Coastguard supports withdrawal of flares

A senior Yarmouth coastguard last night supported the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's (MCA) decision to withdraw the use of illuminating flares on health and safety grounds.

A senior Yarmouth coastguard last night supported the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's (MCA) decision to withdraw the use of illuminating flares on health and safety grounds.

Rescue teams have now been told to use safer alternatives such as search lights during land-based cliff and beach rescues and they have been told to hand flares over to the Ministry of Defence for disposal.

Across the country, some coast-guard volunteers have branded the move stupid and ignorant, claiming they are an important tool for locating lost people and vessels in the dark.

However, Yarmouth coastguard watch manager Mario Siano said that with advances in technology, including the deployment of helicopters with infrared cameras and flood lights, the dangers of flares now outweighed any benefits.


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Mr Siano, who has been in the service for more than 30 years, said he could understand people still setting flares off on a boat in trouble because it might make the difference between them being spotted in time or not.

However, he said for coastguards carrying flares on vehicles that might be travelling fast to an incident, there was the explosive potential of something akin to a giant Roman candle to think about if something went wrong.

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Flares will still be used by the RNLI and by the Coastguard's 10 vessels across the UK which operate in conjunction with lifeboat crews.

Mr Siano said all flares used by coastguard teams in the Yarmouth area had already been withdrawn.

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