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What to do if you encounter non-RNLI flares in your role

Familiarise yourself with the procedure to follow if you find abandoned flares or are approached by a member of the public about flare disposal.

Assortment of marine pyrotechnics and a stop sign

Photo: RNLI

The RNLI is unable to use non-RNLI flares or accept them for disposal. 

The RNLI is regularly approached by members of the public trying to dispose of marine flares (also known as time expired pyrotechnics or TEPs) at RNLI shops, stations and other sites. Flares have also been abandoned at our sites.

The legal obligations for individuals and organisations handling pyrotechnics are complex and extensive. We are obliged by law to use specialist contractors to dispose of non-RNLI flares, which incurs significant expense to the RNLI and diverts funds from our lifesaving work. 

HM Coastguard stopped providing a flare disposal service in the UK at the end of 2022. There is sometimes conflicting and incorrect information available online or from different agencies about where people can dispose of flares - the RNLI is working with external agencies to resolve this.

For the health and safety of our volunteers, staff and the general public, if you find abandoned flares or are approached by a member of the public regarding disposal:

  1. Do not accept any flares from the public at any RNLI sites. It is a safety risk to our people to handle or store flares of unknown origin and condition.
  2. Follow this procedure, available in the Policies and Guides section of the Volunteer Zone, for all instances of abandoned flares or where members of the public attempt to hand flares into the care of RNLI personnel.
  3. Call the RNLI Central Operations and Information Room (COIR) to report the incident on 0800 011 3129 (UK, Isle of Man and Channel Islands) or 1800 200 376 (Republic of Ireland).
  4. If appropriate, display the flares poster below to help educate the public about the appropriate routes for disposing of unwanted flares. Download the flares poster below and display it in a prominent location.

If you are experiencing this issue in the Channel Islands or Isle of Man and would like a poster with relevant information for your area, please email [email protected].