Coast Guard establishes safety zone for San Francisco New Year’s Eve fireworks

U.S. Coast Guard establishes San Francisco New Year's Eve fireworks safety zone. Safety zones are frequently established for firework displays to provide for the safety of boaters in the vicinity of the display. (U.S. Coast Guard graphic)

San Francisco New Year’s Eve fireworks safety zone. (U.S. Coast Guard graphic)

SAN FRANCISCO — The Coast Guard encourages boaters to take the proper fireworks precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable weekend on the water for the New Year’s holiday weekend.

The Coast Guard urges boaters not to launch or use fireworks aboard a vessel as they can be mistaken as a sign of distress, needlessly attracting Coast Guard and other rescue resources.

“Each New Year’s Eve, Coast Guard personnel receive and respond to reports of boaters firing emergency flares from their vessels,” said Capt. Tony Ceraolo, the commander of Coast Guard Sector San Francisco. “It requires a number of resources to determine exactly where the flare came from and whether or not someone genuinely needs assistance.”

It is also important to avoid using safety flares as fireworks, as they are internationally recognized as a signal of distress. It is a federal felony for anyone to knowingly and willfully communicate a false distress message to the Coast Guard or cause the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed. This includes, but is not limited to, firing flares in a non-distress situation or saying “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday” for a radio check.

“It’s very important that flares only be fired to indicate distress when mariners feel that they are in an emergency situation,” Ceraolo said. “With the increase of maritime traffic during the New Year’s weekend, actual maritime emergencies are highly possible, and the firing of a flare in a non-emergency situation could result in a delay in Coast Guard response to a legitimate maritime emergency in a different location.”

Boaters are also reminded to stay clear of fireworks displays staged from barges or shoreside facilities. Mariners can reference the map above to identify the safety zone in place for San Francisco.

In an effort to increase the safety of boaters on the water this holiday weekend, the Coast Guard recommends the following:

• Boaters watching fireworks from the water should ensure that they are not impeding navigable channels.

• Stay informed. Be sure to check the local weather prior to departing the dock. Weather can change very rapidly and boaters should keep a watchful eye on the forecasted conditions. The public should monitor the National Weather Service, local television and radio reports. Boaters can monitor weather patterns, fog and developing storms on channel 16 on VHF-FM marine-band radio. Small-craft advisories are also available on channel 16.

• Always wear a life jacket. Since there is little time to reach for stowed vests when accidents occur, wearing one at all times reduces the risk of drowning. Federal law requires mariners to have a personal floatation device aboard for each passenger.

• Never boat under the influence. It is recommended that boaters have a designated sober operator, as it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. There are stringent penalties for violating BUI/BWI laws, which can include fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail terms.

U.S. Coast Guard establishes San Francisco New Year's Eve fireworks safety zone. Safety zones are frequently established for firework displays to provide for the safety of boaters in the vicinity of the display. (U.S. Coast Guard graphic)

U.S. Coast Guard establishes San Francisco New Year’s Eve fireworks safety zone. Safety zones are frequently established for firework displays to provide for the safety of boaters in the vicinity of the display. (U.S. Coast Guard graphic)

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