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Closet Powerboater
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In my recent pre purchace survey one of the few high priority safety findings was that my fire extinguishers did not have documentation of a current inspection. The recommendation was to have a certified inspector check them yearly.

Whaaaa? Is this a new ABYC reg? I've never heard of this before. I shall comply not only for insurance reasons but also because I trust these surveyors and fire aboard is bad I hear.

I see extinguishers in commercial buildings with tags but it makes me wonder what is done as part of the inspection? From a practical standpoint are they really useful and necessary?

Yearly is a bit of a bear. I dislike anything critical aboard that I can't maintain myself. Getting them inspected abroad isn't going to happen.

Any pyros or code experts who know more about this than I do care to comment?

MedSailor
 

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It is normal to have your fire extinguishers checked and certified every year and I do believe a USCG requirement.
However, I've found with the general 3.5 pound ABC or BC extinguishers required, it's cheaper to just buy new ones (certified for a year from date of purchase, so keep the receipt for the CG) each year, rather than have the guy come out and weigh and check them.
However, if you have a larger extinguisher (automatic or remote operated) in the engine space, that certainly isn't cheaply replaceable. But if you are confident that that extinguisher is OK (you can remove it and weigh it yourself, but it won't be certified), it is not necessarily a required extinguisher, so you'll be fine with the legal minimum of cheap extinguishers, the old ones being a bonus or for practice.
 

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A buddy of mine teaches the Power Squadron Boating safety class. According to him, basic marine extinguishers are stamped on the bottom (and mine are) with the year of mfg. As long as the guage is in the green and they are 12 years old or less, they are good to go.
Both of mine were more than 12 so I bought 3 new ones...one for each sleeping cabin and own within arms reach of the galley and engine room.

FYI, if you have an extinguisher without a date stamp...it is way more than 12 years old. One of mine was and it is no longer in service.
 

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Good info Chuck. I was boarded by the USCG a couple of weeks ago for a random safety check (I was under sail at the time!!) and they just looked at the gauges to see if they were in green. They commented that mine were just barely (which I knew) but that's it. Didn't check date of mfr.
 

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I'm thinking they should just be refilled with ether.

No really. Kidde will sell extinguishers with six year warranties, and I can't see that they expect the extinguisher to need annual servicing in each of those years. But, a fire captain giving a refresher class last week said all dry powder extinguishers in his experience needed to be replaced every year. Because the cost of inspecting and refilling them was more than the cost of replacing them (handhelds, i.e. up to 5 or 10# size) and they were totally unreliable after one year.

He's probably discharged more of them than I've ever met, but condemning them all at one year....I don't know, I suspect Kidde knows more about extinguishers than he does.

You know, in most large cities there are con men with a great racket, they wander into offices and say "We're from the extinguisher company..." and then they swap 'em out and leave huge bills. The front desk rarely asks which company, or where the contract is. An old and common con, because people keep falling for it.

Ask your local USCG Aux or Power Squadron for a free safety inspection, or ask their senior inspector about fire extinguishers. And if no one cites you an actual law, an actual chapter and verse of code? Give 'em the ether filled extinguisher and tell them to use it up during a demonstration. (Is that evil? I'm trying hard to be evil, karma needs balancing.)

Also do bear in mind that for all safety equipment (extinguishers & pyros alike) you may be required to have xx pieces that are within date--but then you are also allowed to have whatever old outdated ones you want, also present on the boat. They do NOT have to meet any compliance regulations, because they are NOT part of the mandatory equipment.

So you can certainly keep the old ones as long as you have faith in them, regardless of needing (probably one or two?) newer dated ones.

FROM THE USCG at
http://www.uscgboating.org/assets/1/workflow_staging/Publications/420.PDF

"Fire Extinguisher Maintenance
Inspect extinguishers monthly to make sure that:
• Seals and tamper indicators are not broken or missing
• Pressure gauges or other indicators, if so equipped, read in
the operable range as described on the extinguisher
• There is no obvious physical damage, rust, corrosion,
leakage, or clogged nozzles
If the minimum weight is stated on the extinguisher label, weigh extinguishers
annually to check
Fire extinguishers that do not satisfy the above requirements or that
have been partially emptied must be replaced or taken to a qualified fire
extinguisher servicing company for recharge"

And there's no mention of anyone needing to sign you off on that.

AGAIN FROM THE USCG:
http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/cg5214/fesys.asp#162.028
No mention of dating.

AND THE BEST OF ALL
http://www.uscg.mil/hq/cg5/cg5214/docs/Portable Fire Extinguisher Inspection and Maintenance FAQ.pdf
Where they say "inspection" can be done by any idiot. Maintenance, if needed, should be done by certified idiots. And non-refillable extinguishers should follow the NFPA and be thrown out at TWELVE YEARS of age.

