Boat Fire Safety Week 2024

Published 27th May 2024

It’s Boat Fire Safety Week (27th May- 2 June) and we are reminding boaters that it’s time for all boats to have suitable smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms.

Timed for the start of the boating season, the heart of the message is that all crew members should understand the risks and follow the published advice from the Boat Safety Scheme in its leaflets and on its website.

Despite all efforts, should fire break out or a CO escape occur, the critical survival factor will be the presence of suitable working smoke and CO alarms. The Scheme publishes lists of suitable alarms on its website and has advice from the manufacturers on the best places to fix the devices. Alarms should be tested using the test button routinely and the batteries replaced as necessary and never removed.

Below are our general tips for boaters:

  • Smoke alarms save lives on boats. Fires can spread very rapidly. Act quickly, every second counts
  • CO alarms are now mandatory on most boats on the inland waterways. CO Alarms save lives on boats. You can’t see, hear, smell, or feel it. Fit CO alarms suitable for boats & meeting the EN50291-2 standard
  • Test the alarms when you board and test it weekly when the boat is in use. Never remove working batteries.
  • Make an emergency plan with everyone on board before you set out.
  • Keep exits clear and keys to hand. Don’t bolt or lock doors & hatches from the outside if you’re staying aboard.
  • If fire starts on your boat & you are inland, in a marina or harbour, get everybody off & call 999. If fire starts at sea, move to open deck & as far from the fire as you can. Put on life jackets. Make MAYDAY call
  • Don’t use charcoal BBQs on boats – they give off dangerous amounts of CO & blown embers could set fire to the boat
  • Never leave cooking unattended. Turn things off until you come back.
  • Avoid cooking when tired. Prescription drugs & alcohol can cause drowsiness. Too many boaters have died in galley fires.
  • Keep fabrics well away from cooking hobs and cabin stoves to prevent them from catching fire.
  • Don’t use solid fuel stoves with the door open. Lit coals or wood can roll out & cause a fire; and flue gases can escape more readily into the cabin.
  • Check the flues of coal and wood burning stoves for signs of leaks and blockages
  • Only use the fuel recommended by the heater manufacturer. Other types may burn too hot.
  • Dispose of embers carefully. If they’re still warm they could cause a fire or build-up of CO.
  • Candles & boats is a bad mix. Rocking boats & sudden jolt can tip candles over. Use LEDs for light & oil scent sticks for smell.
  • Check for loose fuel line joints, damaged fuel tanks and deteriorating hoses.
  • Petrol leaks, spills & stray vapour can ignite easily. Clean spills up & check filler cap security after refuelling.
  • Only carry spare petrol if absolutely necessary & store it in a self-draining locker or on open deck
  • Make sure gas cylinders are secure after they’ve been changed. Test for leaks with detection fluid.
  • Whenever possible, turn gas valves off before you go to bed or leave the boat.
  • Damaged wires can overheat rapidly, so look out for scorch marks or burning smells.
  • Take extra care reinstalling the boat’s batteries. Check straps or restraints are secure afterwards.

For further information about general boat fire and CO safety, visit