A fire extinguisher may seem like a mundane piece of equipment to take with you on the water! In fact, it has contributed to the safety of many who thought the same way. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) requires that all power watercraft always have a rated fire extinguisher onboard. But where is the best location to keep a fire extinguisher on a boat?
A fire extinguisher should be stored upright and be visible to all occupants of the boat. The ideal area to keep a fire extinguisher is in common areas or near locations that may be at advanced risk of fire, such as fuel storage, engine rooms, or kitchens.
There is no perfect area to store a fire extinguisher on a boat, as many variables must be considered. This article will inform of possible storage options, the regulations, and the correct fire extinguisher for boats.
The Best Place To Store A Boat Fire Extinguisher
A Fire extinguisher can be stored anywhere on a boat as long as it is easy to access. The most common area to keep them in are high traffic areas. This will make the occupants of the vessel aware of the storage location. Some examples of high traffic areas on a boat are:
Storing A Fire Extinguisher In The Kitchen Or Galley Of A Boat
The kitchen is a high-risk and high-traffic area on the boat. The fire extinguisher can be stored with a mounting bracket at the entrance doorway or stairwell. With the boat’s constant back and forth rocking, oil or grease can easily spill over from a pot and onto the stove, causing a fire.
When using a propane stove, there is a constant flame while cooking, and this can ignite any flammable material. Having a fire extinguisher in close proximity could prevent a fire from getting out of control.
Storing A Fire Extinguisher In The Boats Cabins
Guests spend time in the boat’s cabins, so storing a fire extinguisher in the hanging locker in the cabin will help them be prepared for a fire. Mount the bracket close to the floor, adjacent to the locker door. Another good area is to have a mounted fire extinguisher is in the passageway or stairwell leading to the cabins.
The electrical wires for the lights, TV, and power outlets are in the boat’s walls; if a wire becomes worn through, it could spark and cause a fire.
Storing A Fire Extinguisher In The boats Cockpit Or Salon Areas
Storing a fire extinguisher near the entrance door will ensure that it is accessible and can be quickly taken directly to the fire. Mount the bracket on the wall directly opposite or adjacent to the entrance. Extinguishers can also be kept in the storage areas under the seats. Ensure the extinguisher can be placed upright, and then install the bracket on the front inner wall of the seat locker.
If the extinguisher is not in full view, ideally place a sticker to indicate where it can be found. These areas will be populated most of the time, and they can be the first-line of defense in the event of a fire situated in another area of the boat.
Storing A Fire Extinguisher In The Engine Room
Mount the fire extinguisher outside the access door or near the fuel cut-off switches. It is crucial that this extinguisher be accessible due to the high risk of the engine room. There is oil, fuel, excessive heat, and many other mechanical devices in the engine room, all of which is a fire risk.
It is also recommended to store or have access to a fire extinguisher in areas with flammable materials or liquids, such as gasoline closets or tank rooms. Do not store a fire extinguisher next to the engine or fuel tanks, but rather in a walkway leading to these areas. If a fire is to break out in the engine room, the extinguisher would be engulfed in the fire and would not be accessible.
Storing Fire Extinguisher On A Open Bow Ski Boat
On a open bow ski boat, finding a suitable area to store a fire extinguisher can be tricky as space is very limited. Due to the small nature of the boat, it would be recommended to keep the fire extinguisher in the center or stern. This is where the highest risk areas (battery, engine) are situated. Below are a few locations where a fire extinguisher can be stored on a 20- foot Winns open bow ski boat.
- Behind the front Seats – Using a mounting bracket, install the extinguisher on the back of the seat so that it is easily reachable in an emergency.
- Storage lockers under the rear seats or sun-pad – ensure the fire extinguisher can be stored upright. Install a mounting bracket on the front side of the locker so that it will be visible when the seat is lifted/opened.
- On the Bimini Rails – Using a pole-mounting bracket, install the fire extinguisher on the side rails of the Bimini.
If there is no adequate space for the extinguisher to be stored upright, it can be stored on its side. This is not recommended, but rather have a fire extinguisher on the boat than not have one at all. Ensure that the fire extinguisher is inspected for corrosion and correct pressure or damage every time the boat leaves the dock.
Tips For Finding The Correct Fire Extinguisher Storage Location
Follow the following tips if you are unsure where to store the fire extinguisher or which unique areas you would like to place one in.
- Is the area a safe distance from any high-risk fire area such as the engine room?
- Is the fire extinguisher visible to all crew and passengers on the vessel?
