Distress flares

All vessels operating outside protected waters must carry flares. The type you need depends on how far offshore you travel.


  Flare Experience event: 27 May 2017

On Saturday the 27th May 2017 the Rockingham Sea Rescue Group is planning Marine Flare demonstration event. It will be held at their HQ building which is located near the Point Peron boat launching ramp.

Marine Safety will be hosting the demonstration and members of the public are invited to attend and encouraged to actively participate.

This is a great opportunity for members of the public to see, handle and use emergency distress flares in a controlled environment.

Date Location Time
27 May 2017 Rockingham Sea Rescue Group HQ 10:00 am to 11:00 am


  Flare demonstration and training sessions

If you are arranging for a flare demonstration and training session, please ensure that you submit a Flare demonstration application form.

MAC_F_FlareDemo.pdf icon Flare demonstration application form Kb

  Types of flares

There are three main types of distress flares approved for use in Western Australia. All of them must be manufactured to Australian Standard AS 2092-2004 or comply with AMSA Marine Orders Part 25.

MAC-B-FlaresSafetyEquipDL.pdf icon Safety equipment: Flares - Marine Safety Kb
Orange smoke flares

Orange smoke flares

These are designed for day use only and have no luminosity. They emit a cloud of orange smoke. Orange hand-held flares burn for about 60 seconds.

The buoyant canister, which is safe for use in petrol or oil covered water, burns for about three minutes.

The potential sighting range by day is 4 km, although this can drop to less than 1 km in a fresh breeze; however, these flares are especially visible from aircraft, even on windy days.

Red hand-held flares

Red hand-held flares

These distress flares are designed for use both night and day and burn for about 45 seconds at 15,000 candle power.

The potential sighting range at night is 10 - 12 km and about 4 - 6 km during the day.

Red parachute distress rockets

Red parachute distress rockets

Red parachute rockets are designed for use both night and day.

The rockets project a rocket to 300 metres high and then deploy a parachute-suspended red flare, which burns for about 40 seconds at 30,000 candle power.

The potential sighting range is 15 km by day and 40 km at night.

Required flares

All boats operating outside protected waters must carry flares. The type you need depends on how far offshore you travel.

Location Distance from shore Smoke flares Incandescent flares
Inshore Within 5 nautical miles from the mainland, or within one nautical mile from an island situated more than 5 nautical miles from the mainland 2 hand-held orange smoke flares, or 1 orange smoke canister 1 hand-held red flares, or 2 parachute flares.
Offshore More than 5 nautical miles from the mainland, or more than one nautical mile from an island situated more than 5 nautical miles from the mainland 2 hand-held orange smoke flares, or 1 orange smoke canister 2 parachute flares

Only an offshore set of flares is required if operating in both inshore and offshore areas.

Flares and their characteristics

Style Type of flare Suitable use Burn time Sighting range potential
Smoke Orange hand-held smoke flare Day use only
No luminosity
Orange cloud of smoke
Especially visible from aircraft
60 seconds Day: 4km
Note: Less than 1 km in a fresh breeze
Smoke Orange smoke canister flare Day use only
No luminosity
Orange cloud of smoke
Especially visible from aircraft
3 minutes Day: 4km
Note: Less than 1 km in a fresh breeze
Incandescent Red hand-held flare Night and day
Emits 15,000 candle powers of light
45 seconds Day: 4 - 6 km
Night: 10 - 12km
Incandescent Red parachute distress rocket Night and day
Emits 30,000 candle powers of light
Propels a parachute-suspended red flare to an altitude of approximately 300 metres
40 seconds Day: 15km
Night: 40km

  Storage and expiry dates

Storage of flares


Flares should always be readily accessible: stored in a waterproof container, in a place where they don't receive too much pounding in rough conditions, away from dampness and heat sources above 60 degrees Celsius.

Expiry dates

Expiry dates

Flares must be within the expiry date and maintained in serviceable condition at all times.

Check your flares regularly to ensure that they have not been rendered unserviceable by exposure to moisture.

Mildew or bubbling of paper coatings may indicate signs of moisture.

  How to use flares

Flares are best used when you believe there is chance of it being seen.

The method used to fire flares varies widely between flare types and manufacturers. The firing instructions are always printed on the flare, and you should be familiar with your flares methods.

Hand-held red flares especially, burn very hot and may spill glowing embers. Hold it downwind so that embers don't spill into the vessel and tilt it while in your hand to avoid being burnt.

