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Smoke Alarms & Escape Plans Can Save Lives

Smoke Alarms & Escape Plans Can Save Lives

Smoke Alarms Guard You 24 Hours a Day!

Smoke alarms and their use in your home

Smoke alarms are the most effective early warning device available for the home. Since they were introduced to consumers in the 1970s, they have helped to reduce the home fire death rate by one half. Even though they are now widely popular, roughly 70% of home fire deaths result from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Fires can spread through a home rapidly, and in some cases, individuals may have as little as two minutes to escape to safety once the alarm sounds. Most fires happen at night when people are asleep.  Smoke, not heat or flames, causes the majority of fire deaths in Ireland and the smoke given off by some furnishing materials can kill very quickly.  Also, smoke does not wake people, it actually puts them into a deeper sleep. Meath County Council Fire Service encourages residents to ensure that their smoke alarms are working and to leave immediately when a smoke alarm sounds.

Residents are also advised to have a frequently practiced escape plan.

Here are some key tips on smoke alarm installation, maintenance and planning escape routes:

  • Install at least one smoke alarm on every level of the home and outside each separate sleeping area. Your sense of smell does not work when you are asleep.
  • Mount smoke alarms on ceilings or high walls.
  • A minimum of 2 smoke alarms, properly located (one on each floor) should suit most homes. For maximum protection, a smoke alarm should be fitted in every room, except the bathroom, kitchen and garage.
  • Check the smoke alarm once every week, by pressing the test button.
  • Replace batteries once a year or as soon as the device “chirps,” indicating that the battery is low.
  • Replace all smoke alarms after 10 years, even those that are hard-wired or smoke alarms with “long-life” (10-year) batteries.  Smoke alarms with “long-life” (10-year) batteries also need to be replaced when the alarm “chirps” or fails to respond to periodic testing. The batteries in these units cannot be replaced.
  • Alarms that are hard-wired to the home’s electrical system should be installed by a qualified electrician.
  • Vacuum the smoke alarms regularly and wipe the casing and slots as they can get clogged with dust which may prevent them from working properly. If you have a mains operated smoke alarm, ensure you switch off the smoke alarm at the mains before cleaning and remember to switch it on again.

Fire Escape Plan: What to do in the event of a fire

It is essential that a plan for quick safe evacuation has been practised regularly by all the family


  • Keep escape routes clear at all times.
  • Whether the fire has been discovered by you or your smoke alarm, stay calm and put your fire escape plan into action.
  • Check doors with the back of your hand; if they are warm it means the fire is on the other side, so do not open them. Only open doors you need to escape through.
  • If there is smoke, crawl along near to the floor where the air will be cleaner.
  • Raise the alarm. Shout to wake everyone up, and make your way out by the quickest route.
  • Do not investigate the fire.
  • Go to an assembly point outside the home, where all occupants should meet.
  • Once everyone is out of the house call the Fire Service at 999 or 112 from a call box, mobile phone or neighbour's house.
  • Do not go back in until the Fire Service tells you it is safe.

Buying a Smoke Alarm

Only buy a unit that conforms to current standards (identified on the alarm or box);

Not all units are the same. The rule is to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Smoke alarms are widely available and most are simple and convenient to fit. If in doubt, call a qualified electrician or consult the supplier.

Smoke alarms are only effective if they are in good working order.  They should be tested once every week.  Most units have a test button so that you can conveniently check that your alarm is operational.  It is important that you and the people you live with are familiar with the alarm signal.  If the alarm fails to sound, check the battery.  If this is not the problem, check the manufacturer’s instructions.  If in any doubt purchase a new alarm.

Remember! Regular Testing is Crucial! A False Alarm may not be False.

The information contained herewith should not be regarded as an interpretation of the law on the subject.