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Control measure

Safe access and egress: Fires on board vessels

Control measure knowledge

Once on board the vessel, access and egress for firefighting operations are likely to pose significant challenges. Once the location of the fire has been identified, it is important to determine the best route for firefighters, bearing in mind the difficulties of handling hose lines or other equipment in enclosed spaces. Good practice is to have a second point of egress where possible.

The vessel's crew and on-board firefighting teams may be able to advise or guide teams on the most suitable route to a scene of operations. Using the vessel's plan in consultation with the vessel's personnel will also aid decision making on possible access and egress routes. Selecting the most suitable access points to different parts of the vessel is not always straightforward. Crews should take approaching the fire from the deck above and/or below into consideration.

As access for firefighting teams may be complicated, maintaining good access and egress is critically important for the safety of firefighting teams. Firefighters should note that it may be necessary to wedge heavy doors open to avoid hose lines being cut and retreat avenues being obstructed. Watertight doors need to be managed appropriately, and in conjunction with the vessel's crew, by controlling them locally through hydraulic pumping or operating them remotely, from the vessel's bridge. Wherever possible firefighters should establish manual control of watertight doors locally where personnel are working.

Current and predicted tidal information may affect firefighting access and egress via ladders, gangways, pontoons and craft due to rise and fall of the casualty vessel whilst moored alongside. All access and egress points should be constantly monitored during fire service operations.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Make tidal information available via service control rooms

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Ensure there are alternative methods of emergency egress to a place of safety (e.g. off the vessel)

  • Consult the vessel's plans and liaise with the vessel's crew regarding safe access and egress routes
  • Identify and communicate safe, planned routes to the scene of operations
  • Ensure there are alternative methods of emergency egress
  • Communicate the emergency evacuation signal and muster point arrangements to all personnel
  • Consider the effect of rising and falling water level on access and egress arrangements
  • Consider the impact of the infrastructure on safe access and egress routes