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Old 22-08-2007, 18:45   #1
elf
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USCG fire extinguisher regulations require tagging?

Hi,

We're buying our first boat (a Catalina 30) and just got the survey report. One recommendation stated, about the fire extinguishers: "Replace or service and tag both units now and tag periodically on an annual basis thereafter." The two fire extinguishers' pressure gauges both show green, and the surveyor also stated that "Present equipment complies with USCG requirements."

My question is whether the servicing and tagging is required or simply a suggestion.


Thanks!

elf
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Old 22-08-2007, 18:57   #2
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My question is whether the servicing and tagging is required or simply a suggestion.
If the gages show green then they are in compliance. There is no regulation that states they have to be "inspected". Unlike flares fire extinguishers do not expire based on the calendar. That said I wouldn't depend on one older than you actually know the age for certain. In the overall sense the cost of a couple extinguishers is chump change to what you have ahead in terms of expenses.

Then again it is only your personal safety at risk. The insurance will pay for the boat even if you don't show up to collect it.
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Old 22-08-2007, 23:17   #3
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Our surveyer quoted NFPA regs 4-1.2 and 4-4 which basically states you have to have your extinguishers checked and tagged annually by a pro as a down check on our survey. The problem is I haven't been able to find if NFPA regs are law, or have been referenced in state or federal laws.

http://www.nfpa.org/index.asp

The USCG just requires that you have them and how many.

Fire Extinguishers

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Old 23-08-2007, 00:15   #4
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If nothing else but for your own safety.........

The ones with gauges should be inspected by a professional co. every 12 months and by yourself every month.

Monthly-- check the seal to see if it's broken.
check the nozzle to see if it's clear of obstructions
Turn up side down and shake vigerously to break up powder (tap lightly with soft mallet if necesary).
check overall condition for damage or rust.
If it has a gauge, make sure it's still in the green.

The ones with out gauges will have an expiration date.

BoatUS BoatTECH Guides: Fire Extinguishers
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Old 23-08-2007, 05:26   #5
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How much does a pro charge for an annual inspection/tagging? And where would one find such a pro? I'd be interested to compare the cost of doing the pro inspections with simply replacing the extinguishers yearly.

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Old 23-08-2007, 06:11   #6
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The annual inspection is a scam foisted upon us by the fire extinguisher industry, but fortunately only applies to commercial boats.
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Old 23-08-2007, 08:21   #7
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I'd be interested to compare the cost of doing the pro inspections with simply replacing the extinguishers yearly.
I don't think you need to do it yearly but perhaps every 4 to 5 years isn't a bad idea as an absolute rule. They don't come with a date on them either so who would know how old they were except you. There is also nothing wrong with having more than the USCG requires. I tend to have more because I want one handy in a few places I am likely to be when a fire might break out. Having one handy near all berths, the galley, and cockpit usually will require at least one or two more than required by the USCG. It is not probable that all would fail because they were old yet still showed as being full if they also looked in very good condition.

Any that show less than 100% full should be suspect as well as any that showed any signs of rust or damage of any kind. Proper mounting in clearly visible locations is a way to not forget about them as well as make sure they are noticed in an emergency. There are no other USCG rules about fire extinguishers other than number and type but a whole lot of common sense should guide your own evaluation.

On my last boat I kept one in the propane locker which is clearly a violation any surveyor would note. It was however under the helm seat and I could not think of a better place for an extra one.
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Old 23-08-2007, 14:04   #8
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Elf, some extinguisher companies are honest but frankly, you're well above the competency level needed to do this yourself. Big scam in every city is that someone will come into every business on the blcok and say "I'm from the extinguisher company", pick up the ones that are out of date or underpressure, take 'em away, and bring back a huge bill after they service them. With NO pre-existing relationship and often 2x-4x the price someone else would have given.

The USCG wants to see a "USCG" approval on the extinguishers, usually white instead of red, go figure. Mainly a USCG approved extinguisher is supposed to be able to remain fixed in place until you release it--even if the boat is turning cartwheels at the time.

If the pressure gauge or the test button says "GOOD" that's about all you need to know. If the extinguisher uses dry powder, you also want to pick it up and tap/shake it a few times, to make sure the powder hasn't caked up. And if you have a postal scale around, you also WEIGH them once a year, which will tell you if the gas charge has leaked out.