Opens in a new window Marine and Safety Tasmania: Flares - How to use them (Video)

  Unauthorised use of flares

There are severe penalties for the improper use of flares.

Flares have a very serious purpose. Falsely indicating distress rightly carries a severe penalty, but it also wastes a lot of time and resources - possibly weakening the ability to respond to a genuine emergency.

Do not leave flares in your boat when it is not in use, and keep them away from children.

  Disposal of unserviceable flares

Please do not discard unserviceable flares in general rubbish collections or land fill.

To ensure that the equipment is safely destroyed, flares should be disposed of at the following Department of Transport offices, participating Household Hazardous Waste Program centres or Volunteer Marine Rescue groups.

  • Prior appointment must be made on (08) 9431 1027 when handing in 10 or more flares at a metropolitan Department of Transport office.
  • The Department of Transport office at Essex Street Fremantle is unable to accept expired flares

Department of Transport and Household Hazardous Waste program centres

  • DoT = Department of Transport.
  • HHW = Household Hazardous Waste program centre.
  • VMR = Volunteer Marine Rescue
Location Program Address Phone
Albany DoT 178 Stirling Terrace (08) 9892 7312
Albany HHW City of Albany , Hanrahan Road Waste Minimisation Facility, Hanrahan Road (08) 9842 3415
Australind HHW Bunbury Harvey Regional Council, Stanley Road Waste Management Facility, Stanley Road (08) 9797 2404
Balcatta HHW City of Stirling, Recycling Centre Balcatta, 238 Balcatta Road (08) 9205 8555
Baldivis HHW City of Rockingham, Millar Road Landfill Facility, Millar Road West (08) 9528 8550
Brookdale HHW City of Armadale, Armadale Landfill and Recycling Facility, Hopkinson Road (08) 9399 3935
Broome DoT 9 Napier Terrace (08) 9192 0200
Bunbury DoT 24 Wellington Street (08) 9792 6607
Busselton VMR Georgette Street Boat Ramp Nil
Canning Vale HHW City of Canning, Transfer Station, Lot 502 Ranford Road 1300 422 664
Carnarvon DoT Boat Harbour, Harbour Road (08) 9941 1830
Esperance DoT Suite 3, Balmoral Square, 53 The Esplanade (08) 9076 2100
Exmouth DoT 21 Maidstone Crescent (08) 9947 8200
Fremantle DoT Marine Operations, 14 Capo D'Orlando Drive (08) 9431 1020
Geraldton DoT 65 Chapman Road (08) 9956 0111
Henderson HHW City of Cockburn, Henderson Waste Recovery Park, Rockingham Road (08) 9411 3444
Hillarys DoT 86 Southside Drive (08) 9448 7544
Jurien Bay VMR Breakwater Drive, Jurien Bay (08) 9652 1950
Karratha DoT 2/20 Sharpe Avenue (08) 9159 6900
Kununurra DoT Messmate Way 13 11 56
Mandurah DoT Marine Operations, 107 Breakwater Parade (08) 9431 1026
Mandurah HHW City of Mandurah, Waste Management Centre, 80 Corsican Place (08) 9550 4700
Narngulu HHW City of Greater Geraldton, Meru Waste Disposal Facility, Landfill Lane off Goulds Road (08) 9923 3188
Port Denison VMR Point Leander Drive (08) 9927 1770
Port Hedland VMR 10 McKay Street (08) 9173 3055
Red Hill HHW Eastern Metropolitan Regional Council, Red Hill Waste Management Facility, 1094 Toodyay Road (08) 9574 6235
Shenton Park HHW Western Metropolitan Regional Council, JFR McGeough Resource Recovery Facility, Corner: Brockway Road and Lemnos Street (08) 9384 2544
Tamala Park HHW Mindarie Regional Council, Tamala Park Waste Management Facility, 1700 Marmion Avenue (08) 9306 6303
Toodyay HHW Shire of Toodyay , Railway Road Transfer Station, Railway Road (08) 9574 2661

For more information on the Household Hazardous Waste Program visit the WasteNet website. This Program is administered by WALGA and funded by the Waste Authority through the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Account.

Opens in a new window Waste Authority
External Link Wastenet: Household Hazardous Waste Program

View Flare disposal locations in WA in a full screen map.


Page last updated: Fri May 26 2017 10:45:15 AM