Flare false alarm put lives at risk

The RNLI gave a demonstration at the Harbour Festival
The RNLI gave a demonstration at the Harbour Festival

RNLI Stonehaven and HM Coastguard want to raise awareness of the use of flares after an incident last weekend in Inverbervie.

Stonehaven Inshore Lifeboat was launched following a call from the Coastguard after a member of the public reported a red flare off the coast of Inverbervie. After searching for an hour and a half the crew were stood down as it appeared that there was no boat or person in distress.

The RNLI wish to convey the seriousness of discharging a flare unnecessarily.

Paul Haynes, Stonehaven Lifeboat Coxswain said: ““The deployment at night to an emergency call from a member of the public who has sighted a red flare along the shoreline is undertaken without question by RNLI lifeboat crews and coastguard mobile cliff rescue teams; a local fishing boat might be sinking, there could be people in the freezing water and lives are potentially at stake. However the emergency deployment of a life boat is not taken lightly as it always involves risk to crew; risk which greatly increases at night, particularly when operating inshore along the exposed NE coastline composed mainly of high cliff and rock outcrops. Having deployed to the scene of an emergency call out through difficult sea-conditions in the dark, after an hour of searching, it is very disappointing then to find out it is a false alarm and that flares are being set off for ‘fun’.

“Not only are flares highly dangerous pyrotechnics that can cause serious injury or fire, if used inappropriately, significant emergency service resource is tied up. This might involve lifeboats, coastguard cliff rescue teams, police, ambulances and search and rescue helicopters, all of which are then unable to respond to a real emergency. As a result life could potentially be lost because rescue services are occupied by to a false alarm. “Earlier in the year, two missing local fishermen initiated Scotland’s largest maritime search and rescue operation. This highlighted the critical work undertaken by the emergency services. As a local lifeboat coxswain I urge people to consider the risk they are exposing lifeboat crews to by initiating a false call and the inability of these search and rescue assets to then be able to respond to what might be a real life critical emergency. Police confirmed to us that they were also called to the incident but there did not appear to be anyone in distress.”

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Police were alerted shortly after 7.30pm on Saturday September 27 to a flare being seen in the Inverbervie area and extensive searches were conducted by the Coastguard and Police, however there does not appear to have been anyone in distress.”

A Maritime and Coastguard Agency spokesperson said: “Letting off flares is an extremely irresponsible action and can result in rescue units, including lifeboats, coastguard rescue teams and police, being called out for no good reason. While they are assigned to search for the source of these flares, these rescue units are not available for anyone who may have genuinely needed their help. It is also prohibited under the Merchant Shipping Act to set off red distress flares if you are not in difficulty. The public should ensure that all marine flares are disposed of correctly and you can contact your local Coastguard station for information about flare disposal. Under no circumstances should marine flares be disposed by letting them off.”