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  1. #1
    Cadet
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    Default Fire extinguisher safety: expiration date rules?

    This is more a safety question, but I can't seem to post in that forum, so I'll post it here:

    I was putting together my safety kit today for my new-to-me boat, and after spending $100+ for 4 flares a PVC flag and one kids PFD, the guy at the marine store pointed out that even though I already have a fire extinguisher on the boat, it might be old and if it is expired I could get fined if stopped by the Coast Guard and that I should check for a date on the thing. I looked it over carefully and there is no expiration date per se, nor does it have one of those tags that many extinguishers have with a "tested on" date. There is the number 07 stamped on the bottom of the thing. It reads in the green on the charge gauge.

    Am I in compliance, or am I risking a fine? Can I take the thing to the fire dept of somewhere else to get them to verify it and put one of those "inspected date" tags on it?

  2. #2
    Master Chief Petty Officer
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety: expiration date rules?

    There is no expiration, as such, if it has a gauge. Green is good, red is not. And as far as the Fire Department 'inspecting' yours, they know how to read tags and gauges, but aren't usually certified to 'inspect' extinguishers for functionality ...

  3. #3
    Supreme Mariner roscoe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety: expiration date rules?

    Sounds like you have a small disposable extinguisher.

    07 stamping indicates it was manufactured in 2007.
    It is good for 10 years.
    This is printed on the box it comes in.

    Don't know if that means thru 2016 or thru 2017.




  4. #4
    Senior Chief Petty Officer
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    Default Fire extinguisher safety

    This is actually a very good topic that folks should address more often. (Yeah, I know...safety isn't cool or fun) I think portable extinguishers on a boat should have a maximum service life of 5 years! Many don't realize this, but dry chemical compounds can settle or compact themselves over long periods of time, thus rendering discharge inadequate or non-existent. The manufacturer recommends shaking the bottle occasionally to prevent "caking" of the dry chemical for a reason. I think a great way to do this is when you inspect your unit once a month, (you do, don't you?) smack the bottom of it several times with a rubber mallet. I personally think you cannot have enough fire fighting equipment on board. Portables have a VERY short discharge duration, and flareups can occur leaving you standing there with an empty bottle in hand, wishing you had "just one more". I have three on board each boat, and they are larger than the USCG requirements. I also replace them every two years. It may sound like overkill, but KNOWING I have a near brand new extinguisher on board every season just makes sense to me. For what is spent on gasoline alone each month, a boat owner can certainly afford to buy new extinguishers more than once every decade. Seriously. "I can't afford a new one" you say? Burn 5 gallons less gas a year and problem solved! And there is a side benefit to replacing extinguishers more often. Donate your old units to a local (preferably volunteer) fire dept. They will use them when giving demonstrations at schools or community events to educate people on their proper use. If you don't want to do that, show YOUR kids how to operate one. Just understand the nature of the mess they leave to minimize cleanup. One last thing. If your boat did not come from the factory with one, and you have the financial means to spring for it, get an engine compartment automatic fire suppression system. Yes, they are extremely pricey, but they still cost less than an engine or the whole boat...AND may reduce your insurance premiums too! Sorry for the long post about fire extinguisher safety. I am not an expert, but having two best friends as firefighters compels me to speak up.

  5. #5
    Captain JoLin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety

    Quote Originally Posted by Silly Seville View Post
    This is actually a very good topic that folks should address more often. (Yeah, I know...safety isn't cool or fun) I think portable extinguishers on a boat should have a maximum service life of 5 years! Many don't realize this, but dry chemical compounds can settle or compact themselves over long periods of time, thus rendering discharge inadequate or non-existent. The manufacturer recommends shaking the bottle occasionally to prevent "caking" of the dry chemical for a reason.
    Whether or not the contents have settled, and the reading on the gauge, dictates the condition of the extinguisher, not its age. I agree with most of what you wrote, but IMO the '5 years' comment is arbitrary. I'd probably replace in approximately that timeframe, too, but I don't think there's any logical reason to do so. What do your firefighter friends say about it? I'm curious.

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  6. #6
    Petty Officer 1st Class
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety

    I am a safety advisor on a large industrial construction site. I work closely with our emergency response team. Mine and their take is this:

    A fire extinguisher is a pressurized container, as with all pressurized containers they must be visually inspected by a certified agency at least once a year and pressure tested at a maximum of every five years. This not an arbitary number it is NFPA regulations. By doing this we do a few things. We make sure that there is no chance the extinguisher will rupture due to corrosion or damage. We ensure that the contents are not settled and caked or compacted. We can all feel better knowing we are protecting our investments and most of all our family.

