Safety reminder if you live on a boat or are planning a holiday on one

Tue 31 May, 2016

Firefighters and the Milton Keynes-based Boat Safety Scheme are joining forces to urge the boating community to be more aware of the risks of fire and the "silent killer" - carbon monoxide poisoning.

In the past 20 years, 30 boaters have been killed in boat fires in the UK and another 30 have lost their lives to carbon monoxide poisoning.

With more than 450,000 motorised boats in the UK, and a growth in boating on many waterways in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes, firefighters are urging the boating population - particularly people who live on their boats - to check that their boats are equipped with the correct safety equipment.

The Boat Safety Scheme - a public safety initiative owned by the Canal & River Trust and the Environment Agency - reports that the nation’s enthusiasm for boats and boating remains buoyant, with strong demand for residential berths on canals, rivers and tidal moorings.

Richard Priest, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s community safety team, said: “Boat fires can have devastating consequences when they break out. Boats are often in remote locations with difficult access, and this can result in firefighters taking longer to arrive at an incident, allowing a fire to destroy a boat and everything onboard.

“Even a moderate-sized boat can carry significant quantities of diesel, LPG and petrol. These fuels, combined with materials such as wood and glass-reinforced-plastic, and a number of sources of heat including engines, electrics and solid fuel stoves, pose a real risk.

“Our key messages are that you should fit suitable alarms, make an action plan so that you can escape in the event of a fire, understand the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and take extreme care when refuelling or changing gas cylinders.

"Last year, the most common causes of fires on boats were electrical fires, engine space fires and solid fuel stove fires. Records show that exhaust emissions from portable generators, and problems with solid fuel stoves and flue pipes, pose the biggest carbon monoxide risks.

“Owners should understand the risks, make regular, basic checks, and follow their engine and appliance operating guidelines.

"Our wish is to see smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms installed in all boats with overnight accommodation. Anyone in doubt about the alarms they need should contact us for a free boat safety check."

These checks offer boaters the opportunity to gain invaluable help and advice about how to identify potential problems, and what to do if fire should break out. You can book one by ringing 01296 744477 or emailing

For further information about fire and carbon monoxide safety afloat, please contact the Boat Safety Scheme on 0333 202 1000 or visit

Leaflets to download

Fire Safety on BoatsCarbon Monoxide Safety on Boats