As part of Fire Boat Safety Week (28 May – 3 June ) Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service are asking boat owners and crew members to understand the risks of, and how to protect themselves from, onboard fires and carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
While the number of boat fires on our canals and inland waters is relatively low, when they do occur, they quite often have devastating consequences. In the past 20 years, 30 boaters in the UK were killed in boat fires and another 30 lost their lives to the highly toxic CO gas. As we are now into the summer boating season it is important for all crew members to know how to prevent fires and CO poisoning incidents and keep safe whilst out on the water.
The dangers of a fire on-board are exacerbated because the isolated location of moorings and canal routes means they are hard to get to and any fire could potentially serious damage a boat and to surrounding property.
Working smoke and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors help save lives by making those on the boats aware of fires and CO build-up quickly so they can get to safety and call the Fire Service. Certain CO alarms are best suited for boats and so please fit alarms approved as meeting BS EN 50291-2.
All boats using a gas appliance or Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) are at risk from carbon monoxide and should also have a working CO detector to ensure this silent, invisible gas does not overcome the occupants.
You should fit a gas and petrol vapour detector alarm in the bilge and even in the cabin space to give you early warnings of dangerous build-ups of explosive gases. Check all appliances are turned off and if possible, close the valve on the LPG cylinders before you go to bed or leave the boat.
Carbon monoxide is a silent killer - colourless, odourless, tasteless and is created by gas fires, open fires and other sources. Symptoms of CO poisoning to look out for include nausea/sickness, dizziness, drowsiness/tiredness/general lethargy, impaired mental ability and confusion, chest or stomach pains, shortness of breath/difficulty in breathing, headaches, becoming severe as exposure to carbon monoxide continues and Pink skin and bright red lips in severe poisoning cases. If you have any of these symptoms open your windows and leave the premises. Call the Gas Emergency number on 0800 111 999.
To prevent a fire onboard never leave a burning candle unattended. Make sure they are put out safely and keep candles, matches, lighters and other sources of flame out of reach of children.
Use metal ash trays for your cigarettes and always make sure they are put out safely. Don’t smoke in bed to avoid falling asleep with a lit cigarette.
Never leave a hot hob unattended especially when cooking with oil or fat and don’t fit curtains or fabrics over hob burners and don’t dry tea towels or clothes over a cooker or hob.
This may seem a long list but most of the actions are common sense. If you follow the advice you will help reduce the risk of fire occurring on your boat.
For more information visit www.boatsafetyscheme.org/stay-safe