Fire presents a serious threat aboard vessels. It can spread quickly and cause extensive damage, putting the lives of crew members at risk. That’s why it’s essential for ships to have adequate fire fighting equipment on board.
The type of extinguishing equipment varies depending on the size and type of vessel. However, the regulation states that all of them must have a minimum amount of fire fighting appliances that are ready to use. These equipment are typically inspected and maintained on a regular basis to ensure that they are in good working order.
This article will explore 31 different fire fighting equipment that you can find on any merchant ship. Moreover, we will be discussing their placement on board so you can act quickly before the flame gets out of control!
Fire extinguishers are the main frontline equipment for dousing small flames. They come in many different types and sizes, and you can find them all over the ship.
Essentially, vessels use two different kinds- the “Portable Fire Extinguishers” and the “Fixed Fire Extinguishing System”.
Let’s discuss more of them here:
Portable Fire Extinguishers
These are the seaman’s best friends. They are very handy, easily identifiable, and quick to operate whenever the need arises. You can find them on different parts of the ship– be it within the depths of the engine room to the ship’s bridge.
Depending on the classifications of fire, there are many types of them that you can use. Here are the following.
- Water Extinguishers – uses water as a cooling and extinguishing medium. They are perfect for flames involving carbonaceous substances or Class A fires. These involve paper, wood, ropes, canvas, and the like.
- CO2 Fire Extinguishers – fires involving electrical equipment (Class E) and flammable liquids (Class B) are best doused using carbon dioxide (CO2) extinguishers
- Dry Chemical Powders – also known as DCP, consist of a special powder that destroys the chemical reaction within the fire itself. You can use them for Class A, B, C, D, and E fires.
- Foam Extinguishers – this extinguisher is perfect for smothering liquid flames as it covers the top of the burning liquid. You can also use this in Class A.
- Foam Applicators – commonly seen in tankers, foam applicators are usually located near the foam monitors. It consists of a foam concentrate, a special nozzle, and a fire hose. It works by the process of eduction, where the foam concentrate mixes with the water while the fire pump is running.
- Wet Chemical – this is a special type of extinguisher designed to extinguish burning cooking oil (Class F). Since cooking oil involves extremely high temperatures of 340 degrees, normal foam agents won’t work here. Wet chemical extinguisher is designed specifically for this purpose. Hence, you can find them in the galley.
Fixed Fire Extinguishing System
Aside from portable extinguishers, another type of fire fighting equipment on board is a fixed fire extinguishing system. These types cover larger areas and are installed in enclosed spaces like engine rooms, machinery spaces, and cargo holds.
- Inergen – my first ship actually used Inergen as its main fixed extinguishing system in the engine room and pump room. Inergen is composed of three gases namely nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide. Technically, this system lowers the oxygen level in the room thereby putting out the flames but still allowing people inside to breathe and evacuate.
- CO2 – carbon dioxide is probably the most widely used fixed fire fighting system. However, they are highly toxic to humans and the crew must evacuate the room before releasing them.
- Fire Sprinkler System – some parts of the ships have sprinkler systems. You can find them in accommodation spaces, especially on passenger ships and cruise vessels.
- Water Mist Extinguishing System – another fire fighting system that you can find on board, especially in the engine room is the Water Mist System. This equipment produces fine mists that cool the flames as well as smother its oxygen supply until the fire is out.
- Fixed Foam System – on some ships like in tankers, their deck has foam extinguishers through the use of foam monitors. This makes it easier to blanket the fire if ever it happens on deck. The foam tank is usually located in the foam room together with its pumps and control valves.
Fire Detection and Alarm Systems
The fire fighting equipment on board every vessel won’t be complete without the fire detection and warning systems. Like any other emergency alarm signals on board, these devices sense smoke, heat, or flame and trigger an audio-visual alarm within the vessel if it reaches a certain threshold.
- Flame Detectors – raise an alarm when it detects fire in a space.
