In case of fire outbreak during a voyage, the crew is entirely responsible to take immediate action since Professional Fire Brigade at Shore can not be reached. It is necessary to know all the available fire fighting appliances available onboard and actions to take in fire emergency.
For a ship to sail in international waters, it must be constructed as per Fire Safety System code and carry Fire Fighting Appliances as regulated. Marine vessels are fitted with various types of fire retardant and fire fighting equipments to tackle any kind of fire and extinguish it fast enough without causing harm or loss of life.
Keeping all fire fighting equipment well maintained and in good working condition aids in effective fire fighting. Here are the basic fire fighting equipment onboard a ship:
1. Portable Fire Extinguishers: Portable and semi-portable fire extinguishers of CO2, Foam and Dry Chemical Powder are provided in accommodation, deck and machinery spaces with extra as stipulated by the regulation.
2. Smoke Detectors / Fire Alarms: smoke detectors and fire alarm systems are installed in Cargo area, accommodation, deck areas, and machinery spaces. It's useful to arrest fire at a very early stage before escalating. Fire detection and alarm system should be tested weekly.
3. Fire Pumps: A marine vessel has two fire pumps, the main fire pump and emergency fire pump. The emergency fire pump is located outside of the space where the main fire pump is installed. Emergency fire pump should be kept in good working order and test conducted weekly.
4. Fire extinguishing system: CO2, Foam and water are used in a fixed fire extinguishing system. It is installed at different locations on the ship and is remotely controlled from outside the space for safety.
5. Fire Retardant Bulkhead: Retardant bulkhead aids in containing or restricting the fire in a specific area. Areas such as accommodation, machinery space, pump room etc. has bulkhead.
6. Fire doors: are self closing type doors fitted in fire retardant bulkhead to provide access from the same.
7. Fire Dampers: This is useful in blocking excessive supply of oxygen during fire emergency. Dampers are fitted in the ventilation system of cargo holds, engine room, accommodation etc.
8. Fire piping system: The quantity, length and diameter of pipes, hoses and nozzles(Jet and spray type) used on board are specified by the classification society. Isolation and relief valves are provided in the line to avoid over pressure.
9. Fire Hydrants: also known as fireplug, or simply, a plug, is where the fire hoses are connected to control the water supply during fire fighting activity. All fire hydrants and their connection should be kept in working condition.
10. Inert Gas System: For oil tankers of 20000 dwt and above, inert gas system is fitted to protect cargo space from fire hazard.
11. Emergency Escape Breathing Device (EEBD): is an apparatus used in to escape from a highly toxic smoke filled compartment. It aids breathing.
12. Fire Fighter Gears: At least two fire fighting costume produced with fire retardant material are provided to fight Fire onboard ships. Fire men outfits should be kept in good condition and handy at all times.
13. International Shore Connection (ISC): is used in connecting shore water to the ship fire fighting system. It's very effective when in port, lay off or dry dock especially when the ship fire pump is not operational. The size and dimensions are standard for all the ship. It should be placed at proper location and in good order with at least with gasket.
14. Escape route or emergency exit: emergency exits are strategically provided on ships by design in case of fire and other form of emergency.
For effective fire prevention and action:
- Periodical testing and maintenance of fire fighting installation is necessary.
- All crew members should be properly educated on fire prevention, appliances and their operation.
- Fire drill should be carried out at least once a month.