Rip Rap March 2008 Issue

ISAF Bans White Handheld Flares

Practical Sailorís Skip Allan and Safety at Sea members collaborate to change outdated regulation.

White hand flares have been used for signaling since the time of Nelson and Trafalgar. They were used in Civil War times, most famously aboard the ironclad Union ship USS Monitor as it was sinking in a gale off Cape Hatteras. Currently, hand flares are used by unruly fans as riot inciters in European football and basketball. Classified as hazardous materials, the active ingredients of white hand flares are black powder and magnesium. White hand flares emit NOx, a toxic byproduct. For obvious reasons, instructions are to hold the hand flare downwind. Burning magnesium on flesh, smoke inhalation, or having molten residue blowing down a companionway hatch can lead to dire consequences. In April 2006, a sailing instructor was severely injured while giving a demonstration of a white hand flare. This resulted in a total recall of white hand flares by their manufacturer, Pains Wessex.

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