Marina Fires – Reduce Risk, Minimize Damage
February 13, 2012
A recent survey asked marina operators what kept them up at night. A common response mixed with the stresses of managing the day to day operations was fire. The concern was elevated in the off-season with boats left unattended and heaters running, but the reality is, the risk of a fire is always present.
The question is what can you do to reduce the risk of fire at your marina?
To reduce your risk of fire you must place your focus on preventive maintenance and staff and boater education. You need to work towards building a community that understands the benefits associated with practicing routine maintenance and proper use of equipment and has a common goal of keeping the marina safe. The more eyes you can train to spot potential hazards the safer your facility will be.
The truly unfortunate side of fires in the home or the marina is that many are preventable. The simple truth is that with proper maintenance of electrical equipment many of the fires that cause millions of dollars in damage each year could be avoided.
- The best thing a marina can do in the area of maintenance is to adopt an electrical preventive maintenance program (EPMP). We covered the very basics of what should be included in an EPMP in an earlier post – we encourage you to take a look at it if you haven’t already https://www.bellingham-marine.com/?p=96
- In addition, a well trained staff is priceless. Make sure your staff knows the many hazards that can cause a fire and how to handle each.
- Beyond the marina’s reach of its own electrical system is that of the boats moored in its facility. Although as the marina manager you have little control over how your tenants maintain their vessels, you can take a number of steps to create an environment that values responsible maintenance. Holding boater classes or short seminars that focus on the “how to” of proper boat maintenance can go a long way. You may also decide to extend some of the activities /services covered in your EPMP to your tenants. The goal is to get your boaters involved in the process of checking their vessel’s electrical system to ensure it’s running in top shape.
So now you’ve done everything within your control to minimize your exposure to fire but at 1:15 in the morning you get that dreaded call, a fire has broken out at your marina. What are some things that will help minimize damage and the spread of fire in your marina?
- Select concrete docks or pontoons. Concrete does not conduct heat, while aluminum conducts heat well and will at the least anneal and lose its strength. Plastic or timber dock systems will burn and spread the fire to other parts of the marina. Concrete flotation is the best you can have in a fire. It provides the firefighters a safe stable platform from which to fight the fire and helps stop the fire from spreading.
- Invite your local fire department to run practice drills at your facility. Even with practice, it can take fire crew ten minutes or more to get 800 feet of supply hose and firefighting hose laid out and ready. An unpracticed crew could take much longer. The heat is intense, the smoke is black and the docks can feel narrow and crowded with equipment and personnel. Add this to an unfamiliar site and the challenges are multiplied.
- Train your staff in how to respond in whatever way is appropriate for your marina and location. The value of having proper safety equipment on site and a staff trained in how to use it can mean the difference between taking control of a potentially devastating situation and becoming the victim of the situation.
- Many remote marinas have purchased instant response units; these units can be a great option where the availability or effectiveness of a standpipe system counts it out as an option.
The most important thing is to have a comprehensive plan in place. It should address everything from what to do the moment a fire is identified to clean up and contacting tenants.
Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee that your marina will never fall victim to a fire but if you take the steps to minimize your risk and limit your exposure to damage you should be able to sleep better at night knowing you’ve done all that you can do and that your boaters are looking out for the well-being of the marina as well.