Hereford & Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (HWFRS) has thrown its support behind the national Fire Kills Campaign’s Boat Fire Safety Week. As the boating season dawns, the fire service urges all mariners to acquaint themselves with the risks and safety measures outlined in the Boat Safety Scheme.

Boat fires, though infrequent in the service area, possess the potential for catastrophic outcomes, says Emma Roberts, HWFRS Head of Prevention. Therefore, the importance of having working smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) alarms onboard cannot be overstated. Furthermore, maintaining the ability to provide a precise location while on board can expedite assistance during emergencies, given the complex nature of access to rivers and canals.

Moreover, the silent killer, CO, is a highly toxic poison that results from incomplete or inefficient burning of any carbon-based fuel. Its insidious nature means it cannot be heard, seen, felt, tasted or smelt. Factors contributing to CO accumulation on a boat range from faulty appliances and exhaust fumes from engines or generators, to escaped flue gases from solid fuel stoves and inadequate ventilation.

Historically, CO poisoning incidents among boaters have been mainly due to solid fuel stoves and engine or generator exhaust gases. Thus, regular testing of alarms, battery replacement as needed, and ensuring they remain operational are vital for safety on board.

As a key protective measure against boat fires, fire prevention is paramount. However, the presence of a working smoke alarm becomes the second line of defence, particularly for those who sleep aboard. Breathing in smoke from a boat fire could lead to unconsciousness within two to three breaths, simulating the effects of drowning. A working smoke alarm can provide an early warning and precious seconds to escape.

The Boat Safety Scheme provides a comprehensive set of requirements for boats to meet before they can be granted a navigation licence, further promoting 'safety best practice' measures. For further information about general boat fire and CO safety, visit