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Visual Distress Signals

PAGE INDEX:


APPROVAL GUIDANCE


Flares

APPROVAL CATEGORY EQUIPMENT
MRA
APPROVAL
160.021 Hand Red Flare Distress Signal- 500 candela NO
 160.024 Pistol-Projected Parachute Red Flares (OBSOLETE) NO
160.028 Signal Pistol for Red Parachute Flare NO
160.036 Red Hand Held  Meteor Flare - 20,000 candela NO
160.066 Red Aerial Pyrotechnic Flare - 10,000 candela NO
160.121 SOLAS Hand Red Distress Signal - 15,000 candela YES
160.136 SOLAS Hand Held Red Parachute Flare - 30,000 candela YES


Combination Flare & Smoke

APPROVAL
CATEGORY
EQUIPMENT MRA
APPROVAL
160.023 Combination Flare and Smoke Signal  (OBSOLETE) NO


Smoke Signals

APPROVAL
CATEGORY
EQUIPMENT
MRA
APPROVAL
160.022 Floating Orange Smoke Signal NO
160.037 Hand Orange Smoke Signal - 50 seconds NO
160.057 Floating Orange Smoke Distress Signal - 15 minute NO
160.122 SOLAS Floating Orange Smoke Signal - 3 minute YES
160.157 SOLAS Floating Orange Smoke Signal - 15 minute YES

Non-Pyrotechnic Signals

APPROVAL
CATEGORY
EQUIPMENT
MRA
APPROVAL
160.072 Distress Signal for Boats, Orange Flags NO
161.013 Electric S-O-S Distress Light NO


HAND RED FLARE - 500 CANDELA

APPROVAL CATEGORY:  160.021

APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  The flare burns with an intensity of at least 500 candela (formerly "candlepower") for at least 2 minutes.  Brighter flares with shorter burning times can also be approved if they total at least 1000 candela-minutes and burn for at least 50 seconds.  For approval testing, the manufacturer must produce a lot of at least 100 signals from which samples are taken.  Approval standards for these flares are found in Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart 160.021.  The Coast Guard does not test materials or systems for approval but rather specifies the required test methods and minimum performance criteria for approval.  The testing must be performed on the product by a Coast Guard Accepted Independent Laboratory.  Production inspections and an annual report must also be completed by the accepted lab and provided to the USCG on an annual basis.  This approval category is for domestic service only.

LINKSUSCG Guidelines for Approval of Domestic Pyrotechnic Devices

SUBMITTAL PACKAGE:  Please submit the follow information in the Submittal Package:

Each Accepted Independent Laboratory maintains its own individual test report forms which provide this office with the required information of 160.021.

Please send the Submittal Package and other related information to the following address:

Commandant (CG-ENG-4)
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7509
2703 Martin Luther King Ave Jr SE
Washington, DC 20593-7509

Once the equipment has been approved by this office, it will receive Coast Guard Type Approval and a Certificate of Approval (COA).  The COA will be issued for 5 years and will remain valid during that time period if the product meets the testing of the Quality Control Program.


FLOATING ORANGE SMOKE SIGNAL

APPROVAL CATEGORY:  160.022

APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  Floating "can" producing orange smoke.  The signal produces dense orange smoke for about 5 minutes (4 minutes absolute minimum).  Approval standards for these flares are found in Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart 160.022.  For approval testing, the manufacturer must produce a lot of at least 100 signals from which samples are taken.  The Coast Guard does not test materials or systems for approval but rather specifies the required test methods and minimum performance criteria for approval.  The testing must be performed on the product by a Coast Guard Accepted Independent Laboratory.  Production inspections and an annual report must also be completed by the accepted lab and provided to the USCG on an annual basis.   SOLAS requirements from the LSA Codes Recommendation on Testing of Life-Saving Appliances Section 4.8 are deemed equivalent based on similar 3 minute density testing.  This approval category is for domestic service only.

