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Don’t Miss the Boat – Get on Board Boat Fire Safety Week

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Burning BoatBoat Fire Safety Week is almost upon us! It’s taking place from the 27th – 31st May this year. Annually, there are around 20 fire-related accidents and injuries on boats in the UK each year. That’s a low figure compared to the number of land fires. But the consequences of a boat fire can be far more devastating.

The fire service may not be able to reach you

Boat fires generally occur in remote locations with narrow access routes. This makes it difficult for fire and rescue services to reach a burning boat. As a result, a boat fire will cause more damage, having more time to burn and become out of control. An on-board fire could potentially see you lose your boat and all of the possessions in it.

Don’t be anxious, be alarmed

Optical smoke alarms are the ones best suited to boats. Install working optical smoke alarms where they’ll be heard. If it’s suitable to do so, fit a linking system, where all alarms will sound if one detects a fire. Ensure gas and carbon monoxide detectors have been fitted in your boat, too. Additionally, we recommend installing a bubble type leak detector in the gas locker. This will ensure that gas leaks and build ups are detected. Like with any domestic alarm, you should test the one in your boat weekly to ensure it is working. You should also replace the alarm batteries annually. You know that a model is suitable if:
  • It is made to BS7860 or EN50291 standards
  • It comes with an LPCB approval label
  • It comes with a BSI Kitemark label
 

Fire extinguishers and fire blankets

Fire extinguishers and fire blankets are a must. They should be placed in areas where they can be easily reached. They should also be placed close to high-risk areas. As a minimum, you should have at least a dry powder fire extinguisher, which is the only one suited for use on an engine. If you’re planning on placing an extinguisher near a cooker, make sure it’s a wet chemical fire extinguisher – they’re the only ones that can be used on cooking fires. More advice on choosing a fire extinguisher here.

Conduct regular inspections

Failure to regularly inspect the mechanics and fuel systems can mean that potential problems go undetected. It’s therefore vital that you check your boat’s fuel, gas and electrical systems regularly. When conducting your checks, look out for heating damage, leakages, loose joints, spills, blockages and build ups.

Cooking and heating – the fuel for fire

Stoves and heating devices use fuels, which get hot and emit harmful gases. That’s a recipe for a fire if we ever heard one. Here’s how you play it safe.
  • Check that the fuel you are using is the one recommended for the heater
  • Check that flues are free of blockages and leaks, and ensure there is plenty of ventilation. This will prevent harmful gases from building up on your boat.
  • Never use a cooker when your boat is moving. You should also steer clear of cooking when you’re feeling drowsy or tired.
  • If your stove or oven doesn’t have its own igniter, use a long-stem, safe lighter or a spark device.
  • Take care when frying with oils – they are incredibly flammable.
  • Keep the cooking area clear of oils, fabrics or anything else that could ignite. This includes dish cloths.
  • Make sure your hobs have been completely turned off when you have finished cooking.
  • Never barbeque on-board. This is because hot charcoal emits dangerous CO gases that can ignite.
  • Before disposing of embers, make sure that they have cooled. You can even add a little water to them, to ensure they don’t re-ignite.
 

Handling fuel safety

Handling fuel safely, on the most part, involves keeping it contained and away from your boat as much as you can.
  • Never use fuel around a naked flame
  • Refuel devices outside
  • Close windows when refuelling to prevent vapours from entering your vessel
  • Make sure caps and lids are secured
  • Clean up any spillages instantly
  • Only carry petrol refills if it is unavoidable
More advice handling gas safely here More advice on using electrical appliances here

Plan for the worst

As in your home, you should have an emergency escape plan when in your boat. This involves coming up with an exit route and keeping it clear. You should also think about making contact with the emergency authorities. Don’t depend on your phone as it could get wet or lose signal. Make sure you have a back-up radio device. Always know what your location is, so that you can be found, too. Make sure that everybody on-board knows the plan and has had the chance to rehearse it. This also means that everybody should know how to use fire fighting tools safely. However if a fire occurs and anybody is unsure, just evacuate the boat. photo credit: E-Jeezy via photopin cc
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