Electronic Flares – an alternative to the traditional

Owning a boat is not a cheap endeavor. It is no wonder that for many people BOAT more often means, “bust out another thousand.” And that is just the price on routine boat maintenance and upkeep. We can’t forget about motor/engine maintenance costs, storage costs and you certainly can’t skip out on the costs involved with safety.

One of the many safety-involved costs that seem to be on a never-ending loop is signaling flares. It seems that as soon as you’ve bought them, they’ve already expired and it’s back to the marina for more. Furthermore, many find that properly disposing of them can be difficult, as many local fire departments no longer accept them.

SOS9fullSo what do you do? Can you do anything? The good news is, you can. U.S. Coast Guard approved ‘electronic flares’ are now a thing; you’ll still need batteries though.

In order to be acceptable, all electronic visual distress signals must be legibly marked with the statement: ‘Night visual distress signal for boats complies with U.S. Coast Guard requirements in 46 CFR 161.013. For emergency use only’, and must also be marked with the manufacturer’s name, replacement battery type and lamp size.

If an electric light is designed for use with dry cell batteries the label must advise the consumer on the battery replacement schedule, which under normal conditions would maintain performance requirements of 46 CFR 161.013.3

Also, when accompanied by a daytime distress signal flag, you’re good to go both day and night. The combination of the two satisfies the USCG daytime/nighttime signaling requirements. pyro

Electronic visual distress signal breakdown:

  • USCG compliant for day and night use when carried with a daytime distress signal flag. (33 CFR 175.130, 46 CFR 161.013)
  • Light lasts up to 60 hours
  • Visible up to 10 nautical miles
  • Doesn’t expire and safe to operate
  • Can operate unattended
  • Per USCG regulations – flashes only SOS sequence
  • Easy to test regularly
  • Floats lens-up, waterproof and submersible


At the end of the day, safety is the important thing to remember. Be sure to make all the required preparations and if you aren’t sure, reach out to your local Coast Guard unit or Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla. They can provide you with proper information and sound advice. Who knows, you may even want the Auxiliary to hook you up with a free vessel safety exam.