What Are We Smoking?
Man on a Mission
By Ben Ellison
Capt. John McDevitt (right) spent a number of years in the fire service. He is an active yacht captain, safe-boating enthusiast, and a man on a mission. This article evolved from an essay he volunteered to PMY. Frankly, at first I was quite leery about burdening boaters with yet another safety regulation and more mandated equipment. But as the convincing McDevitt and I worked through several edits, I came around. I, too, now think that smoke alarms should be as normal onboard equipment as fire extinguishers, and I installed one on my own little cruiser this summer.
I also learned that McDevitt has not simply written persuasively on the subject. He is a member of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and, in fact, the person who proposed an alarm requirement to that organization’s subcommittee on watercraft. This is a lengthy process that’s cost McDevitt many days when he might have otherwise been driving big yachts (a profession he quite enjoys). It culminated in May, when the Association held its national meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, and voted on new standards. Certain marine organization representatives—who perhaps brought the same general regulatory misgivings I did to the subject—were opposed to the new alarm requirement. But McDevitt apparently made an influential pitch, and it passed by a wide margin, including the vote of the Coast Guard representative. This means that the many insurance companies and surveyors who follow NFPA standards will now be on the lookout for and recommending smoke alarms. And McDevitt is not done; he’s regularly lobbying Underwriters Laboratories to establish a standard for marine alarms and the National Marine Manufacturers Association and American Boat and Yacht Council to mandate their use. Hats off to Cap’n John!
This article originally appeared in the August 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.