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All vessels must now carry onboard a minimum of two two-way portable radio telephone apparatus for each team of firefighters. The radios must be certified for use in potentially explosive atmospheres and should otherwise be fit for purpose for crew wearing firefighter’s outfits.

The new SOLAS regulation II-2/10.4 requirement for the carriage of at least two two-way portable radio telephone apparatus for each fire party for firefighter's communication entered into force for newbuilds on 1 July 2014. For existing vessels, however, that is, vessels constructed on or after 1 July 2014, the requirement took effect on 1 July 2018 and all such vessels must now comply with the requirements not later than the first survey after this date.

SOLAS requires firefighters’ radios to be explosion proof or intrinsically safe. This means that the radios must be certified in accordance with relevant standards for equipment intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres - and be maintained as such. From a user point of view, it is also important to ensure that firefighters’ radios are “fit for purpose”, i.e. work within the environment of a fire scenario, have a sufficient operating range, and are designed for use by crew members wearing full firefighter suits with large gloves, helmets and breathing apparatus. Radios that can be fitted on helmets and used with breathing masks should therefore be considered.

The purpose of the new requirement is to enhance the protection of vessel and crew during potential fire incidents by providing a dedicated means of communication between a team of firefighters entering the space, and the crew member located outside the space who is assigned to control this team. Members and clients are therefore advised to take note of the above requirements and ensure that their vessels comply with the regulations before the next safety equipment survey.