Real Life Incident: Earth Fault Means Trouble
In the early evening hours, the fire alarm sounded showing an alarm on B deck. Smoke was also reported on the port side of B deck. The source was localized in a cabin and first attempts to extinguish it with portable extinguishers were inconclusive. Meantime, emergency teams were mustered. Crew donned suits and breathing apparatus (BA) sets to attack the fire, while boundary cooling was started from outside the cabin bulkhead. The fire was extinguished, but thick smoke was still prevalent.
Boundary cooling was continued for the next 30-45 minutes while bulkhead temperatures were continuously monitored. It was observed that the ceiling tube light in the cabin along with all fittings appeared to be the most severely burnt area, so was possibly the origin of the fire. Upon closer inspection, it was found that molten plastic from the ceiling light had probably ignited the chair and other objects below the light.
Further investigation found the alarm logs in the engine room had recorded a low insulation alarm 10 minutes before the fire had started. This earth fault was probably the first indicator of the light fixture deficiency that started the fire.
- Earth fault alarms should be investigated as they occur and the ship searched for any unusual activity.