A kill cord is a coiled red lanyard fitted with a quick release mechanism. When used correctly, a kill cord will stop a boats engine if the driver becomes dislodged from the helm position.
Proper use of the device can prevent serious incidents and even fatalities.
Kill cords contain a quick-release fitting at one end and a clip at the other. When in use, the quick-release fitting is attached to the console and the clip is attached to the driver.
Your kill cord should always be clipped back onto itself. It should not be clipped back onto an item of clothing or attached to any other location.
Typically, it will be fastened around the driver’s knee and clip back onto itself. A kill cord must be worn by the driver whenever the engine is running.
Should you for any reason not wish to attach the kill cord around your leg, attach it securely to your personal buoyancy. In either case it should not foul the steering or gear controls.
The cord is coiled in its design so that it can expand and allow for natural movement whilst helming a boat. Should the driver move away or be thrown from the helm position, the kill cord will detach from the console causing the engine to stop.
Detaching the kill cord also allows the crew or passengers to stop the engine if the driver is incapacitated or unconscious at the helm.
In most instances a boat will not start without a kill cord in place. Therefore, a second kill cord should always be kept onboard to re-start a boat if both the driver and their cord fall overboard.
Kill cords intentionally prevent a driver from moving away from their normal operating position. Because of this, it can be tempting to use a kill cord that is longer than the item provided by the manufacturer of the engine. However, longer kill cords are not as taut as shorter ones, taking longer to react in emergency situations.
If you need to leave the command position, or change driver, always turn the engine off. The engine should only be re-started when the kill cord has been secured to a new driver.
Always test your kill cord at the start of each day or session. Do this by starting the engine and pulling the kill cord to make sure it cuts the engine.
Kill cords should be protected from the elements. Over time, extremes in temperature and UV light will harm the lanyard. Kill cords may become stretched or brittle if stored open to the elements.
Monitor your kill cord for signs of wear, rust, and reduced elasticity. Make sure to replace it in good time before returning to the water.
When replacing kill cords, purchase a good quality lanyard with a strengthening cord through the middle. Most chandlers will stock kill cords to suit common engines, but if in doubt visit the RYA shop.
As an alternative to the traditional red lanyard, wireless kill cords are also available. This type of kill cord will stop the engine when a personal device on the helm's person, is out of range from a sensor. Always research and seek advice on the suitability of an alternative kill cord device for your engine before use.
Think! Wear Your Kill Cord stickers are available at request from the RYA.
Download and print a kill cord poster to put up in your club.