Houseboat Magazine

September 2009

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Page 35 of 55

feature 36 As will become evident, this is not meant as a tech article. It is not a discussion on the merits of people- safe clean agents in a carbon dioxide fire suppression system, or a particular gasoline fume detector, or the work- ings of an automatic engine shutdown system or module, or the ionization principle of detection used in a fire and smoke alarm alerting to fast-flaming fires. Rather, this article is a reminder, particularly to newer boaters, of a situa- tion that can happen onboard in an in- stant where volatile fuel and electrical connections abound and something we hope never to have to deal with, since marine fires are a unique fire protection challenge. Fire Protection Systems Fire detection systems include initiating devices, no- tification devices and power supply devices with all com- ponents passing certain envi- ronmental tests for their control and monitoring equipment. Obviously a location requiring an exceptional degree of protection means one ex- posed to weather, splashing and other moisture conditions such as on deck, in machinery and storage spots, within a galley or pantry, around shower and bath and laundry spaces. Heat detectors (a very prudent investment experts say for especially the galley and of course the engine area), smoke detectors, flame detectors and alarms (horn, bell or other audible device and visual) are vastly important for signaling the existence of a problem and may provide sufficient time to act to extinguish. Extinguishing systems, the most com- mon for smaller-sized recreational boats being Coast Guard approved or approv- able portable extinguishers identified as tested for compliance with applicable standards as for semi-portable and fixed total flooding and sprinkler/water mist fire suppression systems. The Coast Guard's Fire Safety Divi- sion, a part of the Office of Design and Engineering Standards which is responsible for developing and main- taining standards for recreational boats as well as commercial ships, sets minimum equipment requirements for vessels 40 feet to not more than 65 feet as at least 3 B-I type approved portable extinguishers; or at least one B-I type plus one B-II type on those vessels with- out an installed manual, automatic or a combination of the two suppression systems. Less is required for under 40 feet. Those from Underwriter's Labora- tories (UL) are labeled ABC or AB (for engine rooms). "Fire Readiness" Are you prepared? By Joan Wenner, J.D.

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