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National Boating Safety Week

May 22, 2014

boatsThis week celebrated National Boating Safety Week, sponsored by the National Safe Boating Council. The week is aimed to encourage and promote safe boating. Wearing a life jacket while on a boat is the easiest way to stay safe, but we thought we’d also take some time out to discuss fire safety aboard boats.

Fire safety doesn’t just apply to land or buildings; it can also be helpful for boat owners. Oftentimes, when a powerboat catches fire it results in an explosion rather than the typical type of fire one might imagine occurring in a structure. Some simple safety tips can help keep you, your family, and your friends safe on the water this year!

  • Washington State Law requires a safety vest be readily accessible for each person aboard the watercraft. If the boat has to be evacuated during a fire, a safety vest will help even the youngest onboard to float until help arrives.
  • Keep in mind the law also states that children under 12 must wear their safety vest at all times. It defines “readily accessible” for kids as being worn anytime the watercraft is underway or the child is in an open section of the boat.
  • Have smoke detectors in closed sections of the cockpit or enclosed areas below deck.
  • Be sure the boat is equipped with fire extinguishers and that they are easily accessible, properly serviced and maintained. West Marine has a great selection of fire extinguishers for all types of boats including Halotron extinguishers. Halotron is an EPA- and US Coast Guard-approved liquefied gas that dissipates after use and is ideal for use on boats.
  • Only use Underwriters Laboratories-approved electrical onboard a boat. Just like in your home, if you see bare wires or burned and scorched areas be sure to get them fixed. Marine-grade cordsets are available and should be used on any watercraft.
  • Go over fire safety with your family and people who will be on the boat with you. If they know where extinguishers and life vests are, you will minimize the risk to your guests if anything happens.
  • Know how to use a fire extinguisher!

If your boat does catch on fire while you’re on the water:

  • Call the Coast Guard (VHF channel 16).
  • If your boat is moored, call 911.
  • Turn off all of the engines and electrical on the boat. As many as 90% of fires on boats in open water start in the engine room.
  • If it’s safe to do so, attempt to put out the fire using extinguishers or extinguishing blankets.
  • Have everyone aboard put on their life vests if they’re not already wearing them.
  • Check out this study guide from the Official Boater Safety Education Course on how to properly position your vessel if a fire breaks out on board.

In Seattle, the Seattle Sail and Power Squadron and Coast Guard have teamed up to provide free boat safety checks to ensure your vessel is up to code. While boating fires are not as common as structural fires, it never hurts to be prepared!

Article by: Kristen Skinner

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