Tips On Choosing The Right Fire Extinguisher For Your Boat
An uncontrolled fire is one of the most frightening and devastating things that can happen on a boat. An onboard fire can double in size every 7 seconds, so having the right extinguisher in the right place can make the difference between a problem and a catastrophe.
All fire extinguishers are classified by a letter and a Roman numeral. The letter indicates the type of fire it is designed to extinguish. The numeral indicates the size of the extinguisher. The higher the numeral is, the larger the extinguisher will be. Sizes I and II are portable by hand, and sizes III, IV and V are semiportable.
Class A extinguishers are designed to fight fires that leave an Ash. This includes ordinary combustibles such as wood, paper, cloth, trash, and many plastics including the fiberglass reinforced plastic used for decks and hulls The best extinguishing agents for an A fire are water or chemical foam.
Class B fires Boil. They involve flammable or combustible liquids such as stove alcohol, grease, gasoline, diesel, kerosene, oil, oil based paint, teak oil, paint thinners, acetone, and varnishes. The best extinguishing agents for a B fire are carbon dioxide, dry chemical or aqueous film-forming foam .
In Summary: Uscgs Required Boat Safety Kit
The U.S Coast Guards minimum requirements are just that: the minimum requirement. We recommend that you exceed these requirements where possible. Theres nothing wrong with carrying more PFDs than you need, or equipping more visual distress signals than the rule book says.
Dont forget, these Coast Guard boat requirements are in place to keep you safe. Besides, if you dont follow the rules and end up having an accident, your insurance company wont pay you a dime if you didnt take the necessary precautions.
For peace-of-mind, we recommend that you contact your neared branch of the U.S. Coast Guard or U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary for a voluntary Vessel Safety Check.
Why Do You Need Fire Extinguishers On A Boat
Boat fires are usually caused by fuels and gases or electrical appliances. These kinds of fires cant be put out with water. Even if they can be put out with water, it will take a lot of time and effort to do that. By that time, the boat can suffer a huge amount of loss. Even the whole boat can go up in flames.
So, to put out a boat fire, it is required to have fire extinguishers on board. They are very easy to use. No experience is required to use a fire extinguisher. And they do their job very well. Does your boat require a fire extinguisher?
Well, it certainly does if it meets the following conditions
- In cases of closed compartments and stored portable fuel tanks under seats
- If there are unsealed double bottoms to the hull or are void of flotation materials
- Closed living spaces
- Closed storage compartments containing combustible materials
- Permanent fuel tanks
So, if your boat falls under any of these criteria, then it must have Marine-rated, and USCG approved extinguishers.
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How Many Fire Extinguishers Are Required On A Boat
Determining the number of fire extinguishers you need and how big they should be depends on whether you have a motorboat or a motor vessel.
Per CFR 46 § 24.101, the difference between a motorboat and a motor vessel lies mainly in length. A motorboat is a machine-powered craft less than 65 feet in length, and a motor vessel is a machine-powered craft more than 65 feet in length.
Within the motorboat and motor vessel categories, the number of fire extinguishers required depends on how big your boat is and whether you have a fixed fire extinguishing system installed in the machinery space.
Can Old Fire Extinguishers Be Grandfathered
What if you still have fire extinguishers from before the 2016 rule change? Do you need to buy new ones? Probably not.
For one thing, pre-2016 USCG-approved extinguishers were likely also UL-listed. So there’s a very good chance that your old B-I extinguisher is also 5-B or larger in the UL system. Check the label for the UL symbol and size.
Plus, there’s a grandfather clause. CFR 46 § 25.3080 states that too-small extinguishers installed before 2016 need not be replaced if they are kept in good condition to the satisfaction of the Officer in Charge, Marine Inspection. All newly installed extinguishers must follow the new UL standard.
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Fire Extinguisher And Fire Classification
Fire extinguishers are classified into five types in the US:
- Class A
- Class D
- Class K
Each fire extinguisher class is designed to extinguish the corresponding type of fire. That is, an A-type fire extinguisher is intended for class A fires, B for class B fires, and so on.
Designed by macrovector / Freepik
With this in mind, to understand fire extinguisher classification, we also need to understand fire types.
Heres what fire letter classes mean:
- Class A fires. These are fires whose source is a combustible solid, such as wood or paper. The best extinguishing agent for class A fires is water or chemical foam.
- Class B fires. Class B fires are caused by flammable liquids, such as gasoline, octane, ethanol, acetone, and others. Typically, carbon dioxide, aqueous film-forming foam , or dry chemical is used for class B fires.
- Class C fires. Class C fires are caused by a malfunction in electrical components. These fires are usually extinguished with carbon dioxide, though dry chemical may also be used.
- Class D fires. These fires are caused by combustible metals. Class D fires are extinguished by dry powder.
- Class K fires are caused by cooking oil or fat.
Fun fact class B, class C, class D, and class K fires cannot be extinguished by water. Only class A fires can be extinguished by water.
What Type Of Extinguishing Agent
Water Good for Class A fires. Extinguishers are heavy, difficult to store, and are NOT for use on flammable liquid or electrical fires.
