A guide to superyacht fire-safety equipment
Last updated: 27/06/2019
With fire one of the most life-threatening emergencies on board a boat or yacht, it’s vital to have the correct fire-safety equipment installed, and those with the correct knowledge and training in place to use it!
Once a fire takes hold on board a boat or yacht, it’s highly unlikely that it’ll be successfully tackled. Understanding the causes of fires and routes to fire prevention is therefore vital for crew, to ensure that any threats are minimised – prevention is certainly better where there is no cure, after all. This is why fire-safety training makes up such a large part of the mandatory training for seafarers.
Fire risks on board operational superyachts typically include fuel spillages or electrical faults. Fire is also particularly prevalent during build and refit, due to the equipment and materials used.
Crew training for fire fighting and prevention
The International Convention on Standard of Training, Certification and Watch keeping (STCW), requires all seafarers to receive STCW Basic Safety Training or instruction in accordance with section A-V1/1 of the STCW Convention before gaining any job on board.
The training is made up of five modules: STCW Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities, STCW Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting, STCW Personal Survival Techniques, STCW Elementary First Aid, and Proficiency in Security Awareness. But is this enough? Although not mandatory, it’s recommended to crew complete and regularly refresh their marine-fire training through additional courses.
Suzanne Galloway explained, “Effective and realistic training for fire prevention and aggressive fire fighting must remain current and thorough courses should be delivered as part of career-long maritime training.
“From 2017 onwards, the Manila Amendments to the STCW Convention required fire training to be conducted every five years, to ensure that crew are training and exercised on all new techniques and to refresh their knowledge and practical experiences.”
To burn, fires require three elements: A combustible material or fuel, oxygen, and a source of ignition or heat. To extinguish a fire, it must be permanently deprived of one or more of these, and tackled in the right way. Using the wrong method of extinguishing can make the situation worse, such as adding water to an electrical fire!
There are five types of fire and four types of fire extinguisher, categorised as follows:
Type A: Fires involving solids, such as wood, paper, textiles and plastics are tackled with Class A-rated extinguishers. These shouldn’t be used on liquid, gas or electrical fires. Some A fires can also be put out with water.
Type B: Fires involving combustible or flammable liquids, such as gasoline, diesel, kerosene, grease or oil are tackled with Class B extinguishers.
Type C: Fires involving flammable gases are also tackled by Class B extinguishers.
Type D: Fires involving combustible metals like titanium, potassium, sodium and magnesium are tackled with Class D extinguishers. These are commonly found in the engineering department, and while the need for them is extremely rare, each superyacht will have at least one on board.
Type F: Fires involving cooking oils, fats or trans-fats are again tackled by Class B extinguishers, which are usually found in the galley and in food-service areas.
Notably, electrical fires are not included within the list, as once the electrical source has been isolated, the combustible fuel will fall into once of the above. Class C extinguishers are used on live electrical fires.
Fire extinguishers are classified by letters and numbers according to the class and size of fire they can put out. The letter (A, B, C, D) indicates the class of fire, while the number measures the capacity of the extinguisher – the larger the number, the greater the capacity of extinguishing material to put out a fire.
Aim at base of flame
Sweep from side to side
Essential fire-fighting equipment for yachts
Training crew on how to manage a fire on board is useless without the correct equipment installed and readily working!
- Fire extinguishers of all classes
- Fire blankets
- Parat C or similar escape sets
- SCBA sets for use in machinery spaces
- Fire retardent suits for use with SCBA for firefighting
Rebecca Scarrott from Global Services Ltd named the essential fire-safety equipment on a yacht as fire extinguishers of all classes, fire blankets, Parat C or similar escape sets, SCBA sets for use in machinery spaces, and fire retardant suits for use with SCBA for fire fighting, but there are plenty more essentials including:
- Emergency breathing devices to aid breathing when evacuating a dangerous environment
- Flares and smoke signals with an intensity of at least 500 cendela for at least 2 minutes
- Immersion/survival suits to allow passengers to submerge in cold water safely and prevent hypothermia
- Waterproof glow sticks for lighting without the use of batteries
- Life buoys or life rings to provide buoyancy for persons overboard
- Stretchers for injured casualties
- First-aid kits and medical supplies to allow minor injuries to be treated quickly at the scene
In the event of the fire, the captain or first officer is responsible for ordering ‘abandon ship’ and will begin the process of checking lifeboats or life rings for viability and moving guests and crew to assigned lifeboat stations.