Fire fighting offshore is different than fire fighting inland. The former requires different strategies because the environment is just not the same, even though the circumstances during which fire accidents can start off are basically similar. Accidents usually happen when the ship is quite far from the coast, and in these instances, help is usually difficult to summon. Of course, it is imperative that all ocean vessels be equipped with marine flame and fire extinguisher equipment. But it is really not adequate to have such equipment. Having people or trained personnel who know how to put them in use once the need arises is more important, for these devices would render futile with nobody trained to use them properly.
Most accidents happen because of negligence and irresponsibility. Authorized personnel aboard the ship should initiate making rounds to inspect all the sections of the ship. Everybody on board should not ignore the importance of constantly being alert to ensure everybody else’s safety, as well as the safety of the entire vessel afloat.
Fire is one of the most frequent maritime disasters and it occurs as a result of many factors. Fire is classified into four classes. The first one is due to combustible matter like wood and paper. This class can be put out using water. However, other kinds of fire caused by other factors cannot be easily put out by water-based extinguishers. Flammable fluids cause Class B fire. Kerosene, oil and LPG may fuel fire that cannot be put out by simple application of water. Water fog may extinguish the flames by removing heat. Foam extinguishers may starve the fire of oxygen. Steam may be used in a few cases. Electrical equipment causes Class C fire which is killed using carbon dioxide based fire extinguishing equipment. Accidental exposure of reactive metals like sodium and magnesium can cause rapid evolution of heat that causes fire. While water fog is effective for magnesium fire, dry chemical extinguishers put out sodium induced fire.
Note that proper storage of chemicals and flammable fluids is imperative in fire prevention. As earlier implied it is not enough to install fire safety devices. Preventive efforts must be instilled.
On board personnel can put out minor fire accident using portable and installed equipment. However, immediate measures such as calling for external help and assistance and informing nearby ships.
Fire fighting operations on a ship is tough. A team will have to run up and down narrow stairways and corridors. In some cases, when fire originates from the lower interior of the ship, the fire brigade will have to deal with spreading heat and stifling smoke while going down. Hence, wearing of self contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) is important to avoid suffocation and imminent death from inhalation of toxic fumes and gases.
Medical help should be at hand, and transportation of everyone on board, injured or not, should be considered if fire impends to spread uncontrollably. Severe cases of fire disaster should prompt immediate evacuation of all crew and passengers. Only trained and professional firefighters should remain on board. This is gravely important. Some people may want to get back to their cabins in the hope of going back for important belongings. They must not be allowed to enter the hazardous zone.
Damage control is another essential task to preserve the integrity of the ship. The importance of inspecting the watertight property of the ship is basic in the maintenance of its stability. When the fires have been put out, the next few tasks are tedious, including checking the extent of damage and having the ship go through rehabilitation.
Fire prevention on ships should be carried out and observed by all units. The cost of negligence can be tremendous, but an ounce of prevention can save lives.
Furthermore, fire fighting is tough and should only be done by trained personnel with the appropriate fire fighting equipment.