Should a fire erupt on your boat, your response plan should be implemented immediately.
Send out a MAYDAY on channel 16, providing the name and location of the boat, the situation, and the number of adults and children on board. Everyone must don life jackets immediately and make sure that all crew and passengers are accounted for. Shut down all fuel and electrical systems. Position the boat so that the fire is downwind from your passengers.
Early on, you must decide whether to fight the fire or abandon ship. However, if the hull is fiberglass and it starts to burn, there is little that can be done to save the boat.
A burning boat produces thick, black smoke that can be seen for miles. Nearby boats will arrive quickly to pick up you and your crew, but should not get too close and risk catching their own boat on fire.
Prevention is the key to preventing boat fires. Check engine electrical wires and the wiring harness for chafing, and make sure connections are tight. Check fuel lines for leaking or seeping gasoline. And always use the blower before starting an enclosed inboard engine; close hatches when refueling, and if you smell gasoline fumes at any time, do not start the engine. Make sure the water intake is not blocked and the water pump impeller working properly to ensure that the engine does not overheat. Replace a liquid fuel stove with propane or some other safer cooking system. Make sure that all fire extinguishers are fully charged, up to date and readily accessible to those on board.
The most common source of fire is the gasoline-powered engine. But it can kill you in other ways!
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly, colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is essentially undetectable by human senses. It is produced when an engine that uses a carbon-based fuel like gasoline or diesel is running. If you can smell exhaust, then CO is present!
Carbon monoxide is also produced when propane, charcoal, or oil burns to power onboard appliances such as a stove, grill, hot water heater or generator, as well as the gasoline or diesel engine, which is found on the majority of recreational motor boats. Here are some important facts to know:
- CO enters the bloodstream though the lungs by breathing in this dangerous gas.
- You cannot see, smell or taste CO.
- The most common source of CO is a running engine.
- An improperly tuned engine is more likely to produce elevated levels of CO.
- Install and maintain a marine grade CO detector.
- CO can make you sick in seconds, and high concentrations of CO can kill.
- CO symptoms are similar to and often confused with seasickness or alcohol intoxication.
- Avoid closed-off, poorly ventilated areas of a boat when its engine is running.
- Never ride or hang on a swim platform where gases accumulate when the engine is running.
- If CO is suspected, open all windows, hatches, and ports to ventilate.
- Move a person to fresh air if CO poisoning is suspected, and seek immediate medical attention.
To avoid CO, you should know the areas of where CO can accumulate such as inadequately ventilated canvas enclosures and engine compartments. If you are tied to a dock, be certain exhaust ports aren’t blocked which can force exhaust back into the boat. If you are rafted to another boat, be certain exhaust from one boat doesn’t enter the other. Another way for exhaust to enter a boat is when a moving boat creates the “station wagon effect,” where exhaust finds its way back aboard because of circular airflow known as back drafting.
So, be prepared!