Fire safety on boats

Boats have different fire risks to buildings, mainly because they are smaller, enclosed spaces with hazards, like a gas cylinder. Find out how to reduce the risk of fire on your boat by following some simple safety steps.

Installing a smoke alarm on your boat

A smoke alarm can alert you to the risk of fire on your boat, giving you time to escape or alert the emergency services.

Installing Carbon Monoxide (CO) and gas detectors on your boat

A CO detector will alert you to poisonous carbon monoxide on your boat. Taking the following steps can also protect you from the risk of CO poisoning:

Using gas cylinders on boats

If you are using a gas cylinder on a boat:

  • install a gas detection system if possible
  • when changing cylinders, make sure all cylinder valves are turned off before disconnecting
  • regularly hand-pump bilges (the enclosed areas at the inner bottom of the hull) to remove potential low-lying vapours
  • Safety regulations for pleasure craft

Cooking safety on boats

You can prevent fire on your boat by following these safety tips when cooking:

  • never leave your cooking unattended – turn it off until you come back
  • use a ‘proprietary gas lighter’ – a spark device – to light a stove without its own igniter
  • keep the cabin well ventilated to avoid build-up of poisonous CO

Electrical safety on boats

Follow these simple steps to protect your boat from the risk of fire:

  • always check for the British or European safety mark when buying electrical goods
  • use a trained marine electrician to install and service electrical items on your boat
  • take care not to overload your adaptors – keep to one plug per socket and use the right fuse or circuit breaker to avoid overheating

Fuel fires – how to avoid them

When using the engine, you should ventilate the engine compartment before starting it up and after any maintenance. You should also check fuel lines and tanks regularly for any cracks or leaks.

Take care with fuel

  • if you have to carry spare fuel, always store it on the upper deck
  • stop the engine before refuelling and put out all smoking materials and naked flames
  • make sure air and gas from tanks is released directly overboard and fuel lines have a direct shut-off valve that works

If a fire starts on board

These are the essential points to remember if a fire starts on board:

  • switch off fuel and gas, if possible
  • get as far away from the fire as you can get on deck and make sure everybody is wearing a life jacket

If you are inland, get out and call 999 immediately.

See ‘Safety regulations for pleasure craft’ for more information about the safety requirements for pleasure craft, like yachts.

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