A safety message for boat owners and users

Boat fire safety

Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service is supporting the national Fire Kills Campaign’s Boat Fire Safety Week (29 May-4 June).

At the start of the boating season, HWFRS wants all crew members to understand the risks and follow advice from the Boat Safety Scheme which includes having a good escape plan.

Despite all efforts, should fire break out or a carbon monoxide escape occur, the critical survival factor will be the presence of suitable, working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.

The scheme publishes lists of suitable alarms and has advice from the manufacturers on the best places to fix the devices.

Alarms should be tested routinely with the batteries replaced as necessary and never removed.

HWFRS Head of Prevention Emma Roberts reminded people to ensure they can give a good indication of their location when aboard a boat.

She said: “While boat fires are relatively infrequent in our Service area, they do have the potential for devastating consequences.

“That’s why we’re urging all boat users to take note of the advice and do everything they can to stay safe.

“Access to rivers and canals can be difficult but good directions can help avoid any unnecessary delay in the event of an emergency.”

Carbon Monoxide (CO) information: CO is a highly toxic poison that cannot be heard, seen, felt, tasted or smelt – it’s sometimes called the silent killer for good reason.

It is the result of an incomplete or inefficient burn of any carbon-based fuel, including wood, charcoal, coal, petrol, diesel, propane and butane.

It can happen on a boat with one or a mix of these factors:

  • • Faulty, badly-maintained or misused appliances
  • • Exhaust fumes from a boat’s engine or generator
  • • Escaped flue gases from solid fuel stoves
  • • Blocked ventilation or short supply of air (fuel needs oxygen to burn safely)

In recent years, solid fuel stoves and engine or generator exhaust gases have been responsible for most CO poisoning deaths of boaters.

Fire information: Fire prevention is always the primary protection from fire on boats but a smoke alarm can be the next line of defence, particularly if craft occupants sleep aboard.

Smoke from a boat fire will affect the ability to breathe, a sensation similar to drowning.

With two to three breaths of toxic smoke the boat user could be unconscious.

A working smoke alarm of the right type can warn quickly of the danger and buy precious seconds to escape.

The Boat Safety Scheme helps to minimise the risks of fires or explosions on boats cruising the UK’s inland waterways network by specifying a set of requirements that most boats must meet before they can be granted a navigation licence.

The scheme also promotes ‘safety best practice’ measures that support skippers in keeping themselves and their crews safe.

For further information about general boat fire and CO safety, visit https://www.boatsafetyscheme.org/.