Many extinguishers last 25 years with zero maintenance, the ones that are going to leak usually do so well before. And a bad refill can leak worse than ever.

Got your USG approved extinguishers on the boat? Good, ask the USCG Auxiliary for a free courtesy inspection--there's no penalty for failing it, they'll tell you what you need and what they want.

Then go out and buy 2-4 more extinguishers from Home Depot that are not marine approved but are perfectly good and dirt cheap. CO2, foam and water, or dry chemical as you please. There are differences in how they all work, and your local Fire Department may have demonstrations to show you how to use them. If not--take the oldest extinguisher to the fired department, ask them to demostrate it with you, then go recharge it. (Sometimes buying a disposable for the purpose is actually cheaper.)

Fire extinguishers usually scare the **it out of the new user, they are NOISY and they make a huge mess. The common "dry powder" kind blast yellow powder all over the place, it gets into everything, and you've got days worth of cleanup. It can make the investment in a Co2 or Halon bottle seem very worthwhile.<G> Especially for one to keep by the engine compartment--where I'd want to put out a fire without the damned powder mess all over.
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Old 23-08-2007, 14:55   #9
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I was wondering the same (Survey said no tags)

I did a bit of research and found that the tags are to reflect the date of purchase and that the fire extinguishers are good for 5 years after that date to be in compliance.

Not sure if this is a USCG regulation, or insurance or what., but after a bought 4 new F/E at West Marine for a good price, I tagged 'em all and forgot all about it untill one pressure gauge went in the red.

Got a new one from the maker after much jumping hoops and conference calls from a West Marine's manager's office.

At any rate, I shake 'em good now and then, but know nothing about an annual inspection being required.

CSY Man, ex Air Force Fire Fighter....
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Old 23-08-2007, 15:11   #10
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CSY Man, ex Air Force Fire Fighter....
Nice to know if your boat ends up in the air and on fire you be the man for the job!
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Old 23-08-2007, 16:09   #11
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I pick up a copy of the current USCG brochure and state brochure for "required equipment" every spring. Never seen any mention of dates or tags for extinguishers. Could very well be hidden in the US Code, especially for vessels in commercial service, but ain't never seen nothing lke it for pleasure boats.

Sounds like some alleged surveryor has a fire extinguisher tagging and certification service on the side.<G>
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Old 23-08-2007, 18:37   #12
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Nice to know if your boat ends up in the air and on fire you be the man for the job!
Aye Mr. Paul.

The job was on the ground:

Crash and Rescue crew at some Air Force base in Norway.
I would pull the poor souls out before they burned too badly.

The training and experience was quite valuable for the rest of my life however: Not afraid of a fire extinguiser anymore, or a water-cannons
or anything else related to a small fire.

Had similar fire fighter training when I joined the Merchant Marine on chemical tankers.
(If something bad happened on a 32,000 ton chemical tanker however, with loads of benzene or acetone onboard, ya just run like hell, like Jesus did on water.

In the Air Force however ya have a chance of rescuing the guy and/or putting out the fire if he is still alive.)

So, uh to continue the thread: When is tags required on a pleasure boat's fire extinguiser?

I'd say make sure there is pressure on the gauge, then shake 'em frequently. Then double the number of bottles on the boat.

But never use a candle or wax-light on a boat. The rocking even at anchor could cause fatal damage.

I have used kerosene lights for anchor lanterns on by boats over the years, but only if folks are awake and present.
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Old 23-08-2007, 19:31   #13
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I'd say make sure there is pressure on the gauge, then shake 'em frequently. Then double the number of bottles on the boat.
Works for me. There are requirements and then there are the the things worth doing. My boat requires 2 but I have 4.
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Old 23-08-2007, 19:40   #14
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CSY, did you have the good toys back then? I've seen some nice "scorpion tails" in action. They extend up and over the truck, lancing through the side of a plane, and then discharging a huge water curtain from a "superfog" type nozzle on the inside, that discharges to all sides as well.

Incredible immediate knockdown, beats all hell out of trying to have manual penetration into a hull or fuselauge.

Still, considering what Dick Tracy was predicting 40 years ago...seems like there haven't been many other advances in firefighting equipment.
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