the BIG ques­tion

Yachting Monthly - - CONTENTS -

‘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 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.

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