Carbon Dioxide Good for Class B and Class C fires. No residue. Easy to use. Useful only in confined interior spaces. Does not cool fire.
HFC-227ea Relatively non-toxic Halon replacements are effective on all fire classes. Expensive.
New 3M agent is an environmentally-sustainable replacement for HFC-227 or FM200. No potential damage to the ozone layer or global warming potential. Effective on all fire classes and leaves no residue after use.
Halotron 1 EPA-approved. Safe for computers, electronics, even clean rooms, and leaves no residue after use.
Dry Chemical Low toxicity. Inexpensive. Effective on Class B and Class C fires. Not effective on Class A fires. Difficult to clean up.
Tri-Class Dry Chemical Low toxicity. Inexpensive. Effective on Class B and Class C fires. Moderately effective on Class A fires. Difficult to clean up. Corrosive. Not a good choice for helm or nav station.
Aqueous Foam This relatively new technology is extremely easy to use effectively on Class A, B, and C fires. Avoid excessive skin or eye contact.
BoatU.S. tested fire extinguishers in 2009. View their highly informative series of seven short videos.
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Fire Extinguishers Are The Best Safety Investment You Can Make For Your Boat
Its a no-brainer that every boat should have a fire extinguisher among its equipment. A fire extinguisher is there to protect our lives and, hopefully, our vessels. Can we ever have too many? The fact is that a boat fire can spread at breakneck speedexpanding by 100 percent every seven seconds. Easy access to an extinguisher is the difference between minimal damage and devastating destruction.
Federal regulations, enforced by the United States Coast Guard , call for every boat with an engine and fuel tank to carry at least one B-1 fire extinguisherB referring to the agent that suppresses gasoline fires 1 is the smallest in terms of content quantityon board. Yet one might not be sufficient for larger vessels. These boats, between 26 and 40-feet long, require at least two. This requirement, however, can be modified to one if the craft has a built-in, USCG-certified fire quenching system for the engine compartment.
Boats Larger Than 65 Feet
For boats larger than 65 feet, federal requirements must be met. This often means installing an actual fire extinguishing system. Fixed fire systems are rated by cubic feet of coverage, so you will have to have your engine room measured. Inside the fixed fire-extinguishing system are fire suppressants, which are usually stored as a liquid, but which are emitted as a gas.
Fixed systems trigger automatically with a temperature sensor, or can be set off manually, if necessary. However, if the fixed system triggers while you are moving, you will need to react quickly. You will need to shut off engines, blowers, generators, and other equipment, or they may need fresh oxygen to restart and to expel fire suppressant.
In addition, boats larger than 65 feet may also require a ventilation system for each compartment in the boat that contains:
A permanently installed gas engine
Openings between it and a compartment that requires venting
A permanent fuel tank and an electrical component that is not ignition-protected
A fuel tank that vents into a compartment and/or
A non-metallic fuel tank.
This U.S. Coast Guard requirement applies to all boats built on or after August 1, 1980. The boat owner is responsible for making sure openings are free of obstruction, ducts are not blocked or torn, blowers operate properly, and worn components are replaced with Coast Guard-approved equipment.
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How Do I Operate A Fire Extinguisher
So you bought a fire extinguisher for your boat. You may be asking How exactly is a fire extinguisher operated? Fire training authorities have developed a simple fire fighting technique called P-A-S-S. This is an acronym for the step-by-step procedures you should follow.
Where The Fire Extinguishers Should Be
Though youll be in dire need of fire extinguishers during an emergency, you still have to place them in an area that is not easy to reach and away from damages. Just make sure that its accessible.
A fire extinguisher should be standing upright in an open area. In this setup, you will be able to check it regularly. Possible options are the cabin, bilge, hull, and kitchen. Identifying the traffic areas in your boat is also necessary.
If you are unsure, you can ask yourself these questions:
- Are there flammable liquids on the boat and where are they located?
- Is there a kitchen and galley in the boat? Is it cleaned regularly?
- Where is the hang-out spot for the passengers in the boat?
- Where is the gas tank?
- How often is dirt and garbage cleaned from the boat?
A three-foot clearance is needed when mounting a fire extinguisher. This is also to guarantee accessibility in times of emergency. The angle is important so the liquid or the powder inside the extinguisher wont just settle at the bottom.
Furthermore, the extinguishers content becomes compacted when it remains at the bottom part. It depends on the duration that it persists in a horizontal position.
What can happen is that the propellant will come out of the extinguisher instead of the extinguishing agent, and it will be useless in helping you dampen the fire.
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What Is The Length Of Your Boat
The Coast Guard requires from one to three extinguishers on pleasure boats, depending on whether they have enclosed engine compartments and if there is a permanently-mounted fixed extinguisher system in the engine room. Like other Federal requirements, these are really minimal. Buy enough to satisfy the requirements and then address the needs of your particular boat.
