the BIG question
‘How do I check my fire extinguishers work?’
My boat, Wassail, is a 2006 Najad 440. I still have the original fire extinguishers, one each in the forward and aft cabins, one in the main saloon and one in the cockpit locker. None have ever been discharged. Each year, part of my spring commissioning procedure is to visually inspect each extinguisher, turn it over, give it a couple of good thumps on the bottom with a rubber mallet to break up any of the dry chemical that may have settled in the bottom, and shake it. The pressure gauges are all still in the green zone. They show no signs of rust or abuse. Do marine fire extinguishers have a useful life? Is there anything I should do to make sure they’re functional that I’m not already doing? Nick Orem
Stuart Carruthers, RYA cruising manager, replies: A
Most fire extinguishers don’t have an expiry date on them and dependent on type, may last up to 15 years. If it has a pressure gauge on it, check it regularly to ensure the needle is in the green; if it’s not, replace it. If it is an older model without a gauge, have it checked by a professional, but it’s probably going to be cheaper to replace it!
The RYA recommends that the advice of the supplier is followed and to consider a routine competent service by BAFE, or similar registered technicians who will carry the service to BS 5306. This is particularly important if the extinguisher is not of the disposable type.
The BAFE SP101 scheme is to ensure that organisations and the technicians they employ are competent to provide fire extinguisher services including: ● Sourcing (the correct selection of fire extinguishers) ● Commissioning (on-site checks to ensure fire extinguisher is fit for purpose prior to installation) ● Siting (correct positioning and installation of fire extinguishers) ● Maintenance/servicing (regular checks to ensure fire extinguishers are in efficient working order and ready to use in the event of fire)
The objective of this scheme is to provide the consumer with confidence they have selected a competent and safe service provider. If you require works for your portable fire extinguishers, you can find certificated organisations near you that provide these services by using the BAFE free search tool. For any further assistance, you can email the BAFE office at email@example.com or call them on 08443 350897 – they will be more than happy to help assist in finding quality Bafe-registered organisations near you for your fire extinguisher requirements.
As well as being classified for the types of fire they can tackle, fire extinguishers are categorised to indicate the size of fire they are suitable to tackle according to specific test conditions.
Once a fire on board a boat really takes hold, it is unlikely that it will be successfully tackled. It is therefore essential to observe good fire safety practice to minimise the risk of a fire occurring. Prevention is far better than cure.