Page 29 - 48º North - The Sailing Magazine - December 2017
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a full maintenance check by a qualified facility, and the device must be tagged showing the date of the maintenance inspection. This isn’t a Coast Guard requirement for pleasure boats though. It is required for a charter or passenger vessel, classified as a Subchapter T boat. If you’re boarded and the Coast Guard checks the extinguishers, they will look at the gauge and call it good as long as the gauge shows the extinguisher is fully charged.
On passenger vessels it’s mandatory to have fixed fire fighting equipment in the engine compartment, either with automatic discharge or manual (or both). Most 37’ sailboat engine compartments are relatively small, but if you can fit in a fixed automatic system I would recommend it.
On one of my surveys, I will note how many, what type, and if extinguishers are mounted in the proper locations. I inspect each extinguisher for broken seals, indicating the extinguisher might have already been partially discharged. I look at the pressure gauge to determine the charge is in the acceptable range. I look for any corrosion or damage to the extinguishers. It’s very common to find extinguishers that have expired inspection tags, sometimes going back a decade! Fire extinguishers usually have a shelf life of 12 years. Of all the survey deficiencies I write up on a survey, the fire extinguishers are on the top of the list. So, if you want to impress your surveyor, get those extinguishers in conformance. I guarantee the surveyor will comment on the extinguishers being current.
Fire extinguishers are not a maintenance free item. Once a month you should take the extinguisher out of it’s mount, turn it over and give it a good whack and shake to loosen up any extinguishing agent that might have settled to the bottom over time. Have the extinguishers inspected and tagged every year. Easy stuff to do and peace of mind as well.
As I was writing this, I became aware of a recall of the brand name Kidde extinguishers. Kidde is recalling more than 40,000,000 fire extinguishers dating back to 1973! All of the recalls involve extinguishers that have plastic handles or a plastic push button. The
plastic handles and buttons can break or detach when force is applied. These units can become clogged or fail to discharge during a fire. The recalled fire extinguishers came in white, red, and silver and were sold nationwide.
Be aware that some Kidde extinguishers with plastic handles are not affected by this recall. If the extinguisher has a plastic handle and a welded neck it’s affected by the recall. According to Consumer Reports, to claim a replacement, check the brand name and model number against the recall notice. The model number of your
extinguisher is printed on the body of the extinguisher. Consult information directly from Kidde for more details.
I’d encourage you to check the fire extinguishers on your boat soon, for placement, charge, and age; and, if applicable, to ensure it hasn’t been recalled.
Tom Averna has been an independent marine surveyor specializing in sailboats since 1987.
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www.seaviewboatyard.com
www.48North.com
December 2017
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