- Does the boat have stored flammable materials? If so, where are they on the boat?
- The location of the boat’s gasoline tanks?
- Does the vessel have a galley (kitchen), and is it cleaned frequently?
- How often is garbage removed from the boat?
- Where do passengers gather when on the vessel?
Where should A Fire Extinguisher Not Be Stored?
The following areas are where fire extinguishers should not be stored. They are:
- Extinguishers should not be stored in areas where they’re exposed to excessive heat, e.g., Engine rooms, above oven/stoves.
- Or in areas exposed to a corrosive atmosphere or corrosive fluids. E.g., hydraulic machinery fuel storage.
- Should a fire extinguisher be exposed to dampness or large volumes of water? In that case, the extinguisher should be monitored monthly for corrosion. E.g., Anchor locker swim platforms.
Mounting Fire Extinguishers On A Boat
When the storage area has been selected for the fire extinguisher, ensure that the correct mounting equipment is used to secure it to the wall. Wall-mounted fire extinguishers have been proven to be the easiest to locate. They are also easier to retrieve in a dangerous situation.
The fire extinguisher should be mounted fully upright to prevent the chemicals from settling on the side walls. A larger extinguisher over 40 pounds should be mounted closer to the floor, around 3-4 feet from the deck. This is to prevent the person retrieving the fire extinguisher from getting injured.
Why Using Mounting Brackets Is Recommended
There are three main reasons why a fire extinguisher should be stored on a mounting bracket, they are:
- Longevity – If fire extinguishers are stored on mounting brackets, they will not be thrown around the deck while the boat is moving. Valves, hoses, and nozzles can get damaged if the extinguisher is dropped or receives a sudden impact.
- Safety – A fire extinguisher that is not mounted correctly could become loose and injure an occupant of the boat.
- Visibility and Accessibility- Mounting brackets are usually placed in optimal locations for accessibility. This will make the fire extinguisher more visible in an emergency.
If a fire extinguisher is not stored using a bracket, it should be placed in an area that is not locked or where the extinguisher cannot be damaged by rolling around. It would be recommended to have a sticker in view to indicate that there is firefighting equipment stored inside.
Types Of Fire Extinguishers For A Boat
There are various brands of fire extinguishers on the market, and not all will be suitable for a boat. The following rated extinguishers are what should be on a boat.
- Class A – This type of extinguisher is used for ordinary combustible materials such as wood, paper, and fabric fires. The Class A extinguisher is like putting water or a detergent on a fire.
- Class B – The extinguisher is filled with a chemical powder to extinguish flammable liquids such as gasoline and oil. The chemical powder extinguishes the fire by removing the oxygen and soaking up the liquids to prevent further spilling. Do not use water on any gasoline or oil fire as the water will cause the flammable liquid and fire to spread.
- Class C – The extinguisher is filled with Carbon dioxide and dry chemicals used on electrical fires.
- Class ABC Dry Chemical (ABE Powder/tri-class) – This extinguisher is filled with fluidized and siliconized mono ammonium phosphate powder and can be used on classes A, B, and C fires.
- Class ABC B-1 fire extinguishers contain 1.25 gallons of foam, 4 pounds of Carbon Dioxide, and 5 pounds of dry chemicals.
- Class ABC B-2 fire extinguishers contain 2.5 gallons of foam, 15 pounds of Carbon Dioxide, and 10 pounds of dry chemicals.
Most fire extinguishers can be found in Rechargeable or Non-Rechargeable (disposable) tanks; both must comply with the following standards;
- The fire extinguisher must be stored in an unobstructed location on the boat.
- The device must have clearly readable operation instructions on it
- Must have a pressure gauge indication correct high/low pressure
- The fire extinguisher must be fitted with a tamper-proof device
For boats over 65 feet, the USCG requires a permanent fire suppression system with fire suppressant chemicals, temperature sensors, automatic engine, and mechanical shut-off mechanisms.
How To Use A Fire Extinguisher Correctly On A Boat Fire?
Hopefully, you will never experience a fire on a boat, as this can be a perilous situation. But, if you are in this dire situation, remember the following Acronym to use a fire extinguisher, PASS. (Pin-Aim-Squeeze-Sweep) The following steps will aid in the event of a fire on a boat:
- Stop the engine immediately! Always the first step in the event of a boat fire.
- Position your boat (downwind) so the wind blows the fire and smoke away from your boat. This will assist in preventing the fire from spreading quickly and minimize smoke inhalation for you and your passengers.
