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Visual Distress Signals (VDSs) allow vessel operators to signal for help in the event of an emergency. VDSs are classified as day signals (visible in bright sunlight), night signals (visible at night) or both day and night signals. VDSs are either pyrotechnic (smoke and flames) or non-pyrotechnic (non-combustible). All VDSs must be in serviceable condition, readily accessible, and certified as complying with USCG requirements.

VDSs are not required on Utah waters, but are strongly recommended.

Vessels on federally controlled waters must be equipped with U.S. Coast Guard–approved visual distress signals. All vessels, regardless of length or type, are required to carry night signals when operating between sunset and sunrise. Most vessels must also carry day signals; exceptions to the requirement for day signals are:

  • Recreational vessels that are less than 16 feet in length
  • Non-motorized open sailboats that are less than 26 feet in length
  • Manually-propelled vessels

If pyrotechnic VDSs are used, a minimum of three must be on board.