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      Coast Guard issues holiday safety warning

      In preparation for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend, the Coast Guard reminds boaters to take the proper fireworks precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend on the water.

      In preparation for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend, the Coast Guard reminds boaters to take the proper fireworks precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend on the water.

      The Coast Guard urges boaters not to launch or use fireworks on board a vessel. Fireworks can be mistaken as a sign of distress, needlessly attracting Coast Guard and other rescue resources.

      "Every Fourth of July, Coast Guard personnel receive and respond to numerous reports of boaters firing emergency flares from their vessels," said Lt. Cmdr. Nathaniel Johnson, 11th Coast Guard District Command Center chief. "It can be difficult, and requires a lot of resources to determine exactly where the flare came from and whether or not someone needs assistance there."

      It is also important to not use safety flares as fireworks, as they are internationally recognized as a signal of distress. It is a federal felony for anyone to knowingly and willfully communicate a false distress message to the Coast Guard or cause the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed. This includes, but is not limited to, firing flares in a non-distress situation and/or saying "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday" for a radio check.

      "The Coast Guard stresses that flares should only be fired to indicate distress when a boater feels that they are in an emergency situation," Johnson said. "With the increase of maritime traffic on the Fourth of July, actual maritime emergencies are highly possible, and the firing of a flare in a non-emergency situation could result in a delay in Coast Guard response to a legitimate maritime emergency in a different location."