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The Royal National Lifeboat Institution - Saves Lives at Sea



With the rapid onset of November, an appeal is being made to the public not to use flares as substitute fireworks during this year's Guy Fawkes celebrations. 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, in hazardous winter conditions, to what they assume to be a genuine cry for help.

The problem is increasing year on year, possibly because the festivities are no longer restricted to one night but have extended to a much longer period surrounding November 5. 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.

Kinghorn RNLI lifeboat has been called out every year for the last three years, to flares being sighted by concerned members of the public off Edinburgh, and each time the sightings have been traced back to flares being set off from the land, although this has always followed an extensive search to make sure that there was no one in the water who genuinely required assistance.
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.

'Our volunteer crews are always ready to answer the call, but it is frustrating for them to search through the night because a flare has been fired for the wrong reasons. Not only are they called away from their own family parties on Guy Fawke's Night, but they are also risking their lives each time they put to sea, needlessly searching in often very dangerous conditions.'

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'Often people are tempted to use up their out of date flares on Bonfire Night, but this causes real problems for the rescue services.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 Out of date flares should be replaced straight away - they are an essential part of every sailor's kit and are meant to help save lives, not endanger them.'

Volunteer Helmsman of Kinghorn RNLI lifeboat, Scott McIlravie said: 'Being a volunteer, I don't mind at all when we get a shout and a chance to save lives at sea, but it is annoying to be sent out on a wild goose chase and spend a couple of hours carrying out searches of the area around where a flare has been seen, to find out that it has been set off on land by someone who is using it like a firework! The people who have access to flares should be aware that if they are set off, then they must be responded to and we have to ensure that no one is in need of rescue, so I would ask them to take heed of our advice and dispose of them by contacting the Coastguard and saving our valuable resources for those that really need us.'