Thursday, 31 March 2016
(c) Gillie Rhodes (Creative Commons)

In January a man died in a boat fire on the canal in Bradford on Avon. The tragedy was reported in the local and national press. Several fire crews from the surrounding area attended the blaze but could not save the man. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but it is suspected to be an accident, and floral tributes have been left on the towpath.

According to the Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service,“In the past 20 years, national figures show that 60 boaters have been killed as a result of a boat fire or carbon monoxide incident.”

Are you gambling with your safety? Here are three ways to protect yourself and your family when narrowboating.

Smoke alarms

1) Smoke alarms are cheap, easy to fit and available in chandleries, high-street stores, supermarkets, DIY stores and online. However, high humidity, temperature extremes and potential jolts and vibrations on board make boats a challenging environment for alarms. So the Boat Safety Scheme website recommends choosing an alarm with the British Standard ‘Kitemark’; a LPCB ‘Horseshoe’ mark or the square VdS symbol (see image below) as these certify that the alarm has met their standards. The Fire Industries Association(FIA) has produced a list of smoke alarms that are suitable for boats.

2) Make sure that you test your smoke alarm regularly; weekly when you are staying aboard. Also, test it out whenever you return to the boat after some time away.

3) Make a plan of what to do in the case of a fire, and make sure that everyone on board is aware of the plan!

Carbon Monoxide Alarms

Tragic news stories like this sometimes remind me of when a carbon monoxide alarm once saved my life. I lived alone on a little red narrowboat when the flue to my chimney collapsed in the middle of the night! (See more at: Boat Safety: What the Beep?)

Carbon Monoxide is produced when carbon-based, appliance and engine fuels, such as gas, LPG, coal, wood, paraffin, oil, petrol and diesel don't burn completely. CO poisoning is often caused by problems with solid fuelstoves, or the exhaust fumes from portable generators.

To keep safe be sure to install a CO alarm, and never block ventilation. Do not bring charcoal barbeques on board and don’t use a portable generator in or near a cabin.

The Boat Safety Scheme website has advice covering fire safety, petrol safety,carbon monoxide, solid fuel stoves and generator safety. There is also a downloadable PDF leaflet with advice on preventing fires and how to plan for fire breaking out on a boat.

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Peggy Melmoth

Image Credit: Newbolds plant by Gillie Rhodes on Flickr. (Creative Commons Licence)

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