  7. #7
    Moderator Bondo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety

    Ayuh,.... I've got an antique extinguisher on my boat, which is 1 of 3 aboard...
    A few years ago, the CG boarded for an inspection...
    At that time, I was told, so long as the gauge says it's Good,...

    It's Good...
    Any Grease is Better,..... Than No Grease at All.......

  8. #8
    Rear Admiral Fireman431's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety

    Some of the information given here is correct, some is not. Take it from a 25 year career fireman.

    When you purchase a fire extinguisher at whatever place, you're responsibility does not end there. The next step is to take it to a fire extinguisher (certified) company and have them do a visual inspection on it and tag it. Usually they will just invert it, smack the bottom with a rubber mallet to free up any caking, check the nozzle to make sure it's clear, and check the pressure gauge. This is a required annual inspection. The fire department does not do this (although in some areas, they have certified personnel tha can/will). There is no 5 year pressure test requirement of a small portable Dry Chemical extinguisher, but they are required on the larger (20 lb) CO2 and Dry Chem fixed extinguishing systems.

    The CG inspections are valuable, but there some interpretation left up to the inspector. Your boat length and design (outboard, I/O, cuddy, bowrider, etc) dictates what size and quantity of extinguishers to carry aboard. I always recommend 1 more than the requirement. Not necessarily for you, but if you run across someone else who needs it, you can give one away and still be safe yourself.
    2001 Carver Voyager 374 'Stick's Competition'

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  9. #9
    Petty Officer 1st Class
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety

    Thanks for the clarification Fireman. We have the 20lb and larger here on our site. That's why we do the 5 year certifications.

  10. #10
    Commander Thalasso's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety

    NewfieDan is correct in what he says. Look on the bottom of your fire extinguisher and there should be a date stamped on it. This will give you an expiration date as to when your extinguisher should be tested.I don't buy those Kiddie ones. I go right to the people who sell the big ones.(5lbs) It is usally cheaper to buy a new one rather then get it tested. I just keep the out of date one as a extra,just like you do with the out of date flares.Some of the extinguishers are not even serviceable.

  11. #11
    Rear Admiral Fireman431's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety

    Quote Originally Posted by Thalasso View Post
    NewfieDan is correct in what he says. Look on the bottom of your fire extinguisher and there should be a date stamped on it. This will give you an expiration date as to when your extinguisher should be tested.
    There may also be a date stamped into the steel near the neck of the cylinder. This is the hydrostatic testing date for the cylinder. Steel cylinders are every 5 years, aluminum every 3.
    2001 Carver Voyager 374 'Stick's Competition'

    Something tells me I should be on the water....

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  12. #12
    Supreme Mariner roscoe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety

    Quote Originally Posted by Thalasso View Post
    NewfieDan is correct in what he says. Look on the bottom of your fire extinguisher and there should be a date stamped on it. This will give you an expiration date as to when your extinguisher should be tested.I don't buy those Kiddie ones. I go right to the people who sell the big ones.(5lbs) It is usally cheaper to buy a new one rather then get it tested. I just keep the out of date one as a extra,just like you do with the out of date flares.Some of the extinguishers are not even serviceable.

    Date on the bottom is the year of manufacture.

    I have 2 large extinguishers at the house, have them inspected and recharged.

    But no one around here will inspect the disposable ones. They just point you to the stack of new ones.




  13. #13
    Captain sasto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety

    What size boat do you have mickms. This will play a role in what type you need and if an inspection is required. Most USCG approved hand helds don't necessairly expire, but they do run out of manufacturer's warranty after 10 years.
    "Andrea C"

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  14. #14
    Chief Petty Officer Woodnaut's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety

    I remove the fire extinguisher on my boat, invert it, and bump it around a bit with a rubber mallet every year. This year, however, I knew that it was 11 years old and I really didn't feel comfortable about the age even though the gauge still indicated "Good". I wondered if it would actually discharge properly if I need it. Since I had already made my mind up to replace it, I decided to test it. It worked exactly as it should have.

  15. #15
    Petty Officer 2nd Class
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    Cool Re: Fire extinguisher safety: expiration date rules?

