With the change in SOLAS regulations covering communications in the event of an emergency or fire, clear and reliable radio contact is essential

In one incident in 2016, fire on two multi-million pound yachts in Abu Dhabi Marina Yacht Club spread, eventually destroying six further vessels. Fire risk on yachts is very real.

As you’ll know the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) regulations set down minimum standards for protecting against risks, including fire. In late 2016, the SOLAS regulations concerning fire radios changed. This makes it important to review your equipment and procedures to ensure you are still in compliance.

The change to the SOLAS regulations
The new rule states that ships built from 1 July 2014 must have a minimum of two portable two-way radiotelephone apparatus for fire-fighter communication for every fire party. They must be explosion proof or intrinsically safe. Older ships must comply by their first survey after 1 July 2018. Therefore, now is very much the time to act on this if you have not done so already.

With the regulatory spotlight shining brightly on fire radios, the developers at Channel28 undertook some primary research into what the optimum fire radio would look like. We spent time with crews in potential fire situations and discovered or confirmed the following:
• Radios on their own cannot be heard with a mask and helmet on
• The crews need to get ready quickly, so ease of fitting is important
• It gets hot inside a fire suit and the crew members sweat – especially fighting a fire
• Dealing with a fire onboard a ship is a stressful situation!

Looking at the existing market, there were a number of microphone solutions such as bone conduction and throat mics with inhelmet speakers. But these need to be in exactly research, we observed that these are hard to position, and they rarely stay in place for long when firefighting.

We also worked with the crews to understand how the radio comms operate. It became clear that the fire teams need to focus on the job in hand and not the general comms around the yacht.

Overcoming these fire radio challenges
Armed with this information, our technicians went about devising the optimum radio equipment for firefighting which complied with the new regulations.

The research led us to incorporating the audio within the breathing apparatus mask. We now supply Draeger or Scott in-mask comms. Normally this requires an upgrade to the mask or a new mask with the comms fitted. But the advantage of this is that once the mask is fitted, the earpiece and microphone are ready to use.

Typically, the breathing apparatus mask is stored with the breathing apparatus kit, and the radio sits on charge. So with our new solution, deployment is as simple as:
• Clipping the radio on the belt
• Clipping the large push-to-talk button on the front of the clothing. This is easy to press with gloved hands or the back of the fire hose
• Plugging the mask cable to the large push-to-talk button

And what about the issue of the fire teams being distracted by the general comms of the ship? We advise setting up the on-scene commander with two radios – one to communicate with the bridge and crew, and the other to speak with the fire team.

Then you are ready to go!

Channel 28 was formed in 2012 by two experienced engineers to develop well-engineered products for the marine sector, in particular, superyachts. Blending physical and digital innovation, we are experts in communications technology. Our flagship product cComm is a platform that provides secure crew communications, alarm and monitoring interfaces, and tender and jet ski tracking.

For more information about fire radios and our other products, or to discuss an engineering project you would like to commission, call +44 (0)1306 257 250
or email [email protected]