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Fire Safety Measures and Prevention Tips for Your Boat

Fire Safety Measures and Prevention Tips for Your Boat

Feb 19, 2021

Fires that happen on boats or in marinas can spread quickly and are easily one of the biggest potential dangers onboard any boat. Hence, it is important for boat owners and crew members to be familiar with fire safety and be ready to handle emergencies at all times. 

To always ensure the safety of boaters and guests, ONE°15 Marina has continually taken active steps to ensure that our marina crew and facilities are well-equipped and fire-prepared to handle any fire emergencies. Read more about the Club’s fire safety measures here. 

The good news? Most fires are preventable. In this article, we explore the common causes behind a fire outbreak, fire protection measures, and what to do should a fire break out.

Jump to section:

3 common causes behind a fire on a boat

Fire protection measures on a boat

What to do if a fire breaks out 

3 common causes behind a fire on a boat

  1. Electrical system failure
  2. Malfunctions in gas system
  3. Human activities

Electrical system failure

An electrical system failure is arguably the most common root cause of onboard fires. Hence, it’s crucial to monitor the vessel’s systems consistently for issues that pose a fire risk.

Some causes of fire include:

  • An overheating motor.
  • Fuel/ lube oil leaks in the main and auxiliary engines.
  • Overloading in improper electrical connections and circuits.
  • Insulation damage in the boat’s wiring harnesses.
  • A faulty installation of batteries, such as the reversing of positive and negative cables.

To prevent an electrical failure, boat owners are required to ensure that the boat’s electrical systems are regularly inspected, well-maintained and in good condition.

Malfunctions in gas system

The common fuels used for bottled gas such as Butane and Propane are denser than air, hence they will collect at the lowest point within the boat when released and sit there for long periods. An overtime build-up could pose a potential hazard.

Inspections in the boat’s gas systems is something that is commonly overlooked. We advise boat owners to have the gas systems regularly checked and serviced.

Human activities

Flammable items onboard such as oily rags or combustible liquids pose danger to causing a fire. Outdoor grills, smoking and open-flame activities are also dangerous elements that may contribute to a fire breaking out. 

Fire protection measures on a boat

  1. Install a smoke alarm to stay safe
  2. Maintain your boat’s systems regularly
  3. Protect the inside of your boat
  4. Crew training

Install a smoke alarm to stay safe 

The installation of smoke alarms can alert onboard passengers and crew members to a fire and serves as a good line of defence. Having a smoke alarm is especially helpful for sleeping passengers as it can warn anyone very quickly of danger and take necessary steps to escape.

During installation, fit the alarms in places you will hear clearly if they go off and link the alarms on the boat so they will go off at the same time. Boat owners can also consider installing carbon monoxide and gas detectors to alert anyone on a boat of any poisonous carbon monoxide gases.

Maintain your boat’s systems regularly

yacht maintenance engine checks

A quick rule of thumb is to always ensure that the fuel, gas and electrical systems are inspected on a regular basis. Below is a quick checklist that highlights the important pointers to ensure fuel and power safety on your boat.

Engine maintenance

  • Do not let oil or debris build up in the bilges.
  • Check if there are any leaks in the exhaust systems/ inboard engines. 
  • Check for loose fuel joints, damaged fuel tanks or deteriorating hoses.

Electrical care 

  • Inspect wires or cables for any cuts, abrasions or other damages. This type of damage can lead to electrical outages, fires, sparks and electric shock.
  • Ensure that the wiring is not loose at the joints or connections.
  • Check that the insulation on cables is intact and each circuit is protected by a fuse. 
  • Colour-label your cables to indicate the positive and negative charges to ensure that they are connected correctly.
  • Do not overload adaptors. Keep to one plug per socket. 
  • Unplug appliances when they’re not in use or when you leave the boat. 
  • Be extra careful when reinstalling the boat’s batteries. Ensure that straps or restraints are secured afterwards.
  • Ensure the power to your boat is off when carrying out any maintenance and repair work.

