Dec 28, 2010 10:21 PM by Ariel Wesler

Coast Guard reports higher number of false flare sightings

The Coast Guard in Morro Bay says it's received three false alarms from people thinking they saw flares over the water.

Flares are designed to signal some kind of emergency. The last three sightings since Friday have turned out to be a shooting star, fireworks, and a flashlight. The Coast Guard says the majority of its mistaken calls of distress come around the holidays.

The law requires all mariners to have flares on board for their safety.

"It's the same as hearing someone on the radio yell mayday," said Cliff Keith with the U.S. Coast Guard.

But in the last few days, crews have responded to three false alarms.

Flares come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors and the Coast Guard says unfortunately, they're pretty similar to fireworks, which can cause confusion around the holidays.

"It's stressful for us because we react as if someone's life is in peril," Keith said.

In most cases, flares will burn red for about 4 to 6 seconds.

"It'll burn initially at its highest point and then fall and usually, it's over water," Keith said.

The Coast Guard gets about 70 percent of its reported flare sightings around the holidays. While many turn out to be false alarms, crews do respond to every sighting. They say the more information you can provide the better.

"Gaining all the right information from what they've seen and passing it on to us so we can confirm that it's not a flare," Keith said.

And if it is, reporting it could save lives.

The Coast Guard is expecting some rough seas starting tonight. Crews are looking at 40 knot winds with 12 to 15 foot waves.


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