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Fire Suppression Systems: Know how your systems work

It has to work!

By Brian Guck, Boston Station Safety Officer

Last week I had a technician from Firex in Portsmouth, RI come and service the fire suppression system on my motorboat, Ada Hall. I am very glad I had this service performed. I have never had a system like this on any boat I had previously owned and was not familiar with how it was designed to work.

My technician, Chris, found that the entire manual pull system on the FireBoy system in the engine room was inoperable with zip ties and a locking pin preventing the system from working. No matter how hard I might have tried to trigger the system, I would not have been able to. In addition, he found that the manual pull handle pulled right out of the bulkhead when you went to use it. After taking the refrigerator out so as to be able to reach the back of the pull, he was able to tighten the backing nut and restore it to functionality.

He went on to test the automatic shutdown mechanism. All good there. He also taught me how to override the automatic shutdown, if necessary, and how to reset the mechanism if used. Finally, he explained that one should wait at least twenty minutes after the system activates before opening the engine room.

This was a great education for someone who has always owned very simple sailboats.

This type of servicing is required for USCG inspected vessels but is optional for those of us who operate uninspected vessels.

Given the loss of Too Elusive this week to a major fire, it might behoove all of us to have our systems serviced if we have them and to generally pay attention to our firefighting systems even if they are only ABC extinguishers. And, possibly, to consider an automatic system for greater peace of mind.


The Cruising Club of America is a collection of accomplished ocean sailors having extensive boat handling, seamanship, and command experience honed over many years. “Safety Moments” are written by the Club’s Safety Officers from CCA Stations across North America and Bermuda, as well as CCA members at large. They are published by the CCA Safety and Seamanship Committee and are intended to advance seamanship and safety by highlighting new technologies, suggestions for safe operation and reports of maritime disasters around the world.