Fires, Explosions And Prevention
There is probably nothing more devastating and frightening than a fire
on a boat! There is simply nowhere to go except jump over board. If an
explosion occurs the damage is catastrophic. Worse yet, if the fire
occurs in a marina, the fire often spreads to surrounding boats.
Fortunately these rarely result in deaths. Although there were 221 fire
and explosion accidents in 2006 in the US, there were only 4 deaths. But
that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous. Fires often result in
horrendous injuries and massive burns to the body.
Electrical fires, if caught
quickly, can usually be stopped simply by turning off the power or
disconnecting the shore cord. However, if any of these fail the best
action is to abandon ship. If you are underway and have time, put out a
mayday and don't forget to give your position. If you have an EPIRB you
can activate it and it will automatically send out a distress signal. If
you are at the dock, get off the boat and call the fire department. If
possible move other boats away from the boat on fire. Sometimes it is
actually possible to tow the burning boat out of the marina, but leave
this to the Coast Guard, Marine Police or fire department.
Here is a poster listing the correct fueling procedure: It is available as a pdf at http://newboatbuilders.com/docs/
The key to all of this is following proper maintenance of fuel and electrical systems, and fueling procedures. I cannot stress maintenance enough. Every spring, check your fuel system. Replace any hoses or fittings that are questionable.
Have the tank and fuel system pressure tested for leaks.
Check the clamps that keep the hoses in place. If they have started to corrode, replace them. Make sure the clamps you replace them with are 316L stainless steel, including the screw that tightens the clamp. Often the band is stainless but the screw is not. Fuel systems are not the place to try to save a few bucks.
Make sure the hoses are USCG Type A hoses. Look for the label on the hose. Automotive fuel hose is not the same thing. Again, donít try to save a few bucks here.
Do not use automotive parts, either as hose or electrical parts on the engine. Do not replace starters, alternators and carburetors with automotive parts. They may look the same, but they are not the same. Electrical equipment needs to be marine UL listed, and ignition protected. If your boat is an outboard, replace the fuel hoses with Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) hoses. They are designed to be UV resistant and must meet marine industry standards.
Every time you use the boat, check the engine compartment first. Take a look at the fuel system and fittings. Sniff for fumes. Adequately ventilate before attempting to start the boat. Run the blower for at least four minutes. If the engine doesnít start donít keep cranking. It isnít good for the starter, and it could overheat the wires to the starter. Wait a minute, and try again. If after a few tries it still wonít start, stop trying and find out why it isnít starting. Fix the problem before trying again.
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