You cannot fire flares without permission from both the US Coast Guard and local authorities (check regulations in your area if outside of the US). But, you can train your crew before you cast off for cruising. Hold mock simulated drills out in the cockpit. Follow these five steps:
1. Face Downwind
Move to the edge of the boat. Put your back to the wind. Brace yourself as the vessel pitches and rolls. Double check that you face downwind.
2. Follow the Instructions
Before you fire or launch a flare, read the instructions and look at the illustrations. Understand how to open the marine flare. Never, ever assume that you just take off a cap and ignite it. With some flares, you must remove one cap; others require that you remove both caps.
If you use a flare gun, flare pistol, or flare launcher, learn how to load it before you need to use them in a real-time emergency. Some flare gun shells load from the inside of the barrel and others from the outside. Read the manufacturer’s instructions first.
3. Wear Eye Protection
You must protect your eyes at all costs. If the wind changes direction, hot flare slag could blow back toward you. Common eye or sunglasses offer some protection. Heat resistant goggles are better.
4. Aim with Care
Keep a pair of heat-resistant gloves handy, because SOLAS flares can get quite warm. Hold a handheld or parachute flare in your non-dominant hand. Hold a flare gun in your dominant hand.
Make a straight arm and hold your arm up at about a 45 to 60-degree angle. With handheld marine flares, cock your wrist to slant it away from you. These flares drip melted element–called slag–as they burn. You want hot slag going into the water–not onto your forearm, wrist or hand!
5. Look Away Before You Fire
Shift your eyes so that you look to one side away from the flare, flare gun, or parachute when you ignite it. This gives extra protection for your eyes. Drop the expended flare body or shell casing into the water or into a bucket filled with water. Read more: