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Old 01-31-2020, 03:39 PM   #1
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Unhappy Fire Safety Question

First time poster here and I promise future posts will be full of joy and wonder - but not this one. I'm a bit rattled by the loss of children recently in Alabama marina fire. What can I do, as a future cruiser, to make my boat as safe as possible, especially for guests in an unfamiliar berth, should a fire - on my boat or adjacent - occur. While reminders about keeping a properly maintained and clean boat are certainly appropriate, I was really wondering about those extra steps you more experienced members have taken that have provided peace of mind. Thanks.
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Old 01-31-2020, 04:00 PM   #2
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Working smoke detectors anywhere there are bunks. The best thing you can do is to get everyone out of the boat when a detector goes off. Fire fighting comes after everyone is out of the cabin
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Old 01-31-2020, 04:33 PM   #3
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*Smoke detectors
*Fire extinguishers
*Fire Drills including exit plan and where to go.
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Old 01-31-2020, 04:48 PM   #4
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Welcome aboard. We have wireless smoke detectors networked together so when 1 goes off they all go off. We look at the docks when we are traveling and see what condition they are in and if it looks suspect we try to move to another dock or marina if possible. If not possible we make a plan as to what if and look for what we would need to do to get off the boat and the dock. We also have a built in halon system and 7 hand held fire extinguishers on board. We have a small 3 step ladder under the bed to help us get out of the escape hatch that we reinstalled when we bought the boat. The PO had removed the escape hatch and decked over the opening.
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Old 01-31-2020, 04:52 PM   #5
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Another thought is not to dock under covered docks unless they have some of the newer fire preventions built into the covers, like openings in the top and fire breaks.
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Old 01-31-2020, 05:20 PM   #6
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Have someone impartial inspect your boat to give objective advice on safety issues. Make sure that everyone on the boat understands escape routes from inside and can open them. Some boats have skylights that open for escape routes in the forward staterooms. Make sure everyone can climb out of them (my boat requires a 4' step ladder to easily use the forward skylight).

Prevention is the key to safety. As the captain of the vessel, you have an obligation to explain the need, use, and location of PFDs. You have the same obligation to explain the procedures in the event of a fire or other emergency situation.

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Old 01-31-2020, 06:29 PM   #7
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Scenario: Kids are asleep below. Captain is on aft deck. Large fire in passage way between, Halon released, fire restarted. All power is off. Dark no moon. Cabin single escape hatch is latched from inside.

Now what?
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Old 01-31-2020, 06:52 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Olebird View Post
Scenario: Kids are asleep below. Captain is on aft deck. Large fire in passage way between, Halon released, fire restarted. All power is off. Dark no moon. Cabin single escape hatch is latched from inside.

Now what?
So they are sleeping through the smoke alarm blasting a few feet away? Ok, I'll play.
Use a portable extinguisher, knock the flames down at the base, and tell the kids to run. I dont care if I get burned, I'm not leaving them in there.
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Old 01-31-2020, 10:32 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Olebird View Post
Scenario: Kids are asleep below. Captain is on aft deck. Large fire in passage way between, Halon released, fire restarted. All power is off. Dark no moon. Cabin single escape hatch is latched from inside.

Now what?
Start with smoke detectors in each stateroom and the hallway that have built in lights, 10 year lithium batteries, and are wirelessly interfaced. When one goes off, they all go off with illumination lighting. They aren't going to stop until someone deactivates them and you can't sleep through the noise.

Regarding the latch, keep a pry bar handy. Most have cheap plastic hardware that would be easy to break.

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Old 01-31-2020, 10:38 PM   #10
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Two manageable exits from every space to a dock or shallow water.
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Old 02-01-2020, 03:02 AM   #11
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Working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in every space where people sleep. Working fire extinguishers ditto. While perhaps not feasible in warmer climates, wool blankets for beds can improve safety while exiting. Donít forget a fire blanket and a fire extinguisher in the galley for putting out cooking fires.

Lastly, a fire extinguisher in the cockpit and fire suppression system in the engine room....
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Old 02-01-2020, 09:40 AM   #12
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I have fire extinguishers throughout the boat, also smoke detectors. Good up to a point..

All guests are given a very quick emergency escape plan, a quick demo of the latches and we agree upon a meeting place in the event of an emergency every time we dock at a strange location.

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Old 02-01-2020, 09:44 AM   #13
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We bought fire extinguishers one size up from what is required for a boat our size. Can’t hurt...
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Old 02-01-2020, 09:52 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Olebird View Post
Scenario: Kids are asleep below. Captain is on aft deck. Large fire in passage way between, Halon released, fire restarted. All power is off. Dark no moon. Cabin single escape hatch is latched from inside.

Now what?
Some things to consider. Practice exiting spaces in the dark with the lights off. Have the smallest least strong person release the latch (it should not be latched when the space is occupied) and open the hatch, in the dark with lights off. Stress the importance of keeping access to the hatch clear. Iinstruct all to close the door to the room if possible, this will limit smoke coming in and buy a bit of time before flames hit the space.

