Getting to Know Your Yacht Fire Suppression Equipment

Knowledge is Power

When it comes to a great day on the water, boaters need a checklist. Mine usually includes: sun protection, food and drink, bathing suit, boating shoes and towels. I’m not a fishing kind of gal. Try not to gasp. What’s yours?

Like any woman worth her salt, I also prepare my vessel in advance. I make a float plan, or phone a friend to let them know where we’ll be.  I check that my boat is running order and everything is working – there’s nothing like having your engine cut off and needing a Sea-Tow to wreck a boat trip. I also check my flotation devices, engines, and running lights. You probably have a similar routine. But, do you check your fire suppression system before heading out to sea?

Chances are if you have purchased a new or used yacht, you currently have a fixed fire system in the engine compartment. You should also have at least one B rated fire extinguisher. Having equipment is not the same as knowing how to use the equipment or knowing that the equipment is in usable condition. Before you cruise off on next week’s island adventure – schedule a talk with your captain or drop below deck to personally inspect your yacht fire suppression system. Might want to visually inspect those fire extinguishers too!

Yacht Fire Suppression Systems

Yacht fire suppression systems are known by many names, boat fire suppression systems, fixed fire suppression systems, clean agent suppression systems, etc. Yet, they all perform the same task. In the event of a fire, these systems are designed to suppress the fire effectively.

The brands you will most likely see in your vessel are Kidde, Ansul, Fireboy-Xintex, or Sea-Fire. You can check by looking at the cylinder(s), they look a lot like fire extinguisher bottles, and reading the label. Will this be comfortable? No, the engine compartment is compact and the system has been installed to take up little space. Is it more comfortable than a fire at sea? Definitely. If you can’t stay in the engine compartment too long, now is a great time to take pictures of the equipment and label for later usage.

If you’ve gone into the engine compartment and cannot see a cylinder or any type of fire suppression system, call your local fire equipment dealer that specializes in yacht fire suppression systems. You’ll need more help.

Parts of the Suppression System

  • Cylinder(s) – is a small or large steel shelled bottle that houses the fire suppressant
  • Glass vial sensor(s) – located at the top of the engine compartment, or above the engine
  • Nozzle(s) – dispenses the suppressant agent
  • Suppressant Agent – also called a clean agent, a nonreactive gas used to smother the fire or lower the temperature of the flame to extinguish it
  • Tubing/piping – connects the cylinder and suppressant agent to the nozzle

In the picture above the cylinders are grey, the tubing or piping is black and white, the suppressant agent is inside the cylinders and cannot be seen. The sensors and nozzle are not pictured.

As you can see, there are additional components to a suppression system, such as:

A manual pull station to activate the system, cables connected to digital components of the system, and many manufacturers offer second helm displays, manual pull stations at the helm, warning heat sensors, and system discharge sensors. You can examine your vessel to look for additional components.

Inspecting Your System

The easiest way to determine if your fire suppression system is functional is to check your cylinder. The technician who last serviced it should have affixed a certification sticker with a date. If this date is older than one year, you can use the sticker to call the company and schedule maintenance.

If you’re ambitious, or leery of others, you might want to check for yourself.

Inspection Checklist

  • Is your cylinder securely mounted?
  • Is it vertical or horizontal?
  • Is the valve in the open position?
  • Is the cylinder corroded or damaged?
  • Is the tubing/piping tightly connected?
  • Is the glass vial sensor operational or has it burst?
  • Is the glass vial sensor at the highest point of the engine compartment or over the engine?
  • Is your cable properly installed?
  • Where does it run to?
  • Is your helm display at the helm? Is it operational?
  • Do you have a manual pull station? Is it clearly labeled?
  • Do you have a temperature warning display? Where is it located?
  • Do you have a system discharge display? Where is it located?

I hope that everything is in perfect working order. But much like our boating checklist, it is important you check your fire suppression system regularly and have your system annually certified by a professional. If you’re having doubts and live in the greater Tampa Bay area, call All Florida Fire. A trained marine fire suppression system technician can give you a free consultation and schedule service if needed. Bon voyage.