Friday, March 20, 2009

Fire Extinguishers for Small Boats

Coast Guard Approved fire extinguishers are required on boats where a fire hazard could be expected from the motors or the fuel system. Extinguishers are classified by a letter and number symbol. The letter indicates the type fire the unit is designed to extinguish (Type B for example are designed to extinguish liquids such as gasoline, oil, and grease fires. The number tells you the size of the extinguisher. The higher the number, the larger the extinguisher.

Coast Guard approved extinguishers required for boats are hand portable, either B-1 or B-II classification and have a specific marine type mounting bracket. It is recommended the extinguishers be mounted in a readily accessible position, away from the areas where a fire could likely start such as the galley or the engine compartment.

Extinguisher markings can be confusing because extinguishers can be approved for several different types of hazards. For instance, an extinguisher marked "Type A, Size II, Type B or C, Size I" is a B-1 extinguisher. Look for the part of the label that says "Marine Type USCG" Make sure Type B is indicated. Portable extinguishers will be either size I or II. Size III and larger are too big for use on most recreational boats.

Fire Extinguishers are required on boats when any of the following conditions exist:
1. Inboard engines are installed.
2. There are closed compartments and compartments under seats where portable fuel tanks may be stored.
3. There are double bottoms not sealed to the hull or which are not completely filled with flotation materials.
4. There are closed living spaces.
5. There are closed stowage compartments in which combustible or flammable materials are stored.
6. There are permanently installed fuel tanks. (Fuel tanks secured so they cannot be moved in case of fire or other emergency are considered permanently installed. There are no gallon capacity limits to determine if a fuel tank is portable. If the weight of a fuel tank is such that persons on board cannot move it, the Coast Guard considers it permanently installed.)

Fire Extinguisher Maintenance
Inspect extinguishers monthly to make sure that:
1. Seals and tamper indicators are not broken or missing.
2. Pressure gauges or indicators read in the operable range. Note: CO2 extinguishers do not have gauges.
3. There is no obvious physical damage, rust, corrosion, leakage or clogged nozzles.
4. Weigh extinguishers annually to make sure the minimum weight is as stated on the extinguisher label.

If your extinguisher has been partially emptied they have to be replaced or taken to a qualified fire extinguisher company for recharge.

Required Number of Fire Extinguishers
The number of fire extinguishers required on a recreational boat are based on the overall length of the boat. The following chart lists the number of extinguishers that are required. In the case where a Coast Guard approved fire extinguishing system is installed for the protection of the engine compartment, the required number of units may be reduced in accordance with the chart.

Vessel less than 26 feet with no fixed system are required to have 1 B-I fire extinguisher.
Vessels 26 feet to less than 40 feet with no fixed system are required to have 2 B-I or 1 B-II.
Vessels 40 feet to 65 feet with no fixed system are required to have 3 B-I or 1 B II and 1 B-1.