LINKSUSCG Guidelines for Approval of Domestic Pyrotechnic Devices

SUBMITTAL PACKAGE:  Please submit the follow information in the Submittal Package:

Each Accepted Independent Laboratory maintains its own individual test report forms which provide this office with the required information of 160.022.

Please send the Submittal Package and other related information to the following address:

Commandant (CG-ENG-4)
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7509
2703 Martin Luther King Ave Jr SE
Washington, DC 20593-7509

Once the equipment has been approved by this office, it will receive Coast Guard Type Approval and a Certificate of Approval (COA).  The COA will be issued for 5 years and will remain valid during that time period if the product meets the testing of the Quality Control Program.


COMBINATION FLARE AND SMOKE SIGNAL

APPROVAL CATEGORY: 160.023

APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  This distress signal is no longer approved.


PISTOL-PROJECTED PARACHUTE RED FLARES

APPROVAL CATEGORY:  160.024

APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  This distress signal is no longer approved.


SIGNAL PISTOL FOR RED PARACHUTE FLARE

APPROVAL CATEGORY:  160.028

APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  For approval, the manufacturer must provide 3 signal pistols to the USCG accepted laboratory for testing.  The testing must be performed on the product by a Coast Guard Accepted Independent Laboratory.  Production inspections and an annual report must also be completed by the accepted lab and provided to the USCG on an annual basis.  This approval category is for domestic service only.

LINKSUSCG Guidelines for Approval of Domestic Pyrotechnic Devices

SUBMITTAL PACKAGE:  Please submit the follow information in the Submittal Package:

Each Accepted Independent Laboratory maintains its own individual test report forms which provide this office with the required information of 160.028.

Please send the Submittal Package and other related information to the following address:

Commandant (CG-ENG-4)
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7509
2703 Martin Luther King Ave Jr SE
Washington, DC 20593-7509

Once the equipment has been approved by this office, it will receive Coast Guard Type Approval and a Certificate of Approval (COA).  The COA will be issued for 5 years and will remain valid during that time period if the product meets the testing of the Quality Control Program.


HAND HELD RED PARACHUTE FLARE

APPROVAL CATEGORY:  160.036

APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  The flare burns with an intensity of at least 20,000 candela (formerly "candlepower"), for at least 30 seconds, reaching an altitude of at least 150 meters (500 ft).  Approval standards for these flares are found in Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart 160.036.   For approval testing, the manufacturer must produce a lot of at least 100 signals from which samples are taken.  Product testing must be performed by a Coast Guard Accepted Independent Laboratory.  Production inspections and an annual report must also be completed by the accepted lab and provided to the USCG on an annual basis.  This approval category is for domestic service only.

LINKSUSCG Guidelines for Approval of Domestic Pyrotechnic Devices

SUBMITTAL PACKAGE:  Please submit the follow information in the Submittal Package:

Each Accepted Independent Laboratory maintains its own individual test report forms which provide this office with the required information of 160.036.

Please send the Submittal Package and other related information to the following address:

Commandant (CG-ENG-4)
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7509
2703 Martin Luther King Ave Jr SE
Washington, DC 20593-7509

Once the equipment has been approved by this office, it will receive Coast Guard Type Approval and a Certificate of Approval (COA).  The COA will be issued for 5 years and will remain valid during that time period if the product meets the testing of the Quality Control Program.


HAND ORANGE SMOKE SIGNAL - 50 SECONDS

APPROVAL CATEGORY:  160.037

APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  Hand-held signal producing orange smoke.  The signal produces dense orange smoke for at least 50 seconds.  Approval standards for these flares are found in Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart 160.037.  For approval testing, the manufacturer must produce a lot of at least 100 signals from which samples are taken.  Product testing must be performed by a Coast Guard Accepted Independent Laboratory.  Production inspections and an annual report must also be completed by the accepted lab and provided to the USCG on an annual basis.  This approval category is for domestic service only.

