Fire prevention is always the best protection from a fire on-board your narrowboat. However a smoke detector / alarm can be your life saver if the unthinkable happens on your narrow boat.

Narrow boats have plenty of heating options, from multi-fuel stoves to diesel central heating
A smoke detector / alarm can be a life saver on a narrowboat
A roaring fire on a narrow boat

Fire & Smoke Alarms… What Do You Need To Know?

The fitting of smoke detectors or alarms on a narrowboat is a no-brainer, if you’ll excuse the term!

Fire can be broadly classified into two types:

  • Flaming fires
  • Slow burning smouldering fires

Just to confuse matters,there are three basic types of detector:

  • Ionisation: Lowest cost. Sentivive to small particles produced by flaming fires (chip pans etc). Marginally less sensitive to slow burning, smokey fires.
  • Optical (also called Photoelectric cell): Effective at detecting large particles produced by slow burning fires. They are marginally less sensitive for flaming fires. These will often have a ‘hush’ button to temporarily silence a false alarm and ‘sealed for life’ batteries. Optical alarms are less prone to false alarms caused by cooking fumes.
  • Combined: Most expensive. Does what it says on the tin.

All types of alarms are available as battery operated units. If the unit uses replacable batteries, these should be tested regularly and replaced every 12 months. Better still are ‘sealed for life’ battery alarms which often will have a life span of 10 years before the complete unit is replaced. However, due to the damp atmosphere on boats the alarms may need replacing for often than every 10 years.  Advance units are available with test buttons and flashing strobe lights to alert the hard of hearing.

Every few months, open the case and remove dust from the fire and smoke alarm, including any cobwebs and spider poo from the sensors!

Where to fit smoke alarms:

  • Placement on narrow boat is important because of the nature of the design of the cabin sides.
  • Where possible the best position is about 10cm down from the cabin roof on a side wall. The unit should be placed a suitable distance, but close enough, from the galley to avoid false alarms.
  • Halfway between saloon and bedroom is appropriate.
  • Ideally no area of the boat should be further than 5m from an alarm therefore multiple alarms may be required.

Where not to fit an alarm:

  • In the galley or bathroom where accidental alarms are more likely
  • Too close to a cooker, heater or fire which will cause false alarms
  • Where you can’t hear it when asleep

Fire & Smoke Detectors

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