Fire Safety on Boats

Prevention is the best protection when it comes to fire safety aboard a boat.

This means taking all reasonable steps to prevent a fire from breaking out. However, accidents happen so it is important to have safety measures in place to help all boaters deal with a fire.

Early detection is important so install and maintain smoke alarms. Smoke alarms save lives, but only if they work.  With over 130 boat fires on Boat Safety Scheme records in 2013, including one fatal fire and many others losing their possessions and sometimes homes, it is essential that people test their smoke alarms regularly.

Once detected everyone on board a boat should know what to do – create a fire action plan and share with all on board.

Preventing fire:

  • Never leave cooking unattended – turn appliances off properly when no one is using them.
  • Never use a barbeque on board – not only are they a fire hazard they are also a source of Carbon Monoxide.
  • Keep flammable materials away from naked flames, cigarettes/pipes, light bulbs, flues and other sources of heat.
  • Only use the fuel recommended by the heater manufacturer - other types may burn too hot.
  • Do not use damp fuel - this can lead to a build up of flammable tar in your stove and chimmney. Find out more.
  • Dispose of cigarettes carefully, make sure they are out.
  • Use a stable ash tray and regularly empty it.
  • Do not leave candles unattended.
  • Ensure gas appliances are installed and maintained by trained fitters.
  • Replace gas hoses showing sign of deterioration.
  • Where possible close gas valves at night and when away from the boat.
  • Store gas cylinders securely and outside.
  • Check for the British or European Electrical safety mark when buying electrical goods.
  • Always get a trained marine electrician to install and service electrics.
  • Do not overload adapters.
  • Unplug appliances when not in use.


Detecting fire:

Fit smoke alarms inside the boat, optical sensor alarms with hush buttons and sealed for life batteries are the best type to use on a boat. Fit alarms so that a fire in any place will be detected as soon as possible – you may need to fit multiple alarms and could have them linked (if one alarm detects a fire all the alarms will sound).

Make sure you check the batteries regularly – test the alarms once a week or after spending a long period away from the boat.

Emergency plan:

Have an emergency plan so everyone knows what to do if a fire breaks out whilst on board.

Make sure all passengers know where emergency cut-off valves and switches are located, where the life jackets are located (make sure there are enough and that they’re in good condition), and where there is a torch to aid escape at night.

Additionally, keep exits clear with keys easily accessible and know where you are on the waterways system so that you can notify the emergency services of your location.

Preventing Fire

Prevention is the best protection when it comes to fire safety aboard a boat.

Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms should be tested once a week or after spending a long period away from the boat.

Boat Safety Scheme

Find out how you can limit the fire and carbon monoxide risks arise from the way that engines, appliances, systems and fuels are used and maintained on the Boat Safety Scheme website.

More fire safety information is available on the Boat Safety Scheme's website.