    I had one go into the red recently and just for grins before I tossed it out, I pulled the pin and shot it off. It just fizzled a second or two and a small burst of powder came out. I sure am glad I didn't need it for a fire! On the other hand, I lit off an out of date (3 yrs) flare and it burned just like a new one.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety

    Quote Originally Posted by JoLin View Post
    I agree with most of what you wrote, but IMO the '5 years' comment is arbitrary. I'd probably replace in approximately that timeframe, too, but I don't think there's any logical reason to do so. What do your firefighter friends say about it? I'm curious.
    My friends advised me based on their personal opinions as influenced by their professions...they weren't offering me a "firefighters guide to extinguisher use" -just their personal preferences. Analogous to how a car mechanic can advise you how HE would rebuild an engine if it were his money, time and safety invested, but his employer isn't sanctioning his advice. I simply adopted the protocols that they use for protecting their personal property. I have bought and sold several boats and RV's over the years and attended many farm auctions and flea markets where these antique extinguishers abound! The 1-20 pound portables (read non-commercial) are NOTORIOUS for caking and not discharging. I have tried firing over a dozen dry chemical (salt) units that were in the 6 to 23 year old range, and my non-scientific findings were what led me to the "arbitrary" number of a suggested five year replacement interval. I am not a representative of any company profiting from the sale or service of fire extinguishers. I don't install them in my boats because "it's the law." I do it because I deserve the opportunity to exercise as much control over a potentially lethal situation as I can, before I am forced to flee. And that, my iboats friends, is all I'm trying to impress on you about this issue.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety

    As a coastie and former boarding officer, as long as it's charged and the correct size for the boat (i.e. B1/BII etc) depending on boat length and closed engine/fuel compt you're in compliance. What you should do is see the local CG AUX flotilla and schedule a CME. It's free, non-enforcement related and educational to boot. If you pass, you get a sticker that makes your next CG boarding enjoyable and short. If you don't pass, no big deal, but you get a lot of education from our CG AUX partners on the water.

    CWO Joel Moore

  18. #18
    Seaman Apprentice
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety

    Also, the FE needs to be readily accesible and in a serviceable condition. Both are judgment calls. If the Extinguisher is charged, but rusted to hell and doesn't appear to be cared for properly, it's probably not "serviceable" and could be a show stopper for the day if boarded.

  19. #19
    Lieutenant Junior Grade 90stingray's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety

    No one has mentioned this yet so I will... most all extinguishers have labels that state the weight. That would be an allowable range of the bottle and agent. So if you weigh it, it must be within the range to be good. At work, we send outfire bottles all the time to get recharged that are still in the green, but under weight. And yes, to be certified they need to be hydrostatically tested 3-5 years depending on bottle material type.
    Toy - 2001 Glastron GX185, 4.3 Alpha One
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  20. #20

    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety: expiration date rules?

    Yes the 07 or any two digit number stamped on the bottom is the manufacture year. last I heard any extinguisher made before 1984 are " expired" the extinguishers need to be serviced every 6 years and hydro-tested every 12 for standard ABC dry chem. extinguishers. They do need a yearly check which other than checking the guage and exterior condition means inverting it and giving a few gentle wacks with a RUBBER mallet. Most fire protection companies that do extinguishers will be glad to look at it for you.

  21. #21
    Master Chief Petty Officer
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety: expiration date rules?

    learned a couple things from this thread. Thanks
    My two mistresses. Yes, my wife knows. She's ok with that.



    2003 3500 Cummins | 1979 Carver Montego 2357 | 260 Mercruiser pre Alpha | 2006 Nissan 15hp kicker | Free boat, now I'm broke

  22. #22
    Admiral dingbat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety: expiration date rules?

    My boat is CG inspected every spring. Gauge in the red passes, but they will warn when the contents are compacted as determined by shaking.
    If your goal is to pass inspection your good with gauge in the red. If your goal is to actually put a fire, then replace on a regular basis.

    Old flares get used to start the burn pile. Old fire extinguishers get used in the equipment shed

  23. #23
    Moderator Bondo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety: expiration date rules?

    October 9th, 2011
    Ayuh,....
    Any Grease is Better,..... Than No Grease at All.......

  24. #24
    Petty Officer 3rd Class Gyrene's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety

    Quote Originally Posted by jmoore73 View Post
    What you should do is see the local CG AUX flotilla and schedule a CME.

    CWO Joel Moore
    What is a CME? I'm guessing the E is for "evaluation" - but C? M?

  25. #25
    Petty Officer 1st Class
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    Default Re: Fire extinguisher safety: expiration date rules?

    Having read all the comments on this thread, there appear to be a lot of 'mixed messages' from posters who are expressing an opinion from another situation, other than the marine situation that is the point in question.
    My view would be that it is a boat. You must satisfy the requirements of the regulatory body (Coast Guard) for your Boat. it is not a building, and thus you do not need to meet any requirements that a local fire department may have for building/construction codes. This is where the mixed massages are coming from.
    We all want to be safe on a boat and we all want to meet the legal requirements for our boats. These are ste by the CG and that is the end of it , as far as I am concerned. If you wish to enhance the level of fire protection on your boat above and beyond what the CG stipulate, then it is your prerogative.
    Just my 5 cents worth

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