The RNLI and MCA warn sailors not to set off flares for Guy Fawkes celebrations

If Guy Fawkes night is usually a time for you to let off your out of date flares then think again. The Royal National Lifeboat Institution and Maritime and Coastguard Agency say that rescuers’ lives are put at risk every time lifeboat and helicopter crews are called out for false alarm distress calls, especially in hazardous winter conditions.

RNLI Staff Officer Operations, Peter Bradley, says: “When a flare goes up it is universally recognised as a distress signal, so it’s no surprise to find concerned members of the public dialling 999 when they see one – and they should continue to do so.”

Each year the problem is increasing as the lead up to 5 November often sees people testing out their ‘firework’ flares. The last three years have seen RNLI volunteer lifeboat crews called out 35 times to false alarms caused by revellers using flares to light up the night sky.

The RNLI says a rescue can cost up to £5,800 for the launch of a large all-weather lifeboat, and £2,200 for a smaller inshore lifeboat. Each time a lifeboat responds to a false call not only wastes money but puts lives at risk by diverting attenton away from more serious incidents.

MCA Head of Search and Rescue, Peter Dymond, says: “Often people are tempted to use up their out of date flares on Bonfire Night, but this causes real problems for the rescue services. We would urge sailors to dispose of flares safely and responsibly by contacting their nearest Coastguard station. Out of date flares should be replaced straight away – they are an essential part of every sailor’s kit and are meant to help save lives, not endanger them.”