Boat Safety

29th - 4th is National Boat Safety Week: Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service is holding fire safety events, essential for anyone holidaying or living on a boat.

In the past 20 years, 30 boaters have been killed in boat fires and another 30 lost their lives to the 'silent killer' carbon monoxide.

GFRS firefighters will be teaching vital safety checks and showing residents how to prevent fire and carbon monoxide risks on a boat, as well as demonstrating what to do in the event of a fire.

Most boat fires occurring locally happen in the early hours of the morning, so the team are keen to teach people how to perform bedtime safety checks.

  • 29th May: Saul Junction, Slimbridge
  • 31st May: Gloucester Docks, Monk Meadow Basin
  • 2nd June: Lydney Harbour
  • 3rd June: Tewkesbury Marina, River Avon
  • 4th June: Lechlade Marina

Good practice

  • Fire can spread quickly on a boat, even on water.
  • Alarms can help keep your crew safe.
  • Turn cooking appliances off properly after use.
  • Dispose of cigarettes carefully. Put them out, right out.
  • Make sure you check and maintain your boats fuel, gas and electrical systems on a regular basis.
  • Have appliances properly installed and serviced routinely by competent fitters.
  • Make an emergency plan with everyone on board before you set out.
  • If in doubt, don't fight a fire yourself. Get out, stay out and call 999.
  • To extinguish a small fire, or to help you escape safely, consider using an extinguisher.
  • For more information on boat fire safety and routine safety checks visit

Evening routine

  • Make sure people know how to close emergency valves and switches in case of fire
  • You are more at risk from a fire when asleep, so check your boat before you go to bed. Make sure cooking and heating appliances are off and candles and cigarettes are fully extinguished.
  • Keep a torch easily available to help you escape at night. Make sure you have spares and test them regularly.
  • Don't go to sea without a VHF radio. Have a charged-up, handheld, waterproof one ready for use at any time.
  • Don't rely on a mobile phone. There could be no signal and it may not be waterproof.
  • Have enough life jackets for everyone on board, and keep them in good condition.
  • Keep exits clear and keys to hand. Don't lock or bolt doors and hatches from the outside.
  • Track your location so you can tell the emergency services where you are if needed.
  • Consider having a 'grab-bag' for removing vital possessions in an emergency.

For more information on boat fire safety and routine safety checks visit

Carbon Monoxide

  • Each year boaters die or are made seriously ill from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
  • Boats are built to keep water out, but this also makes them good containers for gases and fumes.
  • CO can kill in minutes-be prepared to act quickly if you think you are being poisoned
  • If CO is in your cabin space everyone is at risk, no one is immune.
  • Recognise the signs - common symptoms include;
  • Headache and bad temper
  • Feeling sick and dizzy
  • Feeling tired and confused
  • Stomach pains and being sick.

View more safety tips for carbon monoxide safety on boats...

Helpful links to check out before you set sail

Refuel safely

  • Stop the engine
  • Make sure all naked flames are out
  • Don't leave anyone on the boat
  • Close door and raise awnings to prevent petrol vapour gathering in cabins and cockpits
  • Avoid spillage
  • Never decant petrol on board, in a lock or next to other craft
  • Re-fuel outboard tanks ashore and well away from the boat

Gas safety

  • If you smell gas:
  • Turn off the isolation valve, open windows, hatches and doors
  • Turn the engine off
  • Put all naked flames out including pilot lights
  • Don't switch any electrical goods or mobile phones on or off
  • Evacuate the boat if possible

If the worst should happen

If there is a fire:-

  • If in doubt, don't fight a fire yourself. Get out, stay out and call 999.
  • Do not enter a smoke filled space.
  • If you are already in a smoke filled space keep low down where the air is clearer.
  • If you need to break glass to escape use a blanket to prevent injury.
  • Starve the fire of air. Don't open engine hatches or doors unless you have to.

Inland fires

  • If you are inland or moored near to land move everybody off the boat and call 999 immediately.

Fires at sea

  • If you are off-shore move as far away from the fire as you can on deck. Get everybody into life jackets.
  • Take a handheld VHF radio onto deck with you to call for help.
  • Notify the Coastguard by radio; make a Mayday call and/or display a distress signal.

Click on the image to view a copy of the 'Firekills' Fire Safety on Boats leaflet










Click on the image to view a copy of the 'Firekills' Carbon Moxoxide Safety on Boats leaflet