Boat fire safety – safety on board

Boat fire safety – safety on board

Avoid fires on your boat

A fire on board a boat is a serious incident and is the biggest nightmare scenario for boat owners. This is because it can often lead to serious damages and potentially personal injuries.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at which situations require you to be extra vigilant and what fire safety equipment you should have on board your boat.

More than 10% have experienced incidents aboard their boat

In 2020, the Odense University Hospital’s Accident Analysis Group launched a study to explain the reasons behind many fires on smaller vessels. More than 10% of those who filled in the survey confirmed that there were accidents or near accidents on board their boats.

Good safety advice for boat excursion or sailing

The Danish Pleasure Craft Safety Board advises sailors and boat owners about onboard safety and has drawn up good guidance for avoiding fires on board. We have included some of their best advice here:

  • Be careful about using alcohol burners, especially while refilling and using them
  • Keep the boat’s electrical installations well maintained and in good order
  • Carry out fire drills and instruct others on board about fire safety
  • Make sure that your engine room is clean and clear
  • Pay particular attention to warm elements such as, for example, exhausts in the engine room
  • don’t leave the boat with electric heating devices turned on
  • The battery should be safely fastened and put in a ventilated space
  • Pay attention when refuelling the boat. Try to avoid spillages and pay attention to fumes
  • Keep the right firefighting equipment on board
  • Remember to never put out an oil fire with water

Take extra care when refuelling. When refuelling, the engine must be turned off and cooking appliances, heaters and similar appliances must be off as well. Smoking is also forbidden when you’re refuelling.

If your boat engine shuts off while sailing, you should immediately check for fuel leaks, which you can often smell clearly. You can read The Danish Pleasure Craft Safety Board’s guidance on how to avoid fires and explosion on your boat here.


Gas grill on board - The gas grill on board provides a light and delicious meal. But have a fire extinguisher nearby. The picture shows our mini fire extinguisher. But this fire extinguisher should not be the only one on board.

Firefighting equipment

The Danish Pleasure Craft Safety Board has more recommendations about the correct on board firefighting equipment. Firefighting equipment must be easily accessible on your boat so that you can react quickly. All boats should have at least a 2 kg extinguisher. Onboard extinguisher, a 1 kg extinguisher and a fire blanket. If you have a larger vessel, you should have one or more 6 kg fire extinguishers. However, be aware that there are also more advanced firefighting systems for engine rooms.
Remember that fire extinguishers come with mounts which means they can be put up in most places. Make sure that they are placed in easily accessible areas on board.

ABC dry-powder fire extinguishers are characterised by being effective on:

  • A = organic materials – fires involving wood, paper, textiles
  • B = Liquid - fires involving petrol, oil etc.
  • C = gas fires
  • They can also extinguish electric fires of up to 1000 volts at a minimum distance of 1 metre.

Dry-powder fire extinguishers need to have pressure tests once they are five years old and since these tests often cost more than a new dry-powder extinguisher, most people choose to buy an entirely new one.


Fire extinguisher manometer - Fire extinguisher Manometer must be in the green field. And remember to replace the fire extinguisher every 5 years or have it inspected.


What should you do if there’s a fire on board?

If a fire breaks out, you should not panic.

  • Get everyone on board outside – potentially on the windward side of the deck.
  • Everyone must put a life jacket on.
  • Get a rubber dinghy ready if it’s accessible and tie a long line to it when casting it off so that it floats clear of the vessel.
  • Throw any gas canisters overboard.
  • Close off the area of the fire as much as possible to reduce the air supply.
  • Turn off the fuel supply to the engine if possible.
  • Spray the fire extinguisher into the area affected by the fire, but don’t open it more than is strictly necessary.
  • Use distress signals to call for help.
  • And finally – stay on board for as long as you can. If you need to abandon ship, you must do so on the windward side – into the wind.

Remember to keep a first aid kit on board

A good first aid kit is standard when sailing on most boats. And everyone should keep a first aid kit on board. It’s vital to have one when you need to tend to serious bleeding, and it’s also good to be able to find a plaster for smaller injuries. Our first aid bag includes most basic equipment you’ll need in the event of an accident.
The bandage bags are divided according to the 1-2-3 system: for small injuries, large injuries and very large injuries. Furthermore, it includes a respirator, emergency blankets, compression bandages, scissors, protective gloves, safety pins, slings, metal tweezers and plasters.


Supplied instructions - In our first aid kit you will also find a brochure with instructions and pictures that will guide you in how to put on bandages.


Various first-aid boxes - Here you see two versions of first-aid boxes from Biltema. A smaller version that is good for smaller sailboats and a slightly larger, waterproof version that is suitable for sailing life.

It’s also worth remembering that Biltema has a large range of items for your safety at sea such as high-quality buoyancy aids and life jackets.
So get your safety precautions ready for the sailing season with Biltema. Have a great and safe season at sea!

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