LINKSUSCG Guidelines for Approval of Domestic Pyrotechnic Devices

SUBMITTAL PACKAGE:  Please submit the follow information in the Submittal Package:

Each Accepted Independent Laboratory maintains its own individual test report forms which provide this office with the required information of 160.037.

Please send the Submittal Package and other related information to the following address:

Commandant (CG-ENG-4)
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7509
2703 Martin Luther King Ave Jr SE
Washington, DC 20593-7509

Once the equipment has been approved by this office, it will receive Coast Guard Type Approval and a Certificate of Approval (COA).  The COA will be issued for 5 years and will remain valid during that time period if the product meets the testing of the Quality Control Program.


FLOATING ORANGE SMOKE DISTRESS SIGNAL - 15 MINUTE

APPROVAL CATEGORY:  160.057

APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  Floating "can" producing orange smoke.  The signal produces dense orange smoke for at least 15 minutes. It is designed to be attached to a ring lifebuoy on or near the bridge of a commercial vessel.  If someone falls overboard from the vessel, the crew drops the ring lifebuoy to the water, which pulls the smoke signal from its bracket. This action ignites the smoke signal.  The smoke helps the person in the water locate the ring lifebuoy, and it provides a reference for maneuvering the vessel. (The ring lifebuoy is also equipped with a floating electric waterlight for night use.)

They can be also be used to meet regulations for daytime visual distress signals on recreational boats.  For approval testing, the manufacturer must produce a lot of at least 20 signals from which samples are taken.  Product testing must be performed by a Coast Guard Accepted Independent Laboratory.  Production inspections and an annual report must also be completed by the accepted lab and provided to the USCG on an annual basis.  This approval category is for domestic service only.

LINKSUSCG Guidelines for Approval of Domestic Pyrotechnic Devices

SUBMITTAL PACKAGE:  Please submit the follow information in the Submittal Package:

Each Accepted Independent Laboratory maintains its own individual test report forms which provide this office with the required information of 160.057.

Please send the Submittal Package and other related information to the following address:

Commandant (CG-ENG-4)
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7509
2703 Martin Luther King Ave Jr SE
Washington, DC 20593-7509

Once the equipment has been approved by this office, it will receive Coast Guard Type Approval and a Certificate of Approval (COA).  The COA will be issued for 5 years and will remain valid during that time period if the product meets the testing of the Quality Control Program.


RED AERIAL PYROTECHNIC FLARE

APPROVAL CATEGORY: 160.066

APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  The flare burns with an intensity of at least 10,000 candela (formerly "candlepower"), for at least 5.5 seconds, reaching an altitude high enough to make sure it burns out before it falls back to the surface.  The signals specified by this part are either self-contained or pistol launched and either meteor or parachute assisted type.  Pistol projected flares must be designed to be fired by a signal pistol approved under 46 CFR 160.028.  For approval testing, the manufacturer must produce a lot of at least 100 signals from which samples are taken.  Product testing must be performed by a Coast Guard Accepted Independent Laboratory.  Production inspections and an annual report must also be completed by the accepted lab and provided to the USCG on an annual basis.  This approval category is for domestic service only.

LINKSUSCG Guidelines for Approval of Domestic Pyrotechnic Devices

SUBMITTAL PACKAGE:  Please submit the follow information in the Submittal Package:

Each Accepted Independent Laboratory maintains its own individual test report forms which provide this office with the required information of 160.066.

Please send the Submittal Package and other related information to the following address:

Commandant (CG-ENG-4)
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7509
2703 Martin Luther King Ave Jr SE
Washington, DC 20593-7509

Once the equipment has been approved by this office, it will receive Coast Guard Type Approval and a Certificate of Approval (COA).  The COA will be issued for 5 years and will remain valid during that time period if the product meets the testing of the Quality Control Program.


