Q: What should you do if you sight an aerial flare while on the water?
A: Visual distress signals usually appear as streaking or arcing lights in the sky. Here are some guidelines from the Coast Guard Auxiliary to follow if you spot an aerial flare.
• Estimate the direction of the flare from your location.
• Estimate its distance.
• Record the time of each sighting.
• Have your location ready and contact the Coast Guard.
• Describe the type and quality of the sighting. For example, did you see the flare rise and fall, rise only, fall only? What were the rates of rise and fall (fast rise and fall, rapid rise, slow fall, etc.)? Was the trajectory more vertical or horizontal?
• Note the flare’s color (red, orange, white) and how long it burned.
• Estimate its angle from you to the top of the flare’s trajectory. If you hold your fist at arm’s length, with your thumb on top and the bottom of your fist on the horizon, each finger roughlyrepresents 2 degrees. Was the trajectory above or below the top of your fist?
Having this information readily available when you contact the Coast Guard will help rescuers calculate the distance and direction of the vessel in distress from your position.
For more information on safe boating, visit the Coast Guard Auxiliary Web site at www.cgaux.org, or the Coast Guard Office of Boating Safety at www.uscgboating.org.
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