High Wire in post #8 suggests fighting the fire with a portable extinguisher and telling the kids to run. That may work. Or it may not. Portables don't have a lot of capacity. Smoke may have filled the compartment to the point you can't see, maybe can't survive entering.

Have a plan B. If it's a typical V berth with a deck hatch, and you have left the hatch unlatched, opening the hatch from the deck is a good plan B. If the kids have done as they're taught and closed the door once you open the hatch the smoke will rise out then the kids can get out.

The point is to practice different scenarios. At first easy ones, then add challenges. Have a talk afterwords where everyone's input is valued. What went right? What went wrong? How can we do better next time? Opps we forgot to unlatch the hatch! Now, where's that fire axe or other tool stout enough to smash the hatch open?

You may not have time to "think on your feet". With the kids sound asleep when the fire starts, you on the aft deck after a good day and a few beers. No one's reactions will be quick or well thought out. Read this post to see how fast it can go from "What's that smoke?" to there's no putting this one out. TF Members escape Manatee Fire post # 13

As O C Diver said in post #6 before yours
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..... Prevention is the key to safety. As the captain of the vessel, you have an obligation to explain the need, use, and location of PFDs. You have the same obligation to explain the procedures in the event of a fire or other emergency situation.

Ted
Very well said. As captain your first and primary responsibility is the safety of all aboard.

Many of us on TF have in our professional or military careers had good fire fighting training. Some recreational boaters I expect have as well just because they take safety seriously. Consider getting some training.

Ok, since I've climbed up on my soap box I'll keep on keeping on.... Even though it doesn't pertain to the fire that started this thread...

Consider the installation of an automated shutdown of engines on release of the engine room fire suppression. Yeah, I know, it may go off at an awkward moment. Approaching a dock, crossing a hazardous bar, running a raging tidal current. But, back to the Manatee fire post, what does delaying shutdown gain you? Not much. And why is auto shutdown important? Because the fire suppressant won't stall the engines and they are efficient big air pumps stripping the fire suppressant out of the engine room before it has had the time to work it's magic. And it's a one shot deal, no second chance. And if the fire is still going there is no way a single person with a single portable and no protective gear can expect to enter that space and live to tell the tale.

Please continue to take fire prevention and suppression seriously. Of all the risks associated with boating fire concerns me the most. Flooding? Medical? Breakdown? Grounding? Collision? Almost all of those will give us time to deal with the emergency. I'm not trying to scare anyone, boating is very low risk or we wouldn't be our there taking family and friends with us. And statistically fire is not the greatest risk. But it's the one that has the very real potential to leave us the least amount or time and options to deal with the emergency.
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Old 02-01-2020, 10:43 AM   #15
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When I use the fwd bunks I swing the hatch latch handles to the open position to enable rapid exit in an emergency.
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Old 02-01-2020, 10:49 AM   #16
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When I use the fwd bunks I swing the hatch latch handles to the open position to enable rapid exit in an emergency.
Gold star idea

Our hatch is spring loaded, so will have to put a small sand bag on it to keep it closed.
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Old 02-01-2020, 10:52 AM   #17
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Yes, or maybe velcro.
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Old 02-01-2020, 12:05 PM   #18
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Yes, or maybe velcro.
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Old 02-01-2020, 12:25 PM   #19
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A typical handheld extinguisher in the confines of a boat (size most of us have).is pretty darn effective at knocking the fireball down.....in fact if the fireball is that big or well established, nearby occupants are probably dead already if not in protective gear.

Many fires on boats don't start out of control. The electrical ones especially, which is the most prevalent cause. Many can be identified and extinguished early if you have decent smoke/fire/ CO alarms. Like in a house, having doors shut can delay the spread and minimize heat/smoke into occupied areas...hopefully long enough to use the secondary exit.

Most of the deadly fires I can think of are either fuel or propane explosions or boathouse fires. I have been around dozens of boat fires and minor injuries have been the typical problems other than property damage.
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Old 02-01-2020, 12:26 PM   #20
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Two ways to address the issue. Prevention and a plan.

As to prevention, Alabama was the worst of all possible conditions. Covered dock, no venting, lots of wood, lots of old houseboats, liveaboards with space heaters and propane, subpar electricity and wiring, no fire equipment and local fire department very limited. Do not dock in such a location. Go to the uncovered dock adjacent or another marina. We have fires in South Florida, but they get one boat or at most two and everyone escapes with their lives typically. On top of this have smoke detectors and alarms on board and fire extinguishers but just don't put yourself in such a dangerous spot. Long ago a marina like that one was recognized as dangerous. TVA wouldn't allow it to be built today. Nor would most other areas allow such. Alabama is a great lesson in all the wrong things. Many of those lessons were learned decades ago when fires were all too common in the houseboating capital of Lake Cumberland. Marinas there had to fix the issue or go out of business. They did with a fire boat and with new marina design and with rules. Our home lake in NC got scared and the building rules changed.

Plan. What if? How to escape. How to grab a life jacket and hit the water quickly. Those who leaped into the water appear to have mostly survived and that was in cold water and likely without preservers in some cases if not all. Tragedy occurs too often when one tries too long to save something. Nothing matters but your life.
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