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Visual Distress Signals

Pyrotechnic Visual Distress Signaling Devices

Must be Coast Guard approved, in serviceable condition and stowed to be readily accessible. If they are marked
with a date showing the serviceable life, this date must not have passed. Launchers produced before Jan. 1, 1981, intended for use with approved signals are not required to be Coast Guard Approved.

USCG Approved Pyrotechnic Visual Distress Signals and Associated Devices include:

  • Pyrotechnic red flares, hand held or aerial
  • Pyrotechnic orange smoke, hand held or floating
  • Launchers for aerial red meteors or parachute flares
The purpose of the regulation is to assure that boaters have a way of attracting attention and securing assistance should the need arise. Properly used visual distress signals will also help reduce the time it takes to locate a
boat in difficulty when a search is underway. This will reduce the possibility of a minor emergency becoming
a tragedy.