Cruise ship fire alarms

I wanted to make this topic to discuss what kind of fire alarm systems are on cruise ships, if there are any at all.

I’ve been on many cruises and each ship was equipped with either a Consilium system or an Autronica system. In most cases, the ships’ public address speakers are used to broadcast the alarm tones (seven short blasts followed by one long blast for general alarm; one long blast for abandon ship), but some ships use bells or sounders (or a combination of speakers and bells/sounders) for signalling. Certain ships are also equipped with strobes in the common areas. Call points and smoke detectors are typically installed throughout the ships’ public areas; staterooms normally have smoke detectors with sounder bases, while outdoor areas are sometimes protected by heat detectors.

Keep in mind that this post reflects my experiences with large, newer cruise ships that are operated by major cruise lines (Holland America, Carnival, Celebrity, and Princess). Smaller ships, ships that were built prior to the 2000s, and ships that weren’t built in Europe (each ship I’ve been on was built by either Fincantieri, Kvaerner-Masa, or les Chantiers de l’Atlantique) may have setups that differ from what I’ve described in this post.

Here are a few examples of fire alarm devices I’ve seen on cruise ships:

Autronica smoke detector

Roshni sounder (quite loud!)

Moflash strobe

Consilium smoke/heat detector with sounder base

Consilium heat detector

Autronica call point

Autronica call point (newer model)

It is not just cruise ships. Our Simplex office inspected and serviced F/A systems on a number of Mississippi River towboats.

I know a colleague (in the sense of a friend who happens to collect also alarms) which had discarded ionization Concilium/Salwico smoke detectors in his collection, they looked more like thermal probes with explosion-proof/ATEX-compilent backboxes than actual smoke detectors

Here’s some pictures of the older Salwico smoke detector (not my pictures):

This one has been visibly painted. The whole unit is normally white:
2nd variation, note the different tag on top of the chamber cover:

The connector seems to be nonstandard and proprietary to Salwico, I guess it is safe to assume that should you have one of these that you need to replace because it’s leaking or is damaged, you’ll have to replace the system as a whole in the process (since these are no longer manufactured and that I have no idea if there’s a optical equivalent):

Also, there was this weird Concilium Ion smoke detector, this one was rather vicious as it shared the same apparence of the Concilium HC100 heat detector (so it’s quite easy to confuse them until you remove them from their base to see if it sports the radioactive trefoil logo or not). (I don’t have any pictures of it, and the attachment keeps discarding my files if I add one more for some obscure reason)

I will admit I have always wondered this. If there is any fire on the ship, what would be the procedure in order to keep everybody safe? Honestly I’m pretty sure that they couldn’t evacuate since they are OUT AT SEA so I was just curious.

Before the start of every cruise, a muster drill is conducted. During these drills, the general alarm sounds, and all crew members and passengers are required to report to their muster stations. Once all passengers have reached their stations, crew members explain and demonstrate various emergency procedures (how to put on a lifejacket, what to do if the ship must be abandoned). Cruise ships also conduct many crew-only emergency drills, including specific drills for the ships’ firefighting teams.

From what I’ve gathered, in case of a fire that threatens the safety of the ship’s occupants (due to a risk of smoke inhalation, for instance), the captain may sound the general emergency alarm, requiring everyone to report to their assigned muster station while crew members try to get the fire/smoke under control. Most muster stations are located on the lifeboat deck (right by the lifeboats); however, certain muster stations can be located inside the ship (in the main theatre or in a certain lounge, for instance).

The video below shows what it’s like when the general alarm sounds during a real fire. The ship in this video appears to use a mix of sounders, strobes, and a tone being broadcast over the public address speakers. I’m not sure what’s going on with the alarm signal in this video, however, since it’s supposed to consist of seven short blasts followed by one long blast (the tones don’t seem to be properly synchronized in this case). Note that the person filming is mistaken by saying that this alarm is for “abandon ship”; this is the general alarm signal, simply requiring people to report to their muster stations.


