Distress flares for leisure users

Pyrotechnic distress signals for leisure users – Q&A with Chris Feibusch – Drew Marine Signal & Safety

Pyrotechnic distress signals for leisure users – Q&A with Chris Feibusch – Drew Marine Signal & Safety

Blue Sheets interview with Chris Feibusch – Head of Marketing at Drew Marine Signal & Safety – the world’s leading manufacturer of marine pyrotechnic distress signals

Drew Marine Signal & Safety is the world’s leading manufacturer of marine distress signals. It is the chosen brand for alerting distress at sea by the world’s navies, merchant fleets, fishing vessels and rescue services, and has been an industry leader in the development of pyrotechnic distress signals for more than 100 years.

Q: How has Drew Marine Signal & Safety developed its products to meet the needs of leisure activities – EG stand up paddleboarding, windsurfing, kayaking?

A: In recent years, we have developed specific new products and updated some of our best-selling pyrotechnics to meet the individual needs of our leisure customers. For example, when kayaking, it is not always possible or indeed necessary, to have a large selection of marine distress signals on board, however it is advisable to have something on board in the event of an accident. With this is mind, Drew Marine Signal & Safety has a range of distress signals that offer a compact yet powerful alternative to larger, more commercial flares. For example, Mini Flares: “Pains Wessex Personal Distress Signals” contain either nine or three red, aerial flare cartridges and a penjector firing mechanism, all enclosed in a tough, water-resistant case. Other suitable distress signals include the Day and Night Signals, which should be used when rescue services are sighted, and the Orange Smoke Signals which function as distress alerting signals. These are also one of the most effective ways of pinpointing a position during a search and rescue operation, providing a visual indication of wind strength and direction at sea level to pilots and an unmissable signature to thermal imaging equipment commonly used by emergency response teams. Poly Bottles can also be used, and Drew Marine Signal & Safety offer a mini 3L water-resistant version of its storage bottle for flares.

Q: Are there any regulations for carrying distress signals for these activities? If not, what advice would you give to users?

A: In the UK, there any no regulations which stipulate that you must carry flares or marine distress signals when kayaking, or stand up paddleboarding, etc – it is simply at the user’s discretion. However, we would of course recommend that regardless of the activity, when out on the water, it is of paramount importance to take a safety device out with you. Pyrotechnic flares are a great resource and useful in the event of an accident or emergency on the water, because not only do they provide a great opportunity to be found – as a visual aid to pinpoint location – but they also give off heat and smoke, which are greatly beneficial to search and rescue personnel. 

Q: Are electric distress signals suitable to carry?

A: There are alternatives to pyrotechnics, which include electronics, including EPIRBs/PLBs, AIS plus Lights and Visual Distress Signals (VDS), and these are also suitable to carry on board. However, they do not offer the same levels of benefits as pyrotechnics, such as being aerial, self-contained or giving off heat or smoke when emitted. 

Q: Have you noticed a growing need for marine distress signals within this market?

A: Over the years, we have noticed a steady and encouraging growth in the leisure market, specifically aimed at the kayaking and SUP market, and it’s still increasing as these types of activities become ever popular.

Q: What is the split between commercial v leisure business for Drew Marine Signal & Safety? And how do you think this will change in the future?

A: At Drew Marine Signal & Safety, we currently sell to the ratio of 90:10 commercial to leisure. However, as a global business, this is a large market that we want to be involved with. And we will continue to put more resource into developing the leisure sector for our brand.

Q: What is the future of pyrotechnics, in your opinion?

A: From our perspective, the commercial pyrotechnics are here to stay. However, there’s still some questions over the leisure sector – especially with the need for rules and regulations when going out on the water and having to take flares or distress signals with you. Pyrotechnic flares are unique in that they are entirely self-contained devices, do not rely on battery power or electronics, cannot be extinguished once ignited, and are designed to withstand exceptional environmental exposure and perform reliably even after immersion in water. 

Over the years, safety technology has evolved, including many advances in pyrotechnics. Modern flares are smaller, they burn more efficiently and have less explosive content, making them ever more reliable and easier to use, whilst still operating to the same performance standards mandated within the SOLAS regulations. Even in this technologically advanced age, pyrotechnics are still valid and vital devices which compliment other forms of distress and location signalling, like Electronics – EPIRBs/PLBs, AIS plus Lights and radios. 

We can’t ignore the developments within the electronic sectors, but I think there’s still some development to be made before they can truly compete with pyrotechnics. The sight of a red pyrotechnic flare illuminating the sky is the most universally recognised signal indicating distress offshore. It has been saving lives at sea for more than one hundred years.

Drew Marine Signal & Safety is the world’s leading supplier of marine distress signals under the brand names Pains Wessex, Comet, Oroquieta and Aurora. It is a specialist in the manufacture and worldwide distribution of these products, and has a strong, established global network of more than 200 specialist distributors around the world. Its products offer the highest quality, technological superiority and innovative design available on the market, with worldwide approvals and manufacturing meeting ISO 9001 standards, placing the brand at the forefront of marine safety.

Aquafax is the distributor for Pains Wessex products in the UK, along with other chandleries. Crewsaver also distributes Drew Marine Signal & Safety pyrotechnics under the Aurora brand. For more information about Drew Marine Signal & Safety, it’s products and distributors -please visit: www.signalandsafety.com

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