I suspect your surveyor mistook your boat for a commercial/mandatory service vessel, and should be sent to work in a shipbreaker's yard in Pakistan for a while.
 

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My surveyor said what PaulinVictoria said. As long as they are green and under 12 years your OK. He did say you should turn them upside down and shake them a couple of times a year to keep the powder from settling too much.

After the survey I went ahead and replaced them (had the boat 9 years and they were original) and figured once every 5 years was good enough. The shaking/hitting with a rubber mallet makes sense to me. As to how often you replace.... well it's one of those how well you can sleep at night deals.



Brian
 

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During the boating safety class my buddy was teaching, when he told us about the 12 year limit, I went to my boat to check mine. One was about 25 years old. My friend/instructor had enough fire extinguishers for all in the class to try one out...in a big trash can, not on a fire...just to know how to use it. MY 25 yo unit seemed to work just fine.
He also had enough flares and flare shells for everyone to strike a flare and fire a flare gun just for the experience of having done it while not in an emergency situation.

I agree with hitting the units with a rubber mallet from time to time. often, during the course of the year, I will take mine off their mounting and just lay them horizontally on a settee while we are not on the boat, just so they don't settle to the bottom. Do that often enough and you don't have to do the rubber mallet thing.
 

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I'd like to add that my time spent in corporate facilities management we were tasked with inspecting and maintaining all of our fire extinguishers. All those found to be out of date would be taken to a "safe area" where all of our first responders would get the chance to extinguish a live fire in a trash barrel. It always surprised people as to how critical aiming was and that you couldn't simply spray a burst of chemicals willy-nilly. Most folks instinctively attack the flame instead of the base of the fire which would inevitably spread the fire instead of putting it out. If you have an extinguisher you are replacing I would highly recommend trying it out or taking it to your city's fire chief and inquire about demonstrations on how to properly use a fire extinguisher.
 

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Like almost all yacht clubs in our area, an annual safety inspection is mandatory and is a condition of mooring both at the home port and using club outstations. Part of those safety inspections is having an annual inspection of the fire extinguishers, so on safety weekend one of the local fire systems companies has a truck come down and they inspect and tag the extinguishers for $5 each. If they are 6 years out of date based on the stamp on the bottom, then they open them up, fill them with fresh powder, inspect and test the valves and cylinder, and re-certify them for another 6 years for $10. In both cases it is significantly cheaper than buying a new one unless you are buying REALLY crappy fire extinguishers!

When they are inspecting them they are looking for corrosion that may interfere with the valve operation, checking pressure, and making sure the fire retardant powder hasn't caked inside. Apparently when that has happened you can feel the contents slide back and forth when you turn it over. They usually just need to give it a couple of thumps with a rubber hammer to loosen it up, but sometimes it needs to be refilled.

When I am unable to make it down to the boat for safety weekend I just take my extinguishers in to their shop to get them inspected. If you work in an office building and you know that the building fire systems are being tested on a certain day, (up here it must be done annually), then you might even be able to bring them in to work and have the guys check them at the same time.

Personally I don't mind paying a few bucks every year to know that if I really need my fire extinguishers they are going to function correctly!
 

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I'd like to add that my time spent in corporate facilities management we were tasked with inspecting and maintaining all of our fire extinguishers. All those found to be out of date would be taken to a "safe area" where all of our first responders would get the chance to extinguish a live fire in a trash barrel. It always surprised people as to how critical aiming was and that you couldn't simply spray a burst of chemicals willy-nilly. Most folks instinctively attack the flame instead of the base of the fire which would inevitably spread the fire instead of putting it out. If you have an extinguisher you are replacing I would highly recommend trying it out or taking it to your city's fire chief and inquire about demonstrations on how to properly use a fire extinguisher.
Once in a while the fire company that does our safety inspections brings in a fire pan and lets everyone who wants to try putting the fire out. It is a great idea! I think everyone should try it so they know what to expect in a real emergency. My son learned how to use one when he was six!

I also think that would be a good use for outdated flares! How many people have actually fired a flare gun? Why not set a date with local authorities when people can fire flares under controlled conditions?
 

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A buddy of mine teaches the Power Squadron Boating safety class. According to him, basic marine extinguishers are stamped on the bottom (and mine are) with the year of mfg. As long as the guage is in the green and they are 12 years old or less, they are good to go.
Both of mine were more than 12 so I bought 3 new ones...one for each sleeping cabin and own within arms reach of the galley and engine room.

