Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fire Extinguisher Requirements

Extinguishers are classified by a letter and number symbol. The number indicates the relative size of the extinguisher, and the letter indicates the type of fire it will extinguish.

Type A fires are of combustible solids like wood.
Type B fires are of flammable liquids like gasoline or oil.
Type C fires are electrical fires.

All vessels, including PWCs, are required to have a "Type B" U.S. Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher on board if one or more of the conditions exist:

Closed compartments under seats where portable fuel tanks may be stored
Closed storage compartments in which flammable or combustible materials may be stored
Closed living spaces
Installed inboard engines
There are double bottoms not sealed to the hull or which are not completely filled with flotation materials
Permanently installed fuel tanks

Approved types of fire extinguishers are identified by the following marking on the label "Marine Type USCG Approved" followed by the type and size symbols and the approval number.

Extinguishers should be placed in an accessible area, not near the engine or in a compartment, but where they can be reached immediately. Be sure you know how to operate them.

Fire extinguishers must be maintained in usable condition. Inspect extinguishers regularly to ensure the following.
Seals and tamper indicators are not broken or missing.
Pressure gauges or indicators read in the operable range.
There is no physical damage, corrosion, leakage, or clogged nozzles.

PWC operators need to take special steps in case of fire. Because their fire extinguishers may not be easily accessible, they should simply swim away quickly and use another operator’s extinguisher. They should not open the engine compartment to put out the fire. Keep bilges clean and free of trash in order to reduce the risk of fire.

Fire Extinguisher Charge Indicators
Check the charge level of your fire extinguishers regularly.
Replace them immediately if they are not fully charged.
To check this style of extinguisher, depress the green button. If it is fully charged, the green button should pop back out immediately. On this style of fire extinguisher, the needle indicator should be in the "full" range.

Backfire Flame Arrestors
Because boat engines may backfire, all powerboats (except outboards) that are fueled with gasoline must have an approved backfire flame arrestor on each carburetor. Backfire flame arrestors are designed to prevent the ignition of gasoline vapors in case the engine backfires.

Backfire flame arrestors must be: In good and serviceable condition, U.S. Coast Guard approved (must comply with SAE J-1928 or UL 1111 standards).
Periodically clean the flame arrestor(s) and check for any damage to ensure proper operation.
Ventilation System: Ventilation systems are crucial. Their purpose is to avoid explosions by removing flammable gases. Properly installed ventilation systems greatly reduce the chance of a life-threatening explosion.

All gasoline-powered vessels, constructed in a way that would entrap fumes, must have at least two ventilation ducts fitted with cowls to remove the fumes. At least one exhaust duct must extend from the open atmosphere to the lower bilge. At least one intake duct must extend from a point at least midway to the bilge or below the level of the carburetor air intake.

If your vessel is equipped with a power ventilation system, turn it on for at least four minutes in either of these situations:
After fueling
Before starting the engine
If your vessel is not equipped with a power ventilation system (for example, a personal watercraft), open the engine compartment and sniff for gasoline fumes before starting the engine.
Before starting engine, operate blower for four minutes and check engine compartment for gasoline vapors.

Vessels built after July 31, 1980, which contain power exhaust blowers in gasoline engine compartments, must have the above warning sticker placed near the instrument panel.
Powerboats are built to ventilate the engine when underway. As the boat moves along, an air intake scoops up fresh air and forces it down the air duct into the engine compartment. The exhaust sucks out the explosive fumes from the lowest part of the engine and fuel compartments.

Mufflers and Noise Level Limits: Vessel operators may not hear sound signals or voices if the engine is not adequately muffled.
A vessel’s engine must have a factory installed muffler or exhaust water manifold for noise reduction or another effective muffling system.
Vessels built after January 1, 1993, must not exceed a noise level of 88 dBA.
Vessels built before January 1, 1993, must not exceed a noise level of 90 dBA.
If water is used for muffling, it must be in conjunction with a marine designed exhaust manifold. Simply injecting water into an exhaust header does not satisfy the requirements for a muffling system. The use of cutouts or exhaust stacks is prohibited. Outboard motors, because of their exhaust design, do not require a muffling system.