- Separate the fuel source from the fire. For example, shut off the gas to the engine or disconnect the gas tank.
- Grab your marine-rated fire extinguisher and do the following:
- P – (Pin) pull out the pin from the fire extinguisher
- A – (Aim) aim the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire – Stay as far back as possible from the flames
- S – (Squeeze) squeeze the handle on the fire extinguisher to start the flow of the extinguishing agent
- S – (Sweep) sweep the hose/nozzle up / down and from side to side over the flame
If the fire is becoming too overwhelming, radio for assistance or, if possible, abandon ship.
The US Coastguard Requirements For Fire Extinguishers On A Boat
Boat smaller than 26 feet are required to have at least one B-1 fire extinguisher onboard. Larger boats between 26 and 40 feet must have at least two B-1 fire extinguishers. Boats with the following features are required to have a USCG accepted fire extinguisher during operation:
- Enclosed engine bay
- Internally installed fuel tanks
- Seat sections used to store engine fuel tanks
- Cordoned off areas for cooking and residential purposes
- Fuel tanks that are heavy and not movable
- Double bottoms not permanently sealed to the hull
- Partitions where engine tanks might be stored
- Areas not filled with flotation materials and PFD devices.
Maintenance For Boat Fire Extinguishers
Marine fire extinguishers must be inspected every 30 days. The inspection should include looking for the following signs of degradation; leaks, damage to hoses, connections, and seals. The tanks should be free from dents or corrosion, and the nozzle must be clear of any blockages.
The NFPA -10 (National Fire Protection Association) standard states that the pressure gauges and indicators should be in working condition. The marine fire extinguisher should have tamper indicators to determine if something is wrong with the device.
A marine fire extinguisher can have up to a 10-year expiry date. Still, the USCG requires an internal maintenance examination conducted every 1 – 6 years for compliance.
Do Fire extinguishers Become Faulty?
Fire extinguishers do not become faulty if they are stored correctly. Still, certain types of extinguishers do have an expiration date. This is important to check as an expired fire extinguisher will make your vessel noncompliant. The fire extinguisher should be replaced for the following reasons. They are:
- If the fire extinguisher has been discharged (used), has been damaged, corroded, or leaking.
- If the fire extinguisher requires that it be turned upside down to be used, this type of extinguisher is a very old version that uses soda acid, foam, water cartridges, or stream cartridges.
- If the extinguisher uses carbon tetrachloride or chlorobromomethane, these are toxic chemicals and are no longer recommended for use.
- Older extinguishers may have copper or brass joined with rivets and solder; these may leak and not hold sufficient pressure.
- The manufacturers of the fire extinguisher are no longer in business. This means there will no longer be serviceable parts for that brand.
Why Are Fire Extinguishers Required On A Boat?
Many new boaters will not see the need for a fire extinguisher on a boat. Still, with sound reasoning, the USCG has set mandatory guidelines that must be followed. The implementation of rules such as these has saved countless lives.
Boat fires are the 5th leading type of insurance claim in the United States, and most fires start at the fuel system, but that is not the only area where a fire can start. The following are insurance stats from GEIGO:
- Direct current electrical system fires – 37%
- Engine electrical issues – 21%
- Battery dysfunctions – 10%
- Engine problems – 14%
In 2014 the USCG stated that more than half of the boat fires they attended were due to fuel-related issues. These were from leaking tanks, perished fuel hoses, over-filled tanks, and fuel spills.
New USCG Fire Extinguisher Regulations 2022
The USCG has placed a new mandate on current fire extinguishers for boats. The new rule states that fire extinguishers should not be older than 12 years. The date can be found underneath the extinguisher and is represented by 2 or 4 stamped characters.
The main focus of the new rules is to faze in the latest coding classification numbers for the fire extinguishers. The USCG aims to remove the old B-1 and B-2 classification and replace it with the more common 5-B, 10-B, and 20-B classification system.
The new rating refers to the coverage area in square feet rather than the amount of chemicals inside the extinguisher. The new fire regulations will take effect from April 2022.
There are many areas where a fire extinguisher can be stored on a boat. It is essential that high-risk areas have an extinguisher nearby. Having one in the common areas on the boat is recommended. A fire extinguisher is best stored upright and in a mounting bracket. This will be more visible and accessible in a fire situation.
Having the correct type and well-maintained fire extinguisher onboard and knowing how to use it is crucial for the safety of the vessel’s occupants. Keep the fire extinguishers on the boat well maintained to effectively put out the flames in a fire emergency.
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