While articles about boat safety equipment generally note that certain boats are required to have at least one fire extinguisher onboard, few get into the topic of where should fire extinguishers be stored on a boat. That may be because the answer varies with the type of boat. But the shortest possible answer to the question of where should fire extinguishers be stored on a boat is: where anyone onboard can quickly find and access them.
But before we delve further, here’s what the U.S. Coast Guard says in its published materials regarding boat fire extinguisher requirements: “U. S. Coast Guard-approved extinguishers required for boats are hand-portable, have either B-I or B-II classification, and must be provided with a mounting bracket. While not required, it is recommended that the extinguishers be mounted in a readily accessible location. Consider locations where the extinguisher can be reached easily; for example, at or near the steering station or in the galley or engine room, but away from locations where a fire may likely start.”
So here’s how to analyze that info. You don’t want the fire extinguisher near the engine or over the stove in a galley, for example, because you may not be able to get to it if a fire starts in those spots and spreads quickly. You do want it in an open location, preferably one where someone on your boat — especially a guest who might be unfamiliar with the boat — can readily see and access it. Always remember that you, as the operator, may know where you’ve put an extinguisher, but what if something happens to you and you can’t communicate that to a passenger? That’s why it should be located in a place where it is obvious to anyone doing a quick scan, perhaps in an emergency situation.
It’s also best if the fire extinguisher is mounted, because it will be secure and less likely to get damaged this way. Properly mounting the extinguisher on the bracket it came with is the best scenario; these can be opened quickly for immediate use.
It’s better to be upright, too, so it can not only be spotted but also inspected readily. And it’s preferable to have this mounting in an open area, such as the galley in a large boat with a kitchen, in the cockpit of a center console boat near the operator, and reasonably close to the gas tank.
On a final note, whenever you bring passengers onto your boat, before casting off, you should tell them where the various items of boat safety equipment, including the fire extinguisher, are located. You should also make sure your boat is registered before you leave.