- Smoke Detectors – smoke comes out when something is burning. This is where smoke detectors come in handy. You can find them in stairways, alleyways, cabins, and escape routes.
- Heat Detectors – activates when the temperature reaches 54 degrees Celsius and not before the temperature exceeds 78 degrees Celsius. One thing is certain, you won’t find them in the engine rooms.
Firefighting Tools and Accessories
These tools and accessories play a crucial role in ship safety and fire fighting. They are vital during such emergencies and proper drill and familiarization to them enables crew members to effectively respond to onboard fires.
- Fire Fighter’s Outfit or Fireman’s Outfit – protects the wearer from direct heat enabling them to access rooms and extinguish the burning source.
- Breathing Apparatus – helps firefighters on board to rescue another crew or fight the source of flames without worrying about the toxic smoke around them. Together with the outfit, you can find them at the fire stations.
- Fire Axes – used to break down doors, bulkheads, or other obstacles to reach the burning area, venting smoke, and rescue crew members. You can find them near escape routes, bulkhead doors, and easily accessible compartments.
- Fire Blanket – designed to smother and extinguish small flames by cutting off the oxygen supply. They are particularly useful for fires involving cooking equipment. You can find them in the galley.
- Fire Hose and Nozzles – these two come together. There are boxes around and within the ship where we find fire hoses and nozzles. The hoses withstand high-pressure water flow while the nozzles have various settings, including spray patterns and solid stream settings, to address different scenarios.
- Fire Hydrants – wherever you can find fire hose boxes, there will also be hydrants nearby. They provide a readily available source of water to combat fires effectively.
- Fire Pumps – maintain a constant and powerful water flow, essential for firefighting efforts.
- Foam Monitors – also known as foam cannons, turrets, or nozzles, monitors deliver the foam solution on deck for flames involving flammable liquids or hydrocarbon-based fuels
- Fire Main Piping and Valves – distribute and control the flow of water throughout the ship.
- International Shore Connection (ISC) – facilitates the connection between a ship’s fire main system and external firefighting water supply sources when the vessel is in port.
- Emergency Quick Closing Valves – also known as emergency shutdown valves or ESD. If for example, your emergency generator catches fire, these devices automatically cut off its fuel supply.
Structural Fire Protection
Structural fire protection prevents the spread of flames and minimizes their impact on a vessel’s structure. They also isolate the blaze and smoke, giving time for the crew to escape and conduct firefighting.
- Fire Retardant Bulkhead – the ship’s bulkheads are designed to contain the spread of flames. Hence, they are made up of flame retardant materials and classified into three types namely, Class A, Class B, and Class C.
- Class A bulkheads – can withstand flames of up to 180 degrees Celsius for one hour.
- Class B bulkheads – can withstand burning of up to 180 degrees Celsius for half an hour.
- Class C bulkheads – made using fireproof materials. However, they don’t need to meet the requirements of Classes A and B.
- Fire Doors – prevent the spread of flames and smoke by acting as barriers. They are also made up of fire-resistant materials.
- Fire Dampers – inhibit the passage of fire and smoke through ducts and ventilation openings. They are instrumental in preventing the rapid spread of fires within a ship’s ventilation and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems.
- Means of Escape – provides crew members and passengers with clear pathways to evacuate the space swiftly and safely.
- Fire Control Plans – consists of the blueprint of the ship that firefighters use to plan and attack the flames whether they occur in the engine room, accommodation areas, cargo holds, or other ship compartments.
- EEBD (Emergency Escape Breathing Device) – used for escaping a room filled with smoke so that the crew can avoid inhaling toxic gases.
This incident occurred while we were discharging gasoline to another vessel in Amsterdam. Fortunately, we managed to extinguish the flames promptly. Good thing our drills and advanced fire fighting course paid off.
Through this experience, I gained a profound appreciation for the fire fighting equipment on board and their locations. Familiarity with their placement can make a crucial difference in swiftly containing and extinguishing flames.
May the winds be in your favor.