All distress signaling devices have both advantages and disadvantages. The most popular, because of cost, are probably the smaller pyrotechnic devices. Pyrotechnics make excellent distress signals, universally recognized as such, but they have the drawback that they can be used only once. Additionally, there is a potential for both injury and property damage if not properly handled.
Pyrotechnics devices have a very hot flame, and slag (molten discharge) can cause burns and ignite material that burns easily. Projected devices, such as pistol launched and hand-held parachute flares and meteor flares, have many of the same characteristics of a firearm and must be handled with the same caution and respect. Hand held flares on display.The very best flares available in terms of brightness and duration are labeled SOLAS which go above and beyond US Coast Guard minimums. Watch video here:
The hand-held and the floating orange smoke signaling devices are excellent (if not the best) day signals, especially on clear days. Both signals are most effective with light to moderate winds. However, in higher winds the winds tend to disperse the orange signal cloud which makes it harder to see. Watch this video on day use flares to see smoke flares in action.
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