CO Advice, Fire Safety

All aboard for Boat Safety Week 2024

In preparation for the start of the boating season, and half term holidays, Boat Safety Week aims to ensure all crew members know the risks and how to stay protected from danger.

Did you know, sadly 30 boaters have been killed by fire in the last 20 years?

When most fires are preventable, that’s 30 deaths too many. Boat Safety Week, held 27th- 2nd June 2024, aims to provide tips and advice on how to protect your boat, crew or family from fire or carbon monoxide (CO), and what to do should danger occur.

Even a moderate-sized boat can carry significant quantities of diesel, LPG and petrol. These fuels, combined with materials such as wood and glass-reinforced-plastic, and a number of sources of heat including engines, electrics and solid fuel stoves, pose a heightened risk.

Fire safety on boats

Boat fire safety

Often moored in remote or scenic locations with difficult access, it can take firefighters longer to arrive at a boat fire incident. And as boat fires often grow rapidly and can spread quickly, every second counts.

Ensure suitable detection with smoke alarms installed to provide vital seconds for crews to escape to safety.

What smoke alarms are best for boats?

Optical smoke alarms with ‘sealed for life’ batteries are the recommended alarm to install by the national government campaign, Fire Kills. Consider installing alarms that can interlink with one another, so when one sounds, they all sound.

Fit alarms in places you will be able to hear any alerts clearly. No areas of the boat should be further than 5m from an alarm. In the case of large vessels, such as some narrow boats, the dimensions of the vessel may mean a slower reaction time for a single alarm and so you may need to install multiple units for maximum protection.

Always test the smoke alarm when you are setting off on travels and at least monthly as part of routine safety checks. Smoke alarms should be certified for use on boats, look out for the following symbols:

[bsi kitemark, LPCB mark and VdS mark)

What FireAngel smoke alarms are suitable for boats?

The following FireAngel optical smoke alarm are all certified and suitable for use on boats:

The Boat Safety Scheme recommends smoke alarms be installed along the centreline of the boat in the same cabin space where a heater or cooker is in use, but not too close to any appliance. They also need to be mounted on a well-insulated part of the ceiling avoiding cold spots.

If you can, try to avoid putting it any closer than 300mm to any vertical surface. If headroom is a problem and you really have no choice, mount it on a wall between 150mm – 300mm below the ceiling height, but not directly above a ventilator or opening window. Don’t install a smoke alarm too close to a cooker or heater.

Fire Kills’ top boat fire safety tips:

  • Regularly check and maintain your boat’s fuel, gas and electrical systems – if you smell gas or petrol, act immediately
  • Never leave your cooking unattended – turn it off until you come back
  • Refuel portable petrol engines and/or portable tanks ashore – never onboard
  • Never leave combustible items like soft furnishings, furniture or drying fabrics, too close or above a solid fuel appliance
  • Spark devices are safer than matches or lighters as they don’t have a naked flame
  • Only use the fuel recommended by the heater manufacturer, other types may burn too hot
  • Keep cigarettes away from anything that could catch fire and dispose of smoking materials carefully
  • Candles have started fatal boat fires, consider using LED alternatives

Carbon monoxide safety on boats

Records show exhaust emissions from portable generators, and problems with solid fuel stoves and flue pipes, pose the biggest carbon monoxide risks.

It is therefore essential to check that boats are equipped with carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to detect the presence of the ‘the silent killer’.

What CO alarms are best for boats?

Carbon monoxide alarms must be suitable for marine use (check the manufacturer’s manual) and must meet the EN 50291-2 standard. Look out for the following certification symbols when buying CO alarms:

Boat fire safety

What FireAngel CO alarms are suitable for boats?

The following FireAngel CO alarm are all certified and suitable for use on boats:

The Boat Safety Scheme recommends all cabins with a fuel burning appliance have a CO alarm fitted. If fuel burning appliances, generators or engines are used whilst people sleep, all sleeping quarters will need their own alarms. If the boat has a single multi-use cabin then one alarm is suitable.

Place the CO alarm:

  • in living quarters between 1m and 3m (on plan view) from the appliance
  • in living quarters fix alarms high up on a wall, but at least 150mm from the ceiling and where the indicator lights can be seen
  • in sleeping quarters have the alarm in the “breathing zone”, i.e. near the bed head
  • before fixing, test that you can hear an alarm from any position in the boat (or buy an additional alarm)

Fire Kills’ top boat CO safety tips:

  • Only use portable appliances onshore and don’t charge gas canisters inside the cabin or covered areas
  • Never bring a BBQ indoors on a boat, hot charcoal gives off dangerous amounts of CO
  • Keep the cabin well-ventilated to avoid build-up of poisonous carbon monoxide

Keep safe and enjoy the open waters

If in doubt, don’t fight a fire yourself; get out, stay out and wait for the fire and rescue service. If you suspect any sign of a problem, turn off the power and any appliances and don’t switch back on until it’s been checked out by a qualified professional. It’s also a good idea to make and agree an emergency plan with everyone on board before you set out.

For more information on how to prepare for a safe boating trip this half term or in the future, download the Fire Kills boat safety leaflet or print our essential checklist. View FireAngel’s range of smoke and CO alarms suitable for boats.