So the Coast Guard Auxiliary is doing a courtesy inspection on your boat and discovers that your flares have been outdated since 1984. Also the inspection tags on your portable fire extinguishers have turned into parchment (this means that they are too old). You decide that it's time to go to the local marine store and buy new emergency equipment. The big question is what to do with the old , outdated flares and fire extinguishers. Well when, if ever, did you or your crew ever shoot off a flare or actually put out of fire with your trusty Kidde Mariner. Now might be the perfect time to practice their use under controlled and simulated conditions.
Most marine portable fire extinghuisers are the dry chemical type that are designed to put out a variety of different fires. They are essentially baking soda under pressure and are relatively simple to use. On a calm (no wind) day, start a small fire in your back yard or protected field and allow each member of your crew or family to put it out. REMEMBER TO READ AND FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS . Also be sure that you understand the distinction between the dry chemical and CO2 or Halon units. The latter extinguishes a fire by removing the oxygen from the fire zone. This could potentially cause someone to lose consciousness; if you use this type of unit for a fire in a closed cabin. The dry chemical will put out most fires but not without making a royal mess. Remember, baking soda tends to compact over time and even though the needle-guage may be reading in the green zone, this does not guarantee the safe operation of the unit. Best to replace all portable fire extinghuisers every 3-5 years.
Flares and flare guns are also very easy to use. But unless you have had a previous emergency at sea, your only contact with them was most probably when you bought them and stored them in some locker under the hoses and cleaning supplies. Both flares and cartridges are have an expiration date of three years after Manufacture (not purchase). Remember, used properly, flares can either save your life or cause serious injury. So while you are experimenting with the fire extinghuisers, learn how to set off a flare. You might do this as a yacht club or marina project - be sure to advise the proper authorities (including the Coast Guard) as to your intentions.