By Don Braga
Possibly the least used but second most important safety devices on any boat, fire extinguishers should always be ready for action.
The U.S. Coast Guard recommends checking onboard fire extinguishers monthly. Here’s a suggested monthly fire extinguisher check:
- Fire extinguishers should be mounted in an easily accessible location with no debris or material blocking access. Signs and decals make them easier to find. Hint: Have more than the minimum required extinguishers and place them throughout the boat.
- Check the gauge to ensure the extinguisher is charged.
- Check that the extinguisher type and instructions on the label can be read easily.
- Ensure that the discharge hose and nozzle are not cracked, broken or clogged. Note: Critters like to hang out inside the nozzle.
- Turn dry chemical fire extinguishers upside down at least three times to prevent powdered contents from caking, but do not shake or tap them.
- Check extinguishers for rust or corrosion buildup.
Replace extinguishers that don’t meet these requirements.
In addition to the monthly check, consider teaching the P-A-S-S method to all members of your crew.
P Pull the pin at the top of the extinguisher to release the handle.
A Aim the extinguisher at the base of the fire, not at the flames in the middle.
S Squeeze the handle to release the extinguishing agent. To stop the discharge, let go of the handle.
S Sweep from side to side at the base of the fire until it is out. Operate the extinguisher from a safe distance, and move toward the fire once it begins to diminish. When the fire is out, watch smoldering hot spots for possible reflash.