- Up to 26′: One B-I size extinguisher. Fire extinguishers are not required on outboard-powered pleasure boats less than 26′ in length, not carrying passengers for hire, without permanently-installed fuel tanks, that do not have spaces where explosive or flammable gasses or vapors can collect.
- From 26′ to 40′: Two B-I extinguishers
- From 40′ to 65′: three B-I extinguishers
These are the minimums to pass the Coast Guard inspection if you get boarded, but extinguishers are only effective if you can get to them. We recommend at least one in the cockpit, one in each stateroom and one in the galley area, reachable even if the stove is on fire. Statistically speaking, an onboard fire doubles in size every seven seconds, so having a fire extinguisher readily available may make the difference between inconvenience and catastrophe.
Mount your fire extinguishers in brackets where theyre available for immediate use and to keep the heavy cylinders from crashing around inside a moving boat.
Requirements To Carry Fire Extinguishers
All vessels on all bodies of water in the state are required to have a Type B, USCGapproved fire extinguisher on board if one or more of the following conditions exist.
- Inboard engine
- Closed compartments where portable fuel tanks may be stored or in which flammable or combustible materials may be stored
- Permanently installed fuel tanks
Approved types of fire extinguishers are identified by the following marking on the labelMarine Type USCG Approvedfollowed by the type and size symbols and the approval number.
- Unit 4 of 6
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How To Mount Fire Extinguishers Safely On A Boat
I always use a proper holder for the fire extinguisher on my boat. With the movement of the boat, anything on the boat will move and can be displaced easily. If an object is moving on board it can hurt the passengers or can be lost in the water.
So, we must take care of securing the fire extinguishers using adequate brackets or mounts. These brackets, mounts or belts are normally available with the fire extinguishers which can help us to prevent unexpected incidents on a boat.
Shield Marine Fx 13415m
Quick Review: This is a USCG-approved non-rechargeable option made by a reputable made-in-USA extinguisher brand.
When James reviewed our original article on marine fire extinguishers, he highlighted that many recreational vessel owners prefer rechargeable extinguishers. He notes:
James Says: As per NFPA-10, disposable/non-rechargeable extinguishers can continue to be inspected by the vessel owner. The owner can replace them after 12 years or earlier if they fail periodic visual inspection. With this in mind, most recreational boats now have disposable extinguishers on board.
So, James suggested that we look into some single-use non-rechargeable options. One quality option is the Shield Marine FC 13415M. Made by Buckeye, this extinguisher is a sodium bicarbonate-based extinguisher with a UL Listed 10B: C rating, therefore exceeding the 5-B requirement.
Unfortunately, this model is not usually available online. However, its available in stores across the United States. The Shield Product Catalog outlines all the specifications for this model.
Why This Extinguisher:
- Single-Use: Single-use extinguishers have different inspection requirements that are often easier to meet.
- Made in the USA: Shield extinguishers are some of the few extinguishers currently made in the USA. They are the retail brand of the highly regarded Buckeye Fire Equipment company.
Keep in Mind:
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Proper Type Of Fire Extinguisher For A Boat
Not all fire extinguishers are alike. They use different types of extinguishing agents to put out different kinds of fires.
Fires vary by the cause and the material that is burning. There are four types of fires, or classes:
Class A: These fires involve solid materials such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber and plastics that do not melt.Class B: These include combustibles like gasoline, diesel, oils, paints, wax, cooking fat and plastics that melt.Class C: This type of fire involves electricity.Class D: This is a special type of fire that involves flammable metals such as magnesium, aluminum, titanium, sodium and potassium.
Fire extinguishers are coded according to what kind of fire they are designed to fight. Fires feeding off wood and fiber differ from those feeding off fuel, and from those ignited by electricity. So, using an extinguisher the contents of which to not address the specific kind of fire will 1) be ineffective and 2) might actually feed the fire. The NPFA is a good resource to begin learning.
Types Of Fire Extinguishers:
Fire Extinguishers are classified by letters and numbers according to the class and the size fire they can put out. The letter , indicates the class of fire. The number , is a measure of the capacity of the extinguisher – the larger the number the greater the capacity. You may be surprised to learn that most B-I extinguishers will typically only last approximately 8-12 seconds.
Each class of fire has its own suppression considerations:
- Class A fires involve burning solids such as wood, paper, cloth, rubber and plastics. These are the only fires which can be extinguished with water.
- Class B fires are flammable liquids and gases such as gasoline, diesel, kerosene, alcohol, grease, paints, propane, etc.
- Class C fires involve live electrical circuits and include machinery, appliances, electrical panels, and wiring.
Most marine fire extinguishers are rated B:C , or A:B:C . These extinguishers often contain an inert, dry chemical extinguishing agent, such as sodium bicarbonate, which physically coats the fuel and prevents access to oxygen, thus extinguishing the fire.
B:C and A:B:C extinguishers may also contain inert gases, such as CO2, FE-241, FM-200, or Halotron. These work by displacing the oxygen-containing air around the fire, thus smothering it. Unlike dry chemicals, these gases leave no residue and make for an easier cleanup. The following table shows what typically comes inside a class B extinguisher.
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