Hopefully everyone got something out of last week’s issue, and it inspired at least some but hopefully most to check their vessel’s fire equipment.
To follow on from last week I think a good starting point is to go back to fire basics and look at the fire triangle: fuel, heat and oxygen. What’s important to remember is if you remove just one of those items you have no fire!
Another point to remember is that a fire onboard can get out of control within seconds and can generate heat in excess of 1,000°C. This alone should encourage people to take action quickly unless you have some underlying desire to get burnt or go swimming!
Here’s a 3 of the more common areas where the potential for a fire onboard is quite high.
- Engine rooms: leaking fuel or hydraulic/oil lines and bags of rags
- The galley: oil fires and stoves and other appliances left unattended
- Accommodation areas: mobile phone/tablet/laptop chargers and overloaded power boards
Leaking fuel or hydraulic lines are often the cause of fires in engine rooms. Fuel or oil leaking onto hot engine components, especially exhausts or turbo chargers is a fire about to happen. Bags of damp or used rags left in the engine room are also a recipe for fire.
The answer to these and most other potential fire hazards is regular inspections of fuel and hydraulic/oil lines and ensuring the safe storage and disposal of rags.
Oil fires on stoves are another common cause of fires as is leaving cooking appliances unattended which usually happens when someone calls the cook to help them with something.
Knowing how to use a fire blanket is vital but during training session I deliver very few people actually know how to use them.
Here’s what everyone onboard should know about using fire blankets.
- Pull the tabs and open the fire blanket
- Take hold of the tabs and flick the top over your hands
- Approach the fire slowly with the blanket just below your eyes
- Place it gently over the fire. DO NOT throw it as this will fan the fire
- Then the step that just about everyone misses – turn off the power or gas supply!
- Leave it in place for at least 20 – 30 minutes or longer
- Slowly remove it using the tabs nearest you
Note that when you’ve used a fire blanket it cannot be re-used and must be replaced.
Personally, I have a major hate in the use of power boards and charging phones, tablets and laptops in accommodation areas. these are known causes of fires not only onboard vessels but in homes as well.
People in their bunks get up and inadvertently throw a donna over the item which causes an extra build up of heat and there’s your fire waiting to happen.
My recommendation is always regular inspections and by that I mean daily when operating and prior departure every other time! As for waste rags, make sure you store them in an appropriate manner and place, which is not in the engine room!
For galley’s it’s simple, don’t leave cooking appliances on when no one is watching them and…make sure all crew know how to use a fire blanket and fire extinguishers.
Finally, charging appliances and overloading power boards in accommodation spaces you have to be aware of the potential consequences. My recommendation here is to make a rule that charging appliances is only undertaken in the galley or other area where the chance of a fire is limited.
The one tip I can give you here is to make regular inspections of all fuel and hydraulic/oil lines a habit and ensure all fire extinguishers are serviced regularly.
My overriding tip is to ensure you undertake regular training that covers all potential fire locations and sources onboard your vessel. Without this all the best equipment in the world will not do you any good!