FYI, if you have an extinguisher without a date stamp...it is way more than 12 years old. One of mine was and it is no longer in service.
Actually, I just checked one in the engine room today (5 years old, a pretty white one) and it was dead center in the green, but light as a feather. I doubt seriously it would have been much use in a fire, but all you who say "check that it's in the green and you're good to go", here's hoping you don't have that happen when you need one, for real!
 

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Dirt Free
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In my recent pre purchace survey one of the few high priority safety findings was that my fire extinguishers did not have documentation of a current inspection. The recommendation was to have a certified inspector check them yearly.
MedSailor
ABYC -
It is an ABYC recommendation. It is not a USCG or Transport Canada requirement.

Transport Canada TP1332E - 10.4.2
Requires the instructions of the manufacturer be followed however this does not apply to pleasure craft.

Code of Federal Regulations, Title 46, Sub-part 25.30 -
Does require six month inspections however this does not apply to pleasure craft.
 

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Paying to certify an extinguisher annually is silly. However, this thread has motivated me to check mine. All in the green. We go way beyond the minimum requirement, which I think is more important than excessive inspections. We have 6 aboard.

As a bit of thread drift, I would encourage everyone to watch Yachting Monthly's, Crash Boat Series, on Fire. Pop off a powder extinguisher down below and you better know blindly how to get out. It will go zero/zero visibility in one second. Very valuable watch.

 

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In the US, the local Power Squadron arm of the USCG will do a free 'safety check' which is for many reasons a good thing to do

When my boat was recently checked the inspector looked at the gauge and the date (stamped on bottom), which was all he did, bringing my attention to the date stamp. A couple of my extinguishers were near the 'empty' so I replaced. But that was all he did, just have a look at the gauge and the stamp
 

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Paying to certify an extinguisher annually is silly. However, this thread has motivated me to check mine.
Lol! Maybe so, but it takes the onus off the volunteers that do the safety inspections, and it satisfies the requirements of the insurance companies. The fact that one's boat gets an annual safety inspection is sometimes reflected in the insurance premiums. Besides, I would hope that people who own boats worth close to a quarter million dollars might be able to pony up the cost of a latte to ensure their fire extinguishers are up to date! Believe it or not I have been approached by owners of far more valuable boats than mine, wanting to borrow my current flares and fire extinguishers so they can pass inspection! No wonder sailors have a reputation of being cheap!
 

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If a dry chem extinguisher has been sitting a while, turn it upside down and shake a bit to fluff .Big ones, you can feel the soda fall back and forth.Little ones are only a bit better than none . While you're at it check the gauge and dates.
 

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Closet Powerboater
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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Thanks for all the good info. BTW, I'm not trying to be cheap here (though I knew that comment was coming :) ) What I'm trying to do is figure out if this is really necessary and if so, why.

It's more the hassle and the fact that it's not user-serviceable and I don't know what goes into an inspection. From my (lack of) understanding, fire extinguishers are generally low maintenance items. I was aware of the soda-caking issue and I go give them a shake from time to time. I also have some mounted horizontally, which hopefully would help. What I'd really like to see is the ABYC regs, but really that's probably irrelevant to my case because once the surveyor puts it on the survey and it goes to the insurance company, you'd best comply. I'm sure I can be arguing ABYC regs till the cows come home, but if my boat burns down (for any reason) the insurance can now point to my lack of compliance with the surveyor's recommendation if I don't do what the surveyor says.

BTW, here is the exact text of the finding. I do love that my current surveyors DO cite chapter and verse with findings. :)

2. **Found: All fire extinguishers without current inspection tags. Recommendation, have
extinguishers re-certified or replaced. IAW NFPA 302. **, ABYC A-4 AP 6.3 At one year
intervals, a full maintenance check should be made by a qualified fire extinguishing system service
facility in accordance with the manufacturer's maintenance instructions. A tag should be attached
showing the date of such maintenance check.

MedSailor
 

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Slightly off topic, but...

A soaked towel or fire blanket can make a lot of sense in the galley.

Water, unless fuel, 110v, or electroninics are involved, is effective and available. And the electroninics are going to be toast with the dry chemical hits them anyway.

And a lot of other contingencies.

Not sayin' you don't want to have the extinguishers, just sayin' that when they fail (or fail to finish the job--they generally only give a few bursts) you should quickly move on to plan b. I've had to deal with a few incipient fires in refineries over the years, and the key is clear thinking and rapid addaptation of the plan to the situation.
 

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Closet Powerboater
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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Thanks for the fire blanket reminder. I put it on my christmas list last year and forgot all about it after Santa snubbed me. I'm pretty sure I will need to buy it because I haven't been good this year. hehe

MedSailor
 
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