The next video shows what it’s like when passengers make their way to their muster stations. In this video, the general alarm signal can also be heard (bells and public address system). The man yelling “1, 3 and 5 that way!” at 0:33 is referring to the muster stations. In this case, it appears that the uploader’s muster station was located in the ship’s theatre. The crew can be seen preparing the lifeboats for launching, but I don’t believe the boats ended up being necessary in this case.


Should a complete evacuation of the ship be required (extremely rare) due to the severity of the situation, the captain would sound the “abandon ship” signal, which consists of a single long blast on the ship’s alarm signals and horn. The passengers and crew would already be at their muster stations at this point and they would now start to board the lifeboats. This is what the alarm signal would sound like and this is what the evacuation would look like (footage from a crew-only drill).

I’m far from being an expert on these procedures, so if I’ve made a mistake in this post, please feel free to correct it! This information is based solely on what I’ve gathered from going on a few cruises and participating in muster drills. I have no idea how these emergency procedures would work on other types of ships. Also, none of the videos posted above belong to me.

Well you certainly know more than me. I didn’t know any of that. I also thought that the ship had a fire alarm system like in a building. I guess I was wrong there. Don’t worry though about if you don’t know if the procedures are accurate. When I was younger, I thought if there was a fire on a ship that EVERYBODY had to abandon it regardless of how containable it was/ When I say “younger”, I mean like when I was in 7th or 8th grade. How pathetic is that?

Well, hey! I’ll be going on a cruise in a few weeks, so I can try to figure out anything from the boat I’ll be sailing on. It’s likely we’ll have a muster drill before we depart so I might be able to record the event along with a few sounders if I come by any.

In my past cruise ship experiences, they’re all mostly bells located outside of the ship and PA speakers on board. I don’t know if there are any sounders in particular but there might be a few.

I guess they could also use 12-volt horn strobes / detectors without a panel.

You are correct. The abandon-ship Signal is characterized as one long blast on the ship’s horn and other alerting devices, and may only be sounded by the captain. Similarly, the general emergency alarm may also be only sounded by the captain.

It is the responsibility of all guests and crew members to be thoroughly familiarized with emergency procedures, which is why SOLAS (Safety of Life At Sea) requires these drills. They were mandated after the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912.

The captain is not allowed under penalty of international law to abandon ship until all passengers and crew have evacuated, and they have to be prepared to “go down with the ship” if necessary.

Recall when the Costa Concordia sank some years ago. The captain left the ship and abandoned the passengers and crew onboard while the ship sank. Because of the manner in which the ship sank, half of the lifeboats became unusable. The captain was immediately arrested when he and fellow officers reached the shore, and ultimately 32 people died. The captain is in prison on manslaughter charges among others now.

Cruise ships have tons of safety features, including special fire escape stairwells and ladders to climb up to another deck hidden in wall panels, etc. Of course they’re not really hidden; they just go unnoticed.

When I was on the Disney Fantasy in April 2017, a crew drill was conducted in port and the signal was sounded. I got a video of it; still have yet to post it though. I also got the General Emergency Alarm sounding for the muster drill which is required before we left Port Canaveral in Cape Canaveral, FL.

Then I hope you can post it soon! I would really like to see what the drill would be like.

Well then today’s your lucky day!

I posted the video as unlisted since it’s so short and doesn’t really deserve to be a public video since it’s not the type of content I typically post.

This was conducted during a crew emergency drill which happened on March 28, 2017 while we were in port in Tortola, British Virgin Islands in the Caribbean.

They sounded the signals twice, each about 45 minutes apart. The first activation was the general emergency alarm (which I was unable to get on video), and the second activation (the one in the video) is the abandon-ship Signal. You may be able to hear the ship’s horn do the long bast as well if you listen closely.

They did make an announcement that they were sounding the alarm for the crew drill and that we didn’t have to go anything and that it was only a test.

