Are you wondering where should fire extinguishers be stored on a boat? Marine vessels operate on bodies of water, making a fire extinguisher seem like an unnecessary piece of equipment. However, I can tell you from experience that a fire extinguisher is an essential safety tool in boats.
It would be wise to learn the best place to store a fire extinguisher on a boat. You can get the device effortlessly and extinguish the fire immediately if there is one. Join me in understanding the guidelines for safe and effective marine fire extinguisher storage.
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The Best Place in a Boat to Place or Store a Fire Extinguisher
The most suitable place to store a marine fire extinguisher depends on your boat’s type and layout. For example, you might not need a fire extinguisher if you have a small dinghy with an outboard motor. However, several fire extinguishers are crucial for a triple-deck yacht with closed compartments and a few inboard engines.
In such cases, where should you place the fire extinguishers?
First, you might want to consider where people will stay onboard. You will need the fire extinguisher to be accessible in an emergency. For example, high-traffic areas and rooms where people congregate are excellent places to make fire extinguishers available.
Second, placing a fire extinguisher in danger zones is always an excellent idea. For example, you might want the engine room to have one. Placing fire extinguishers in rooms or compartments for storing flammable substances is ideal.
If you are still unsure, you might want to ask yourself the following questions.
- Does your boat have flammable substances? If so, where are they on your boat?
- Where is the location of your boat’s gas tank?
- Does your vessel have a galley or kitchen, and do you clean it regularly?
- How often do you remove garbage and other items from your boat?
- Where do your passengers gather or hang out when on the vessel?
Still confused? Here is a tip. Look around your boat and check for areas where a fire is most likely to occur. These places are your boat’s danger zones. It would be best to place a fire extinguisher in these areas.
Determining the ideal location of fire extinguishers is one thing. It is also crucial to use the correct boat fire extinguisher mount to enhance the extinguisher’s stability, visibility, and ease of access. You will not want these safety devices lying on the floor, blocking traffic, or causing inconveniences to people.
It would be best to mount the fire extinguisher at an angle to prevent the chemicals from settling and compacting at the tank’s bottom. It is also advisable to observe at least three feet of clearance to improve fire extinguisher accessibility during emergencies.
Why Boats Need Fire Extinguishers
Some newbie boat owners think they do not need fire extinguishers in their vessels. However, the US Coast Guard has strict guidelines for including this safety equipment onboard, and for good reasons.
Boat fires are the fifth-leading reason for marine insurance claims with GEICO. The majority of boat fires come from electrical issues in the marine vessel’s DC system (37%), including engine electrical issues (21%) and battery dysfunctions (10%). Only 19% of boat fires are due to engine problems, while fuel issues account for 14%.
Hence, many things can catch fire in a boat. You might have a leaky fuel reservoir or pipe that only requires a haphazardly discarded cigarette to ignite. High-pressure pipes, exhaust gases, and oil or fuel puddles can also increase the risk of an onboard fire.
Behaviors of boaters and passengers can also cause accidents. For example, the US Coast Guard’s 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics revealed that alcohol use accounted for 18% of 767 deaths. Intriguingly, 77% of all deaths were due to the lack of operator safety instruction.
The RBS report also underscored five factors contributing to boating accidents. These include operator inattention, excessive speed, improper lookout, operator inexperience, and machinery failure.
Although these figures do not establish a causal relationship with boat fires, they highlight the role of risky behaviors in increasing boat fire risk. Alcohol use causes disorientation, leading to disastrous behaviors, such as setting the boat on fire.
You might be a law-abiding boater and a responsible marine pilot, but I still recommend having a fire extinguisher on your boat. It can save your life and passengers while avoiding brushes with the law.
Requirements for Marine Fire Extinguisher Systems
I mentioned that the US Coast Guard has a strict requirement for fire extinguishers on a boat. There have been a few updates to the marine fire extinguishing equipment guidelines.
The USCG now adheres to a UL performance-based classification system and adopts the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA-10) standards for inspection and maintenance of fire extinguishers.
The following are the requirements.
