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Each year, boating fires and explosions injure hundreds of people and cause millions of dollars in property damage. While there is a greater chance for a fire or explosion on a boat than on land, most of these accidents can be prevented.

Most fires and explosions happen during and after fueling because of fuel and fuel vapors, two of the leading culprits in most boating accidents involving fires and explosions. To prevent an accident, be alert for damage to your boat's fuel system. Over time, fuel fittings and fuel hoses wear out. Inspect these regularly, especially near the engine where heat and vibration can accelerate deterioration. Refer to your owner's manual for guidance on inspecting for leaks in valves and connections.

Before casting off

  • Perform a "sniff test," sniffing to make sure there is no odor of gasoline anywhere in the boat. Usually your nose is the best fuel/vapor detector.
  • Operate the bilge power blower for at least four minutes before starting an inboard engine.
  • Make sure all passengers know the location of your fire extinguishers and how to operate them.
  • Never use a match or lighter to check fuel connections.

When refueling

  • Close all hatches, ports and other openings.
  • Shut off all engines and motors, electrical equipment, radios, stoves and other appliances.
  • Do not use cell phones during the refueling process because of the build up of static charges.
  • Extinguish all smoking materials!
  • Refuel portable tanks ashore in a well-ventilated area on the ground.
  • Gasoline in contact with skin can result in a chemical burn. Wash all skin exposed to gasoline thoroughly.

After refueling

  • Wipe up or wash off any excess or spilled fuel.
  • Open all hatches and ports and let the boat air out.
  • Donot start the engine until all traces of fuel vapors are eliminated.
Remember that gas on the water surface can still burn because of the vapors emitted.

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