It's the Law

Visual Distress Signals (VDSs)


Vessels less than 16 feet in length must carry at least three night signals if operating between sunset and sunrise on coastal waters.

Vessels 16 feet in length or greater must carry at least three day signals and three night signals on coastal waters. A total of three combination day/night VDSs may be substituted for this requirement.

It is prohibited to display VDSs on the water except when assistance is required to prevent immediate or potential danger to persons on board a vessel.

Pyrotechnic VDSs

Orange Smoke—Handheld 
Orange Smoke—Floating 
Day Signal 
Red Meteor 
Day and Night Signal 
Red Flare 
Day and Night Signal

Non-Pyrotechnic VDSs

Electric Light 
Night Signal 
Orange Flag 
Day Signal

Visual distress signal (VDS): arm signal

Arm Signal

Although this signal does not meet VDS equipment requirements, wave your arms to summon help if you do not have other distress signals on board.


Coastal Waters

Vessels must observe the VDS requirements when on Florida's coastal waters (coastal waters are the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and all bays, sounds, harbors, rivers, inlets, etc., where any entrance is over two miles wide to the first point where the distance between shorelines narrows to two miles).