- At least one B-I hand portable fire extinguishers for boats less than 26 feet
- At least one B-II or two B-I portable fire extinguishers for marine vessels between 26 and 39.9 feet
- At least one B-II with one B-I fire extinguisher or three B-I extinguishers for boats between 40 and 65 feet
A B-I fire extinguisher contains at least 1.25 gallons of classification foam, four pounds of carbon dioxide, and five pounds of dry chemicals. On the other hand, a B-II extinguisher contains at least ten pounds of dry chemicals, 15 pounds of carbon dioxide, and 2.5 gallons of classification foam.
If your boat is longer than 65 feet, the USCG requires you to install a fire extinguisher system that includes fire suppressants, temperature sensors, and engine shut-off mechanisms.
You can reduce the number of fire extinguishers by one B-I asphyxiator if your boat’s engine compartment has a USCG-accepted fire extinguishing system. For example, if your 28-foot bass fishing boat has a fixed fire extinguisher in the engine room, you can add one portable bass boat fire extinguisher instead of the required two.
Marine fire extinguisher systems come in two types: rechargeable and disposable or non-rechargeable. Both types must adhere to the following requirements.
- They must be in an unobstructed location.
- They must have clear and readable instructions.
- They must have excellent operating pressure.
- They must have intact tamper indicators.
The US Coast Guard also requires USCG-accepted fire extinguishing systems in the following marine vessel parts.
- Enclosed areas, such as cabins, galleys, fuel storage sections, and engine compartments
- Permanently-installed, immovable, or heavy fuel tanks
- Sections without floatation devices and safety materials
- Seat compartments with engine tanks
- Double bottoms temporarily secured to the boat’s hull
Maintenance Guidelines for Marine Fire Extinguishers
As mentioned, the USCG now adheres to the standards set by the National Fire Protection Association, specifically, the NFPA 10.
It is essential to inspect your marine fire extinguisher every 30 days. You should check for signs of degradation, leaks, or damage to the hoses, seals, and connections. It would also be best to assess the nozzle for signs of obstruction, the tank for corrosion, dents, and other signs of damage.
The NFPA 10 Standard also expects you to check the pressure gauges or indicators for patency and operational condition. Your marine fire extinguisher should also have tamper indicators, allowing you to determine if something is lost or missing. It should also be in its correct place on your boat.
The Code also requires you to assess the condition of the carriage, wheels, and tires for wheeled fire extinguishers. If you have disposable extinguishers, the NFPA 10 expects you to check the push-to-test indicators.
The government requires you to subject your boat’s fire extinguisher system to an annual external maintenance examination. Unfortunately, this maintenance procedure requires an AHJ-certified fire extinguisher technician. The specialist will assess the fire extinguisher’s fundamental elements, such as the following.
- Physical condition
- Mechanical parts
- Expelling means
- Extinguishing agent
Although a boat fire extinguisher expiration can extend up to ten years, the USCG still requires an internal maintenance examination every one to six years. The examination interval depends on the type of extinguishing agent present in the fire extinguisher. For example, an extinguisher with a dry chemical should undergo internal testing every six years.
Hydrostatic testing is also mandatory during comprehensive maintenance examinations. It requires the technician to strip the extinguisher of most of its components, allowing the specialist to fill the shell with water. The tank must not have distortions, leaks, or permanent movements of the cylinder couplings to pass the test.
Using a Marine Fire Extinguisher
What is the use of learning where to place fire extinguishers on your boat when you do not know how to use them correctly? Fortunately, there is a super-easy way to put out fires using an extinguisher. You only need to PASS.
- P – pull the extinguisher’s pin
- A – aim the extinguisher’s nozzle at the fire’s bottom part
- S – squeeze the lever
- S – sweep the nozzle side-to-side
You now know ‘where should fire extinguishers be stored on a boat?’. On top of that, you also have a clear understanding of why you need this safety device, its requirements, maintenance guidelines, and correct usage. To sum up, the best place to make fire extinguishers available on a boat is anywhere with a fire risk or hazard.