are pyrotechnic devices that create an intense bright red flame or an orange plume of smoke; these are highly visible from the air and on sea, making it easier for rescuers to spot. There are three main types – orange smoke flares for daytime use, red handheld flares which are very bright, burn for up to 60 seconds and are visible from aircraft, and red parachute or rocket flares which are launched up to 300m and burn for 40–60 seconds while descending slowly under a parachute.
Two red parachute flares as well as 20 red handheld flares were deployed at the Stanmore Bay event on August 6.
Doing so required a lot of advance warning to authorities, including the Civil Aviation Authority, Coastguard headquarters, Police and the fire brigade to prevent any chance of the deployment being treated as a genuine distress signal.
A comprehensive safety plan was also in place.
Instructions are written on the flares, and Coastguard recommends all boaties familiarise themselves with those before heading out on the water.
If at any time you see a flare off the coast, contact NZ police on 111, Maritime Radio on VHF channel 16 or Coastguard Radio on VHF Channel 60 or 64.