Signaling devices were Potter Select-a-Speaker Strobes, multi-candela. Not sure why they do this high pitched sine wave (you’d think another tone doing the same Signal would be more effective than a long beep), but they do.

If there was a fire onboard, no signals would sound unless the captain deemed it necessary to activate the general emergency alarm to signal guests and crew members to proceed to their muster stations at once.

On cruise ships, if there is a fire and either a manual call point or smoke detector was triggered, it would trigger an alarm in the bridge (where the captain is) and would give the location of where the fire was on the ship or where the manual call point was tripped. Crew members specially trained to fight fires would then be dispatched to that location to put out the fire.

The ship used an Autotronica fire alarm system which Autronica smokes and call points. There were also fire doors on magnets and most of the typical stuff you’d find on an FA system.

Here’s the video:


So ships do have actual horns that they use in the case of emergency? I was curious about that a bit when I heard that they do safety drills. From the previous posts, it sounded like they use the ship’s horn itself and not any fire alarm.

Yes. The most notable one is the ship’s horn they use to signal to other ships and people.

It’s usually a combination of the ship’s horn, lighting devices, sounders, bells, and tones played over the speaker; the ships horn can’t be heard from inside the cabins or staterooms.

But also they use traditional fire alarm horns?

One thing to note about big cruise ships is that most of them are registered in other countries due to excessive taxation and regulations in the US. As a result, the ship’s fixtures and equipment usually mirror those of their home country. If the ship is registered in Europe, for example, the ship’s equipment will run at European voltages (230 volts I believe) at 50 hz.

Because of this, the alarm systems usually will consist of European sounders and call points because that’s the standard at their home port. So to answer your question, they don’t use the same horns that we use here in the US (at least from what I’ve seen so far).

I am not an expert on the matter, so someone more qualified feel free to step in. Take all of this with a grain of salt.

OK yeah. Now I see. Thanks for telling me. That does make a lot of sense!

The choice of fixtures and equipment is probably influenced by the country in which a ship was built rather than by the country in which it is registered. I’ve heard that most cruise ships operated by major lines are built at European shipyards, with Italy’s Fincantieri being perhaps the most important of these shipbuilders. The ports of registry, on the other hand, vary quite a bit and don’t appear to have much of an influence on the choice of equipment.

Speaking of voltages, the label on the Moflash strobe featured in one of the photos I posted earlier in this thread shows that this particular device runs on 230VAC, as you mentioned. This leads me to believe that the strobes (at least on this particular ship) are not powered by the fire alarm system but rather by a separate power source.

That being said, I’m surprised to see Potter Select-A-Strobes in the video posted by firefreak57. I just checked, and it appears that the ship in question was built in Germany; I’m therefore not sure why North American strobes would have been installed in a ship built in Europe (synchronization capabilities, perhaps?).

That was the reason why I had asked. That video with the Select-a-Horn/Strobes. I thought that if American signals could be used on a ship, then some other ships would also have them.

That ship had an Autronica system on it. They have an interface at the bridge that will tell them where a fire has originated if one occurs and they then dispatch the ship’s firefighting crew. The captain will also deploy automatic firefighting measures onboard.

All of Disney’s ships have these devices on them.

I’ve taken a Royal Carribean Cruise in the past but it was a long time ago so I can’t remember what was on it.

These were actually Potter Speaker Strobes, as the same alarm tone was played on outdoor alarm speakers (not Potter speakers but specifically designed outdoor ship speakers as well as over the ship’s horn.

I have a clip of the General Emergency Signal as well. I was only able to tape the floor as we were instructed to put away all electronic devices and pay attention to the drill. However, I did observe the Strobes and speakers sounding inside.

The reason I have concluded that these are Potter Speaker Strobes is because that sine wave tone is not standard on their alarms and is also played over speakers outside the ship.

They also had Yodalarm (German Fire Alarm) sounders and Roshni flashi sounder/Strobes in the kitchen areas for a fire suppression system.