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29th February, 2024 - 8.45pm: Two crews from Swanage and one from Wareham were called to High Street...Read more

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Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms on boats

In the absence of any British or international standards incorporating a suitable code for marine installation, the Fire Protection Association’s advice is that the alarm of choice is an optical alarm with a long-life battery, a hush button and one that meets BS EN 14604:2005. The Boat Safety Scheme (BSS) also advises boaters to look for a BSi, LPCB, or the German VdS certification mark.

This advice recognises the confined nature of the space inside a boat and the potential for high levels of humidity and vibration, wider temperature ranges and an aggressive chemical atmosphere. These conditions may affect battery lifespan, hence the recommendation for the lithium sealed alarms. Even though some boats have 230/240 V ac systems, mains powered alarms are not recommended due to the erratic and unreliable nature of the power supply.

Follow the alarm maker’s instructions for fitting and, where these are not specific for boats, the advice is that alarms should be mounted on the deckhead (ceiling), 30cm from the cabin sides and within five metres of each protected area of the vessel. On some boats, this will mean installing more than one alarm, and it is recommended to choose units that can be linked together.

Guidelines produced by the BSS on smoke alarms in boats can be found online, including a list of models recommended for boats by the manufacturers: www.boatsafetyscheme.org/stay-safe/fire-safety-for-boats

Carbon monoxide alarms

For boats with fuel burning appliances, an engine or generator aboard, the strong recommendation is to fit a suitable audible carbon monoxide alarm for an added reassurance. ‘Black-spot’ colour-changing indicator cards are not good enough. Boaters will not have an instant warning of dangerous CO levels and there’s no alarm to wake up anyone asleep.

The BSS advice is to fit alarms that meet BS EN 50291-2; these are best suited for boats, choose only those with a BSi or LPCB certification mark – www.boatsafetyscheme.org/CO-Alarm-Advice

For the best protection, follow the alarm manufacturer’s installation instructions as far as the space and nature of the boat allow. If the placement directions are difficult to meet on any boat, these are the ‘best practice’ points:

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