Fuel safety

  • Be extra careful when refuelling. Turn off any ignition sources and all cooking appliances before handling any fuel. 
  • Prevent petrol vapour from entering the boat by closing the doors, windows and hatches.
  • Clean up any leaks or spills straight away and re-secure the filler cap.
  • Refuel any portable engine/ tank ashore and safely away from the boat and any sources of ignition. 
  • Do not carry spare fuel, unless it is required. The fuel must then be stored in cans specifically designed for petrol. Always adhere to the legal capacity limits.

Gas safety

  • Install a gas and a carbon monoxide alarm to reduce the risks associated with having gas onboard. 
  • Make sure that any gas bottles onboard are in a self-draining and fire-resistant locker. This helps to prevent gas from ending up in the bilges.
  • Check the drain regularly for blockages. 
  • Do not transfer flammable fluids from one container to another whilst onboard.
  • Ensure that gas bottles are secured after changing them. Test for leaks with detection fluids. We recommend turning them off when you are not onboard the boat.
  • Turn off the gas values before sleeping or leaving the boat.
  • Regularly inspect the pipes and hoses to prevent wear and tear. Ensure that the fire extinguishers are up-to-date and of the right size.

Protect the inside of your boat 

Taking care of the inside of your boat is just as important when it comes to fire protection.


  • Keep cigarettes or pipes away from things that could catch fire easily such as curtains.
  • Never smoke when refueling or changing a gas bottle.
  • If smoking is allowed onboard, make sure it is done in a well-ventilated area and away from any potentially flammable materials.

Safe cooking and heating

  • Turn cooking appliances off properly after use.
  • Keep the cabin well-ventilated to avoid a build-up of carbon monoxide.
  • Use spark devices to light gas cookers instead of matches or lighters. 
  • Do not barbecue on boats as the heat from the hot charcoal and loose embers increases the risk of setting fire to the deck.

Fire Extinguishers

  • Ensure that your extinguishers are well-serviced and placed at appropriate positions.


  • Ensure that the lifejackets are in good working condition and easily accessible. To help passengers identify where the lifejackets are, display them prominently in a place visible to people onboard with a sign indicating “LIFE JACKETS”.

Crew training

To have crew members respond faster and combat a fire outbreak, fire management training must be conducted regularly. This includes familiarizing with the locations of fire equipment and knowing how to use a fire extinguisher effectively.

Another method to train your crew is coming up with a list of roles during emergency situations, so each member is aware of their responsibilities during any situation. 

Lastly, we recommend to also conduct fire drills once a month to test the crew and enable them to develop a stronger understanding in the principles of fire-fighting.

What to do if a fire breaks out

As boat fires can spread quickly and get out of control, everyone onboard must be prepared to abandon the boat. Remember that the person in charge of the boat is responsible for the safety of the boat and the lives of everyone onboard.

In the event of a fire occurring onboard, refer to the guidelines below:

  • If your boat is moving when the fire starts, position the craft downwind so that the wind will blow the fire over the side. This will prevent the fire from spreading to other parts of the boat.
  • Find the fire, determine its size and get ready the necessary fire-fighting equipment.
  • Inform everyone onboard and move them away from the fire. Make sure everyone has their life jackets on.
  • Shut off the power to the electrical systems in the affected space.
  • If the fire is small, use an appropriate type of fire extinguisher and aim it at the base of the flames. Sweep the discharge nozzle from side to side until the fire is put out. Keep monitoring the situation and ensure that there is no chance of re-ignition.
  • Make an emergency call for help. Below are some authorities who provide fire-fighting aid:
    SCDF Marine Division 1800 286 5555
    Civil Defence Force (SCDF) 995
    Port Marina Safety
    VHF Channel: 07
    6325 2488
    6325 2489
    ONE°15 Marina
    VHF Channel: 77
    6305 6988
    9071 7604

During an event of a fire outbreak, it’s vital that each crew member takes on their roles responsibly so all of the above fire-fighting steps can be performed simultaneously by different crew members.

We would love to hear your feedback and ideas! Please reach out to [email protected] if you have any requests to make our Club a better place for all.