Marine Firefighting Inc.


Newsletter # 30
Please do not reprint in any form without the permission of the author.


Vessel Fire Plans

By Tom Guldner (FDNY ret.) President, Marine Firefighting Inc.

Note: Text in italics from the ISO 17631 Ships and marine technology - Shipboard plans for fire protection

In one of my previous articles entitled, "Shipboard Basics" I mentioned that one of the first things a firefighter should do when boarding a ship for a fire or emergency is to secure a copy of the vessel's Fire Plan. In that article I indicated that this Fire Plan could be found in tubes or watertight containers on each side of the main deck where you normally board the ship. This plan is vital to any fire operation as it illustrates the construction, firefighting, and safety features found aboard that particular ship. It is an invaluable tool for any Incident Commander as well as any Firefighting team who may be tasked with, "going below" at a ship fire.

At first glance these plans can be intimidating to the non-mariner. Numbers and icons are covering the layout of each deck. It is less confusing if you realize that the plans have a "Legend" printed right on the page which explains what each of the icons represent. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) dictates how each icon is to be drawn so there is a common legend on each plan.

On the left is a sample legend. There are many more icons that can be found on a ship's plan but lets just look at the few depicted here. The icons listed will be found on the drawing of the ship's deck which will also appear on the same page. As mentioned the icon may be for firefighting, escape, ship construction features, and several other categories. This legend lists firefighting appliances and features which might aid the firefighting effort.

Once you see an icon in a specific location on the ship's plan you can consult this legend to find out what that icon represents. These same icons should also appear painted on the vessel near the item it represents.

Some icons may be simple such as the one on the right. It a fire hose station similar to what you might find in a commercial occupancy or a hi-rise building. The "W" indicates that is supplied by water. That is also why there is a GREEN band at the bottom. The rules for this icon state, " Indicate the hose length at the right side of the symbol; (where only one type of hose is used, the information can be shown in the legend). Extinguishing media should be colour-coded in the lower part of the symbol and indicated by a letter on top of the symbol as follows: yellow - F for foam, white - P for powder, green - W for water.

That same color coding can be found on other icons. Many firefighting appliances aboard will be color coded to indicate just what firefighting media is used by that appliance. Another example of this is the fire monitor which is pictured on the left. This is the icon you would see on the ship's fire plan. In this case the YELLOW color at the bottom indicates that this is a FOAM monitor. The added letter "F" re-enforces that this monitor is in fact a foam monitor.

If it had the letter "P" we would expect the bottom color to be WHITE and these would indicate that we were looking at a monitor being supplied with a POWDER firefighting media. These are found on Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) ships and other special hazard vessels.

OK, those were fairly simple. How about this one on the right? No, it does not indicate the female showers. It does indicate a " Space or group of spaces protected by fire extinguishing system." This description goes on to state that the icon should, "Indicate type of extinguishing media (CO2 for carbon dioxide, F for foam, H for gas other than CO2 (type of gas to be indicated), P for powder, W for water, S for sprinkler or high pressure water extinguishing system) and capacity (kg for gas and powder, litres for water and foam) at the top of the symbol. Add suffix "L" for fixed local application fire fighting system. Media should be colour-coded in the symbol as follows: grey for carbon dioxide, yellow for foam, brown for gas other than CO2, white for powder, green for water, orange for sprinkler or high pressure water extinguishing system.

So we know by both the YELLOW colour and the letter, "F" that this is a FOAM extinguishing system.

There are many more icons for firefighting but lets take a look at some of the structural icons which might appear on the Ships Fire Plan and might also be of interest to a firefighter.

The red bar on the left indicates a "Class A Division". Class "A" refers to the fire rating. An "A" rating would mean a 1-hour division. These may be horizontal or vertical. Main Vertical Zones will be bounded on all sides by these bars which may be vertical or horizontal.

Another Class "A" rated structural member icon is pictured on the right. This indicates a door in a Class "A Division".

A second Class "A" door icon is on the left. It is very similar to the previous one with one very important exception. The thick black arrow marks this door as a "self closing" door. If you found the letters "WT" to the right of this icon that would further indicate that it is a "Water Tight Self Closing Class "A" Door.

Staying with doors for a moment, the icon on the right indicates a Class "A" Sliding fire door.

Just as in the previous door if we add an arrow to the icon we would have a Self Closing Class "A" Sliding fire door like the icon on the left. Also once again, if we add the letters WT to the right side of this icon the door also becomes Water Tight.

A fire damper (photo right) may be found in an air duct. As before, much information can be gleaned by the colours and letters on the icon. Colour of the circle and a letter at the right side of the symbol should indicate as follows: A = blue for accommodation and service spaces; M = green for machinery spaces; C = yellow for cargo spaces. There may also be an Identification number of the damper which may be shown at the bottom of the symbol.

