Fire and Gas Safety

What happens if we catch fire or I smell gas?

Fire and Gas Safety 

Fire and Gas safety awareness is essential aboard boats, control and awareness depends upon the sensors we fit and the prevention methods we adopt. Common causes of fire aboard boats are solvents and paints stored below decks, faulty wiring, storing petrol for outboard engines and build up of gas and fumes in bilges.    




In order to protect ourselves we need to consider installing,


Fire blankets are generally used for galley fires involving cooking oil, waste bins or clothing. A fire blanket extinguishes fires by smothering the flames and cutting off the supply of oxygen. Fire blankets should be fitted close to the galley or cooking area but not

in a position that means we have to lean over the cooker to use it.


AFF Foam fire extinguishers can be used against both solid and liquid burning fires they also have a conductivity rating that means they may be used on electrical fires although that is not there design purpose.


Carbon Dioxide (Co2) and Halocarbon fire extinguishers are primarily used for electrical fires and good for enclosed spaces such as engine space. Co2 dissipates into the atmosphere after the fire is extinguished leaving no residue.


ABC fire extinguishers (Dry powder) are the most versatile of all fire extinguishers and can be used in almost all circumstances.


2 buckets with lanyards should be available, usually stored in cockpit locker


Dry powder fire extinguishers should be fitted by the entrance / exit of each cabin and in the saloon. Ideally an automatic fire extinguisher (Co2) should be installed in the engine room / space and an all purpose AFF foam or Dry powder fire extinguisher installed in a cockpit locker.  


The size of extinguisher is determined by the area it is protecting.


It is always worth having a look at your own boat extinguishers to understand the firing mechanism as they do differ with manufacturer. They should be checked annually by an appropriate authority.   





The consequences of a gas leak on board a boat can be disastrous. Every year there are deaths and injuries on board boats which could have been avoided with the installation of appropriate gas detection equipment or procedure.


The gas we use is not poisonous but is explosive if it is allowed to build up in sufficient quantities. Gas is measured by LEL (Lower Explosive Limit) meaning if the LEL is 100% then there is danger of an explosion. Gas alarms are set to alarm at 10% LEL although we may smell it at about 1% LEL. The smell is a chemical put into the gas by the suppliers and is not dangerous.


Our problem is that Gas is heavier than air so it sinks to the lowest parts of the boat i.e. bilges. If it is allowed to go unnoticed then we are putting our selves at risk of a build up leading to an explosion.


The recommendation is that we fit Gas detectors in all compartments containing a Gas consuming appliance and in the bilges of boats, the lowest part, avoiding the possibility of water ingress into the sensor as this will prevent it from operating.   


Gas Cookers


For our own protection we need to have in place a procedure for cooker operation.


Turn gas isolator on, close by cooker.


Strike match, click lighter or clicker on cooker


Turn and hold in the appropriate gas knob


Gas lights, hold for a few seconds to allow the bi metal strip to heat up.


Use cooker


At end of cooking session


                                    Turn gas knob off, gas goes out


                                    Turn isolator off


At the end of a trip or when leaving the boat the Gas bottle should be turned off





If your Gas alarm sounds follow these instructions,


Emergency Action Notice for use with Gas Alarms


Do not panic,


Turn off Gas cylinders at the bottle, if safe to do so


Extinguish any source of ignition, i.e. gas cookers


Do not turn off or on any electrical appliances, they may cause a spark.


Open all hatches, lift sole boards, open doors, cupboards and lockers


Do not smoke


You need to cause or create a draft to mix and lift the Gas.


Inspect the cause of the leak and resolve with a competent Gas engineer.


Never use a naked flame to locate a Gas leak

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GT Yachting October 2012