FIRE Safety on Boats

Posted a year ago / Clive A
Friday 21st February 2020

Alarms save lives

Fire can spread quickly on a boat, even on water. Alarms can help keep your crew safe.

Smoke Alarms
• Optical sensor alarms with hush buttons and 'sealed for life' batteries are best for boats. Visit for advice
• Fit alarms in places you will hear them clearly if they go off.
• Consider installing linked alarms that will go off at the same time.
• Test the alram when you board and regularly when aboard. Never disconnect it or remove working batteries.
Gas leak indicators
• Fit a bubble type gas leak indicator in the LPG cylinder locker.
• Push the gas leak indicator test button routinely to check for leaks in the gas system.
Carbon monoxide (CO) alarm
• Fit a CO alarm to alert you of any poisonous carbon monoxide.
• Check your CO alarm is suitable for marine use and meets the EN50291-2 standard.

Safe cooking and heating

Turn cooking appliances off properly after use.
• Never leave cooking unattended. Turn things off until you come back.
• Take extra care when cooking with oil - it set alight easily.
• Avoid cooking when tired. Remember, prescription drugs and alcohol can cause drowsiness.
• Keep cooking area clean for safety - a build-up of grease could catch light.
• Spark devices are safer than matches or lighters to light gas cookers, because they don't have naked flame.
• Only use portable appliances onshore and don't change gas canisters inside the cabin or covered areas.
• Barbecues shouldn't be used on boats - hot charcoal gives off dangerous amounts of CO and blown embers could set your boat alight.
• Keep cabin ventilation clear to prevent a build-up of toxic CO.
• Try to keep fabrics away from cooking hobs to prevent them from catching fire.
• Damaged stoves and flues could burn too hot, check adjacent areas for heat damage. Have your chimney swept regularly.
• Only use the fuel recommended by the heater manufacturer. Other types may burn too hot.
• Dispose of embers carefully. If they're still warm they could cause a fire or build-up of CO.
• Ensure all hobs, burners have a flame supervision device to shut-off the gas if the flame is blown out.

Protecting the inside of your boat

• Dispose of cigarettes carefully.Put them out, right out.
• Keep cigarettes or pipes away from anything that could catch fire, such as cutains.
• Never smoke when refuelling or changing a gas cyclinder.
• Use a proper ashtray that will stay stable on the boat.
• Take extra care if you smoke when you're tired and never smoke in bed.
• Empty ashtrays regularly. A build-up of ash could catch fire.

• Try to choose furniture that carries the fire-resistant label.
• Keep fabrics and paper away from anything hot like hobs, flues and light bulbs.
• Watch out for domed-decklights focussing light rays and cuasing heat damage or fire in strong sunlight.

• Take extra care with lt candles. Don't leave them unattended.
• Only use secure holders, as a rocking boat or sudden jolt could tip candles over.

Fuel and power safety
• Never restrict airflow by blocking vents or air gaps.
• Make sure gas cylinders are secure after they've been changed. Test for leaks with detection fluid.
• Whenever possible, turn gas valves off before you go to bed or leave the boat.
• Replace gas hoses showing signs of cracking, bitterness or discolouration.
• Store gas cyclinders outside, in a self-draining and fire resistant locker. Keep them upright and secured from moving.

• Check for the British or European safety mark when buying electrical goods.
• Don't overload adaptors. Keep to one plug per socket. Use the right fuse or circuit breaker to avoid overheating.
• Unplug appliances when they're not in use or when you leave the boat.
• Damaged wires can overheat rapidly, so look out for scoch marks or burning smells.
• Take extra care when reinstalling the boat's batteries. Check straps or restraints are secure afterwards.

Plan a safe escape
• Make an emegency plan with everyone on bboard before you set out.
• Make sure people know how to close emergency valves and switches on case of fire.
• You are more at risk from a fire when asleep, so check your boat before you go to bed. Make sure cooking and heating appliances are off and candles and cigaretes are fully extinguished.
• Keep a torch easily available to help you escape at night. make sure you have spares and test them regularly.
• Don't go to sea without a VHF radio. Have a charged-up, handheld, waterproof one ready for use at any time.
• Don't rely on a mobile phone. There couild be no signal and it may not be waterproof.
• Have enough life jackets for everyone on board, and keep them in good condition.
• Keep exits clear and keys to hand. Don't lock or bolt doors and hatches from the outside.
• Track your location so you can tell the emergency services where youa re if needed.
• Consider having a 'grab-bag' for removing vital possession in an emergency.

What to do if there's a fire
• If in doubt, don't fight a fire yourself. Get out, stay out and call 999.
• Do not enter a smoke filled space.
• If you are already in a smoke filled space keep low down where the air is clearer.
• If you need to break glass to escape use a blanket to prevent injury.
• Starve the fire of air. Don't open engine hatches or doors unless you have to.

Inland fires
• If you are inland or moored near to land move everybody off the boat and call 999 immediately.

Fire at sea
• If you are off-shire move as far away from the fire as you can on deck. Get everbody into life jackets.
• Take a handheld VHF radio onto deck with you to call for help.
• Notify the Coastguard by radio, make a Mayday call and/or display a distress signal.

Fire blankets and extinguishers
• To extinguish a small fire, or to help you escape safety, consider using an extinguisher.
• Familiarise yourself with how to use any extinguisher on board.
• Only consider tackling a fire with an extinguisher if you are confident how to use it. If in doubt, evacuate the boat.
• Keep fire blankets and extinguishers within easy reach, close to exits and risk pojnts, such as the galley and engine area.
• Check extinguishers on a regular basis for serious dents, leaks and loss of pressure.
• Check the pin and firing mechanism for any signs of problems or weaknesses.
• Check the dates on extingishers and fire blankets and service or replace them as recommended by the instructions.
• Only choose extinguishers that carry recognised approval marks.