A ventalation flap in a watertight bulkhed or door might need to be closed in the event of a ship fire. Such flaps are indicated on the ship's fire plan with the icon shown in the photo on the left.....

Closing device for ventilation inlet or outlet. Colour of the circle and a letter at the right side of the symbol should indicate as follows: A = blue for accommodation and service spaces; M = green for machinery spaces; C = yellow for cargo spaces. Identification number of the closing device may be shown at the bottom of the symbol.

There are many of these symbols but don't worry, you don't have to memorize them. They will all be explained at the edge of the fire plan page. When you see an icon you don't understand just consult the legend.

Oh, by the way, there is even a fire plan icon to indicate the location of a copy of the fire plan. This one should not be too confusing. This icon (photo left) should also appear on the wall next to the fire plan or on a box containing the fire plan. If you board a ship and see this symbol with an arrow on one side or the other of the red bar it indicates the direction to the actual fire plan.

View these fire plans to discover other important information found on these valuable tools for marine firefighters. Much of this information can be used to set up fire boundaries, staging areas, areas of refuge, escape routes, or to discharge fixed firefighting systems, to monitor and control flooding, and the list goes on.

Whenever you get the opportunity to get your hands on a copy of a ship's plan use it to set up a fire plan. Also us it at drills to instruct others. For a drill you can choose a location for the fire. Now, you and/or your firefighters should locate all fire doors that will isolate and contain the fire. You should also pick your best route and, more importantly, at least 2-ways out. Use the icons and the legend to locate all of these items and point them out to the hose teams, search and rescue teams, as well as the F.A.S.T. or RIT teams who may have to rescue your Firefighters should the case arise.

Try to get copies of ship plans for all vessels that regularly visit your port or pass your jurisdiction. Sometimes, if the ship will be at dock for several days you can borrow a copy and bring it to a copying store that handles large pages. You can then return the original to the ship. Now if you respond to a fire on that ship you do not have to try to locate the fire plan. You will already have it.

Until next time, stay safe.

Why not let Marine Firefighting Inc set up your own Marine Firefighting training. For firefighting on ships or boats of all sizes we can design a program to meet your Fire Department or Marine Company's needs.

Tom Guldner is a retired Lieutenant of the New York City Fire Department's Marine Division. Tom held a US Coast Guard License as a Ships Master and is certified as a Fire instructor both within New York State and Nationally in the USA.

He is currently a participating member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) Fishing Vessel Operations and Safety panel and also their Small Working Vessel Operations and Safety panel. Tom is also a Principal Member of the NFPA Technical Committee on Merchant Vessels. His articles on Marine Firefighting have been published both nationally and internationally. Tom's company Marine Firefighting Inc. is involved in consulting and training mariners and land-based firefighters in all aspects of marine firefighting. E-mail Tom at

Please leave you comments about this article (Good or Bad) in my Guest Book. Or give me your comments about any future topics you would like to see. If you prefer, you can e-mail me by clicking on the letter to the right.

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Previous Newsletters:

Newsletter # 1 "Marine Firefighting Training, Who needs it!"

Newsletter # 2 "Shipboard Basics"

Newsletter # 3 "Straight Stream Vs Fog Stream"

Newsletter #4 "Immigrants in Shipping Containers"

Newsletter #5 "Hazards of Refrigeration in the Shipping Industry"

Newsletter #6 "Stability at Shipboard Fires"

Newsletter #7 "2 in 2 out at Shipboard Fires"

Newsletter #8 "What Happened To the Air"

Newsletter #9 "What Else Can Fireboats Do - WTC Response"

Newsletter #10 "Port Security - Are We Missing the Boat"

Newsletter # 11 "Let the Coast Guard Handle It"

Newsletter # 12 "Marina Fires ... We've Gotcha Covered!"

Newsletter # 13 "Shipboard Security -- The shocking Truth"

Newsletter # 14 "Just Because It Hasn't Happened Yet!"

Newsletter # 15 "What's In Those Shipping Containers"

Newsletter # 16 "Some Problems at a Marina Fire"

Newsletter # 17 "Maneuvering Your Fireboat Near Large Ships"

Newsletter # 18 "Something New at Ship Fires - Auto Exposure

Newsletter # 19 Liquid Natural Gas (LNG)

Newsletter # 20 Use Caution at Tow Boat and Barge Fires

Newsletter # 21 Cruise Ships as Floating Hotels?

Newsletter # 22 Is Your Crew Ready for a Fire?

Newsletter # 23 Deep Fryers and Vessel Fires

Newsletter # 24 Fighting Ship Fires for the Army?

Newsletter # 25 I'm a Mariner; I Know All About Watertight Doors!

Newsletter # 26 How High's the Water Mama

Newsletter # 27 LNG Where You Least Expect It

Newsletter # 28 Not Another Drill!

Newsletter # 29 LNG for the First Responder