Page 28 - 48º North - The Sailing Magazine - December 2017
P. 28

Hi Tom,
by Tom Averna
Last week, I looked at a boat I am thinking of purchasing. The owner seemed very conscientious, but there wasn’t much concern about safety equipment. We looked at the sails, the electronics, the engine and the other items on the boat, but we never looked at the safety equipment. I did see a fire extinguisher sitting in a locker behind a sail. How many fire extinguishers should there be aboard to satisfy the Coast Guard. The boat is a Pacific Seacraft 37.
Sam Broman Olympia, WA
Thanks for the email, Sam. First off, though finding a fire extinguisher buried in the back of a locker is common, it is by no means the correct place to have it. How the heck would anyone be able to get to it quickly if there was an emergency? Plus, if you found only one extinguisher on a 37’ vessel you will need to purchase additional extinguishers to be in conformance with US Coast Guard requirements. In addition to the number of required fire extinguishers, there is some other important information to consider with this essential piece of safety gear.
Let’s go over the basic US Coast Guard requirements. Hand-held portable fire extinguishers have letter and number designations, such as type B-1 and type B-2. The letter designates the type of fire the extinguishing agent is designed for. Class A is for solids
This one is not only properly mounted, but has a recent inspection tag. A rare find!
like wood (these type fires can also be put out with water); B is for flammable liquids like oil, gasoline, etc.; C is for electrical; and D is for metals. Many boaters choose an extinguisher capable of dealing with multiple classes of fire, and the primary dry extinguighing agent, sodium bicarbonate, will put out fires in classes A, B, and C.
The number (class) either B-1 or B-II determines the capacity of the tank: B-1 is 2 lbs and B-II is 10 lbs of the extinguishing agent.
Are the extinguishers mounted in a readily accessible location and properly mounted? I can’t tell you how many times this is not the case when doing a survey. Sometimes the extinguisher is stuffed in a locker or sitting on a shelf like what you found when you went aboard the boat you’re interested in. It doesn’t matter what kind or how expensive the boat is, for some reason people don’t think an emergency will happen to them. As a matter of fact when I received your
email I went aboard
my boat to look at
the extinguishers.
Something I haven’t
done for awhile. Guess
what? One extinguisher
was stuffed in a locker.
Oops, I guess I should
practice what I preach.
On the label of the extinguisher you can find the weight of the extinguisher when fully charged. If an extinguisher does have a gauge, it should be in the green. If it’s not, you’ll need to recharge (if it is rechargeable) or replace it. Additionally, does the safety pin in the handle look like it’s been tampered with? I see extinguishers where the safety pin is either about to fall out or not there at all!
To answer your original question, the US Coast Guard does have requirements regarding extinguishers, depending on the size of the boat. For a 37’ boat you should have two B-1 or one B-II. USCG requires one type B-1 for 16’ to 26’, two type B-1 or one B-II 26’ to 40’ and three B-I or one B-I and one B-II for 40’ to 60’.
The American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) voluntary safety standards for the design, construction, maintenance and repair of recreational boats requires fire extinguishers to have
Is the extinguisher still fully charged according to the gauge? If the extinguisher doesn’t have a gauge the only way to determine if it’s charged is to weigh it.
You never know what you might find looking through lockers. This extinguisher is not mounted, and it appears that the safety pin is missing in the handle.
December 2017

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