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Narrowboat fire after boater removes smoke alarm battery

The Boat Safety Scheme office has issued a warning following a recent boat fire where a liveaboard boater was lucky to escape with his life. He awoke in the early hours to find his boat was filling rapidly with smoke, after the solid fuel stove in the saloon set fire to the boat’s interior.  

However, it was pure luck which woke him; some time earlier he had removed the battery from his smoke alarm to avoid false alarms. 

When the boater realised what was happening, he had to crawl out of the boat on his chest to keep below the level of the smoke. Less than a minute later, flames filled the cabin as he stood outside calling the fire brigade.

BSS manager Graham Watts said: “With just two to three breaths of toxic smoke in a boat fire, you could be unconscious, so every second counts when you need to escape. If your alarm regularly goes off when you’re cooking, replace it with one that has a hush button that stops the alarm from sounding while you make the toast! These alarms are cheap and easy to buy.

“But the alarm of choice is an optical alarm with a long-life battery, a hush button, and one that is certified as meeting either BS 5446:2000 Part 1, or BS EN 14604:2005, so it should carry a ‘kitemark’ or ‘horseshoe’ certification mark. An optical sensor alarm, although more expensive, is less likely to cause a false alarm. 

Also, test it at the other end of the boat; if it's in the saloon and you can’t hear it in the sleeping quarters loud enough to wake you, buy a second one.”

There are guidelines for choosing and installing an alarm on boat on the BSS fire safety website www.boatsafetyscheme.com/fire.

Wednesday 7 December  | Andrew Denny  | 3.16pm, Wednesday 7 December 2011

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