DISTRESS SIGNAL FOR BOATS, ORANGE FLAG

APPROVAL CATEGORY:  160.072

APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  An orange flag with black square above a black circle.  The flag is at least 90 cm x 90 cm (3 ft x 3 ft), with grommets at each corner to allow it to be hung or flown. Other arrangements have also been accepted in kite or balloon form, but all have the orange and black square and circle form.  The material is tested for weathering resistance and durability. The square and circle form is intended to simulate a cylinder-over-sphere dayshape, indicating distress.  Distress flags are self-certified by the manufacturer. The Coast Guard does not issue approvals or keep an authenticated list of manufacturers. 

SUBMITTAL PACKAGE:  While not approved by the Coast Guard, this office maintains a list of Self-certified Distress Flag manufactures.

Please submit the follow information in the Submittal Package:

Product sample and specification of the equipment.

Please send the Submittal Package and related information to the following address:

Commandant (CG-ENG-4)
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7509
2703 Martin Luther King Ave Jr SE
Washington, DC 20593-7509


HAND RED FLARE DISTRESS SIGNAL - 15,000 CANDELA (SOLAS)

APPROVAL CATEGORY: 160.121

APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  Hand-held flare with a red flame.  The flare burns with an intensity of at least 15,000 candela (formerly "candlepower") for at least 50 seconds.  Is approved under SOLAS Life Saving Appliance Code (MSC. 48(66)) Section 3.2 and the Recommendation on Testing of Life-Saving Appliances (MSC.81(70)) Part 1 Section 4.  All requirements from the SOLAS regulations and any additional USCG requirements have been consolidated into the USCG Guidelines for Approval of SOLAS pyrotechnic Devices.  Product testing must be performed by a Coast Guard Accepted Independent Laboratory.  Production inspections and an annual report must also be completed by the accepted lab and provided to the USCG on an annual basis.  This approval category is for domestic and international service.

LINKSUSCG Guidelines for Approval of SOLAS Pyrotechnic Devices

SUBMITTAL PACKAGE:  Please see the above link:

Please send the Submittal Package and other related information to the following address:

Commandant (CG-ENG-4)
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7509
2703 Martin Luther King Ave Jr SE
Washington, DC 20593-7509

Once the equipment has been approved by this office, it will receive Coast Guard Type Approval and a Certificate of Approval (COA).  The COA will be issued for 5 years and will remain valid during that time period if the product meets the testing of the Quality Control Program.


FLOATING ORANGE SMOKE SIGNAL - 3 MINUTE (SOLAS)

APPROVAL CATEGORY:  160.122

APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  The signal produces dense orange smoke for at least 3 minutes.  For approval, see SOLAS Life Saving Appliance Code (MSC. 48(66)) Section 3.3 and the Recommendation on Testing of Life-Saving Appliances (MSC.81(70)) Part 1 Section 4.  All requirements from the SOLAS regulations and any additional USCG requirements have been consolidated into the USCG Guidelines for Approval of SOLAS pyrotechnic Devices.  Product testing must be performed by a Coast Guard Accepted Independent Laboratory.  Production inspections and an annual report must also be completed by the accepted lab and provided to the USCG on an annual basis.  This approval category is for domestic and international service.

LINKSUSCG Guidelines for Approval of SOLAS Pyrotechnic Devices

SUBMITTAL PACKAGE:  Please see the above link:

Please send the Submittal Package and other related information to the following address:

Commandant (CG-ENG-4)
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7509
2703 Martin Luther King Ave Jr SE
Washington, DC 20593-7509

Once the equipment has been approved by this office, it will receive Coast Guard Type Approval and a Certificate of Approval (COA).  The COA will be issued for 5 years and will remain valid during that time period if the product meets the testing of the Quality Control Program.


