Be Ready to Fight a Fire
A properly equipped and maintained suppression system can prevent an engine-room blaze from destroying your boat. "Hands-On Sailor" from our November 2009 issue
Carefully review the manual that came with your fixed-mounted fire-suppression system to be sure you and those aboard understand the health and use warnings as well as the methods used to monitor the system.
Note that fixed systems can discharge in your absence. The A.B.Y.C. makes the following general recommendations for these systems: Inspect them at least monthly; look for corroded electrical connections; make sure that access to the system controls hasn't been obstructed; and make sure that the manual pull cable hasn't broken loose or suffered damage or kinking.
Also make sure that each cylinder is securely mounted and that all cable connections are secure. If your system uses distribution piping with remote nozzles, make sure the heads are secure and not obstructed and that the piping isn't kinked. Before setting off, be sure to confirm that the system hasn't been discharged. Annually, the system should be inspected by a qualified service facility for fire-extinguishing systems and be tagged with the date of the inspection.
A fire-suppression system is a must for any cruising sailboat. Bear in mind that the systems discussed here are to protect engine and machinery spaces. In addition to such a system, properly rated and sized handheld extinguishers are a must for protecting humans in cabin spaces. These extinguishers also need to be checked at least annually and replaced as needed. In the United States, extinguishers must be approved by the U. S. Coast Guard; the required number and their locations will vary based on federal laws that apply to recreational boats. To learn more about minimum requirements and a variety of boating-safety issues and equipment recalls go to the U.S. Coast Guard's Boating Safety pages (www.uscgboating.org).
Ed Sherman, a frequent CW contributor, develops curriculum for the A.B.Y.C.
Tips for purchasing the proper extinguisher
• Most manufacturers have guides on their websites to help you purchase the correct size of extinguisher for your boat.
• Be sure the extinguisher you buy is designed for fighting chemical and electrical fires; both are common in engine compartments.
• Popular extinguisher agents include CO2, FE-241, and FM-200, also called HFC-227, depending on the manufacturer.