Misuse of flares is costing taxpayers millions of dollars

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Coast Guard is asking for the public’s help in reducing the number of flares used during non-distress situations, an increasingly dangerous and irresponsible practice that has cost taxpayers millions of dollars since June 1.

Over the past three months units in the Coast Guard 7th District have responded to more than 60 flare sightings with air and boatcrews with an estimated overall cost between $3.6 million and $5.3 million. The Coast Guard responds to any sightings of red or orange flares, or any other flare incident where there is reason to believe there may be a distress situation. The Coast Guard does not suspend search efforts until aggressive searches have been completed.

Average minimum costs for the search associated with a flare sighting range from $61,000 – $89,000 depending on which Coast Guard assets are available and used. The misuse of flares not only costs taxpayers millions of dollars, it also puts the lives of Coast Guardsmen in unnecessary danger.

“Shooting a flare in a non-distress situation is no different than dialing 911 and hanging up. Flares alert the Coast Guard, first responders, and other mariners of a distress situation on the water,” said Capt. Todd M. Coggeshall, chief of response management for the Coast Guard 7th District. “It’s a call for help. Every time a flare is fired and reported we respond, so we are asking the public to only use flares when there is an actual distress situation. This avoids unnecessary searches and ensures people in real distress get the help they need as quickly as possible.”

The Coast Guard encourages boaters to replace expired flares. Flares which have reached their expiration date should be disposed of in accordance with local municipal laws for hazardous or flammable waste. Boaters may also contact their local Coast Guard Auxiliary flotilla for more information on the safe and responsible disposal of unused flares.

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