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Visual Distress Signals allow operators to signal for help in the event of an emergency. Visual distress signals are classified as day signals (visible in bright sunlight), night signals (visible at night), or both day and night signals. Visual distress signals are either pyrotechnic (smoke and flames) or non-pyrotechnic (non-combustible).

  • When operating on federally controlled waters (Lake Erie or the immediately connecting bays, harbors, and anchorage areas):
    • No person shall operate or permit operation of:
      • A vessel 16 feet or more in length or any vessel carrying six or fewer passengers for hire without carrying U.S. Coast Guard–approved visual distress signals for both day and night use.
      • Any vessel between sunset and sunrise unless carrying U.S. Coast Guard–approved visual distress signals for night use.
    • The required distress signals shall be:
      • U.S. Coast Guard–approved and ...
      • In good and serviceable condition and ...
      • Readily accessible and ...
      • Of the type and quantities as required.
  • When operating on Ohio waters other than federally controlled waters (that is, waters other than Lake Erie or the connecting bays, harbors, or anchorage areas), no person shall operate or permit operation of a vessel without carrying a distress flag at least two feet square and international orange in color or a U.S. Coast Guard–approved daytime distress signal.
  • No person shall display any distress signal unless a vessel or a person is in distress and in need of help.
  • No person shall knowingly transport or possess a distress signaling device in a loaded condition on a vessel other than immediately prior to discharging of the device to signal for assistance.