BoatsLiving on the South Coast is great, especially when the sun is shining and you can get onto the water. However it is vital to remember fire safety when on your boat. A boat fire can affect your life as well as your pocket. Fire can spread quickly on a boat even if it is on water so it is important to protect against and plan what to do in the case of fire. In celebration of Cowes Week we have some simple fire safety tips…


  •  Fit a smoke alarm and test it regularly

Fit an alarm in a place where you will hear it no matter where you are on board. Optical sensor alarms with hush buttons and ‘sealed for life’ batteries are best for boats. Make sure you test it when you get on board to make sure it will work should a fire occur.


  • Install extinguishers and get them serviced annually

Fire extinguishers should be within easy reach and be placed in places of high risk and near exits. A competent fire protection company will be able to help you with this. Make sure you get your extinguishers serviced annually and only fight a fire with an extinguisher if you are confident to do so otherwise evacuate the boat. Ask your fire protection company to show you how to use an extinguisher if you are unsure. Also check the extinguisher on a regular basis to make sure it is still in good condition. Fire extinguishers on private boats should show the British Standard Kitemark or equivalent markings LCPB or Ships Wheel (Marine Equipment Directive). Fire extinguishers should be manufactured to BSEN3. Boats hired out to the public require further approval marks. Contact us for more details.


Extinguishers may not always be the most suitable way to control or extinguish a fire for example an extinguisher may spread burning oil. A fire blanket may be more suited if you have permanent cooking facilities.


  • Take extra care when cooking

Never leave cooking unattended, turn appliances off if you have to leave them. Frying oil sets alight easily so take extra caution when frying oil. After cooking, clean the area to avoid a build-up of grease which could catch fire.


  • Take care when smoking

Keep cigarettes away from fabrics and anything that could catch fire. Dispose of cigarettes carefully and make sure you use a proper ashtray that will stay stable on the boat. A build-up of ash could catch fire so empty ashtrays regularly and carefully. NEVER smoke when refuelling or changing a gas cylinder.


  • Plan what to do in an emergency

Have an emergency plan and discuss it with everyone on board. Ensure people know how to close emergency valves and switches in case of fire. Don’t rely on mobile phones as you may not get a signal and the phone probably isn’t waterproof. Instead make sure you have a charged hand-held waterproof VHF radio on you at all times ready for use. Keep life jackets in a good condition and make sure you have enough for everyone on board. Keep a number of torches on board in case you need to escape at night. Test them regularly and have spares. Track your location so you can tell the emergency services where you are should you need to.


  • What should you do in the case of fire

Just remember ‘get out, stay out and call and wait for the emergency services’

Do not enter smoke filled spaces and if you have to enter one you must keep low. Don’t open doors or hatches unless you have to.


Inland Fire

Move everybody off the boat and call 999


Fire at Sea

Move as far away from the fire on deck as possible; make sure everybody has a life jacket on. Take your VHF radio onto deck with you to call for help. Notify the coastguard by radio make a mayday call and display a distress call.


It is also important to mention Carbon Monoxide safety. Make sure you have a working CO detector to alert you to any poisonous carbon monoxide. Check your detector is suitable for marine use and meets the BS7860 or EN50291 standards. Check it regularly and make sure it has the proper approvals.


Fires on board private boats are serious and kill on average three people a year. For more information regarding fire safety please use the following resources:

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