Although the number of boat fires is relatively rare in the UK, the fire brigade says they quite often have devastating consequences. Find out the dos and don'ts to stay safe on board
Boaters are being urged to put in place some simple measures during Boat Fire Safety Week to help them stay safe.
The Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, like other fire brigades throughout the UK, are advising that although the number of boat fires on coastal and inland waters is relatively low, they can be catastrophic when they do occur.
This is due to the remote locations of moorings, which means firefighters can often experience difficulties in gaining access to the fire, as this blaze in Torquay last week shows.
On many occasions, these incidents result in the total destruction of the boat and to surrounding property.
The following tips are being issued during Boat Fire Safety Week:
- Make sure you know your boat and make a fire action plan with everyone in the boat.
- Fit a smoke alarm that meets British Standard BS5446 Part 1 and carries an approval mark such as ‘kitemark’.
- Fit a gas and petrol vapour detector alarm in the bilge and even in the cabin space to give you early warnings of dangerous build-ups of explosive gases.
- Check all appliances are turned off and if possible, close the valve on the LPG cylinders before you go to bed or leave the boat.
- Never leave a burning candle unattended. Make sure they are put out safely.
- Keep candles, matches, lighters and other sources of flame out of reach of children.
- Make sure cigarettes are put out safely – use metal ashtrays. Avoid falling asleep with a lit cigarette – never smoke in bed.
- Never leave a hot hob unattended especially when cooking with oil or fat.
- Don’t fit curtains or fabrics over hob burners and don’t dry tea towels or clothes over a cooker or hob.
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This may seem a long list but most of the actions are common sense. If you follow the advice you will help reduce the risk of fire occurring on your boat.
Boat Fire Safety Week is also being used to raise awareness of fire, explosion and carbon monoxide poisoning on boats
Recently, the Marine Accident Investigation Branch advised that carbon monoxide alarms are fitted to all new recreational boats and on board existing vessels using inland waterways.
It followed an investigation into the deaths of Alan Frost and Tina Wilkins, who died of carbon monoxide poisoning while on board their motor cruiser, Love for Lydia, in June 2016.
The fire brigade said the causes of fire on boats is varied, but could include:
- Escape of gas from an LPG installation coming into contact with an ignition source resulting in fire/explosion
- Flammable vapours entering the accommodation space coming into contact with an ignition source resulting in fire/explosion
- Incorrectly installed heating appliances some of which are do-it-yourself installations
- Candles/cigarettes etc positioned in proximity to combustible materials
It is urging boaters to have an escape plan prepared.
The plan should include:
- Your means of escape should always be clear and free from obstruction
- Your means of escape should always be free from trip/slip hazards
- Consider an alternative escape route in case the normal route gets blocked
- All doors or windows for means of escape should open easily in the event of a fire; keep keys to door and window locks handy
- If a window needs to be broken, use a heavy object to break the glass in the bottom corner, cover jagged edges of glass with a towel to avoid injury
- Plan ahead together prepare and agree an escape plan with those on board, including visitors
- In the event of a fire everyone should, stay calm and get off the boat as quickly as possible
- Everyone should keep low where the air is clearer
- If clothing catches fire, stop, drop and roll. Use a fire blanket to smother the flames
- Always try to remember the location of the boat; it will be essential information in the event of an emergency
Most importantly, don’t go back onto the boat – GET OUT, STAY OUT and dial 999!
Boat Fire Safety Week runs until Sunday (4 June).