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Fire extinguisher safety: expiration date rules?

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  • 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
    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 ...

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    • #3
      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.
      Medford, WI

      Comment



      • #4
        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.

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        • #5
          Re: Fire extinguisher safety

          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.

          My .02
          John and Linda
          Long Island, NY
          Escapade III
          1992 Carver 26 Command Bridge
          Twin Merc Alpha 4.3 'Gen +'

          Comment



          • #6
            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.
            It's not just good, it's good enough...

            Owning a boat does not make you a boater

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            • #7
              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.......

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              • #8
                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'

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

                If I answer your upholstery questions, it's only because I've been doing it 20+ years...

                Comment



                • #9
                  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.
                  It's not just good, it's good enough...

                  Owning a boat does not make you a boater

                  Comment



                  • #10
                    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.
                    Assault Squadron NINE
                    River Assault Division NINETY-ONE-1966

                    Comment



                    • #11
                      Re: Fire extinguisher safety

                      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....

                      If I answer your upholstery questions, it's only because I've been doing it 20+ years...

                      Comment



                      • #12
                        Re: Fire extinguisher safety

                        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.
                        Medford, WI

                        Comment



                        • #13
                          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.
                          sigpic "Andrea C"

                          BOAT=Best Of All Times

                          "Everyday above ground is a good day"

                          Winterization=sneekers, jeans and a sweater.

                          Same Ship.....Different Day.

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                          • #14
                            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.
                            Construction Photos At:
                            http://forums.iboats.com/showthread.php?t=306152

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                            • #15
                              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.

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