RED PARACHUTE FLARE - 30,000 CANDELA (SOLAS)

APPROVAL CATEGORY: 160.136

APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  Parachute flare with a red flame.  The flare burns with an intensity of at least 30,000 candela (formerly "candlepower"), for at least 40 seconds, reaching an altitude of at least 300 meters (1000 ft).  For approval, see SOLAS Life Saving Appliance Code (MSC. 48(66)) Section 3.1 and the Recommendation on Testing of Life-Saving Appliances (MSC.81(70)) Part 1 Section 4.  All requirements from the SOLAS regulations and any additional USCG requirements have been consolidated into the USCG Guidelines for Approval of SOLAS pyrotechnic Devices.  Product testing must be performed by a Coast Guard Accepted Independent Laboratory.  Production inspections and an annual report must also be completed by the accepted lab and provided to the USCG on an annual basis.  This approval category is for domestic and international service.

LINKSUSCG Guidelines for Approval of SOLAS Pyrotechnic Devices

SUBMITTAL PACKAGE:  Please see the above link:

Please send the Submittal Package and other related information to the following address:

Commandant (CG-ENG-4)
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7509
2703 Martin Luther King Ave Jr SE
Washington, DC 20593-7509

Once the equipment has been approved by this office, it will receive Coast Guard Type Approval and a Certificate of Approval (COA).  The COA will be issued for 5 years and will remain valid during that time period if the product meets the testing of the Quality Control Program.


FLOATING ORANGE SMOKE SIGNAL - 15 MINUTE (SOLAS)

APPROVAL CATEGORY:  160.157

APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  The signal produces dense orange smoke for at least 15 minutes. It is designed to be attached to a ring lifebuoy on or near the bridge of a commercial vessel. If someone falls overboard from the vessel, the crew drops the ring lifebuoy to the water, which pulls the smoke signal from its bracket. This action ignites the smoke signal.  The smoke helps the person in the water locate the ring lifebuoy, and it provides a reference for maneuvering the vessel. (The ring lifebuoy is also equipped with a floating electric waterlight for night use.)  They can be also be used to meet regulations for daytime visual distress signals on recreational boats.

For approval, see SOLAS Life Saving Appliance Code (MSC. 48(66)) Section 2.1.3 and the Recommendation on Testing of Life-Saving Appliances (MSC.81(70)) Part 1 Section 1.9.  All requirements from the SOLAS regulations and any additional USCG requirements have been consolidated into the USCG Guidelines for Approval of SOLAS pyrotechnic Devices.  Product testing must be performed by a Coast Guard Accepted Independent Laboratory.  Production inspections and an annual report must also be completed by the accepted lab and provided to the USCG on an annual basis.  This approval category is for domestic and international service.

LINKSUSCG Guidelines for Approval of SOLAS Pyrotechnic Devices

SUBMITTAL PACKAGE:  Please see the above link:

Please send the Submittal Package and other related information to the following address:

Commandant (CG-ENG-4)
U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Coast Guard Stop 7509
2703 Martin Luther King Ave Jr SE
Washington, DC 20593-7509

Once the equipment has been approved by this office, it will receive Coast Guard Type Approval and a Certificate of Approval (COA).  The COA will be issued for 5 years and will remain valid during that time period if the product meets the testing of the Quality Control Program.


ELECTRIC S-O-S DISTRESS LIGHT

APPROVAL CATEGORY:  161.013

APPROVAL GUIDANCE & INFORMATION:  This is an alternative to flares for recreational boats.  It is required to automatically flash S-O-S.  Light intensity and duration requirements apply.  Electric S-O-S distress lights are self-certified by the manufacturer. The Coast Guard does not issue approvals or keep an authenticated list of manufacturers.  Approval standards for these lights are found in Title 46 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subpart 161.013.


VISUAL DISTRESS SIGNAL REQUIREMENTS:

The following link provides a table (in pdf format) which indicates the appropriate distress signal for each vessel use/type. Limited uses for certain signals are described within the table.

TABLE - Visual Distress Signal Requirements for Vessels

 
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Last Modified 9/6/2013