Skip to main content
Supported by Trinity House

Flare fact finders

Learn about marine distress signals and VHF radio from an expert and discover if anyone has a flair for flares!

You will need

  • Pens or pencils
  • A4 paper
  • Sticky tack
  • Access to the internet
  • Local map

Before you begin

  • The best way to learn about flares, distress signals and marine VHF radio is to speak with someone who knows what they’re doing. Flares and distress signals can be dangerous to use and difficult to get hold of, and to use a marine VHF radio you need a license. The best way to do this is to organise a visit and learn from the experts.
  • Have a look at some local sailing clubs, marinas or Sea Scout venues (if you’re near the coast), to see what kind of activities might be possible near your meeting place.

Run the activity

  1. Split into three groups and give each group one of the following topics to explore. We’ve also included some information below to kick start the research:
    • Flares
    • Distress signals
    • Marine VHF radio
  1. Groups should come up with two or three ideas for questions or facts to check for their topic and note these down. They could conduct their research online, use printed materials or talk to local sailors or Sea Scouts. Questions could include:
    • When might these be used?
    • Are Sea Scouts allowed to use these?
    • How often might these be used?
  1. Groups should pass their topic and ideas to the next group along, then think about the new topic they’ve just received. Add any new ideas to the topic and pass it along again. Continue until all of the groups have seen all of the topics.
  2. With sticky tack, stick up the topics for everyone to see. Discuss whether any changes need to be made to any questions, or whether some questions fit a particular topic better.
  1. Write up the finished questions to bring along to your visit.


After the visit, possibly at your next session, gather the group together and recap what everyone learned with a quick description game. Each person should state something they learned about either flares, distress signals or marine VHF radio. Everyone else should guess which of the three things they’re describing. When deciding on descriptions, people could think about what this nautical practice or item looks like, when and why it’s used, where it would be located or performed on a ship, or any other interesting facts or history connected to it.


All activities must be safely managed. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Do a risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Always get approval for the activity and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.