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Smoke detection and alarms

What should I buy?

Building regulations require that all new houses be fitted with mains powered smoke detectors (and preferably mains powered with battery backup). There should be suitably located and interconnected detectors in all circulation areas that form part of the escape route and in all rooms or areas, such as kitchens and living rooms, that present a high fire risk. Heat detectors should be provided in kitchens.

This is also the preferred option for existing dwellings but at the very least battery powered smoke alarms should be installed.

How many should I get?

It is recommended that in a two-storey house that one detector is located in the ground floor hallway and a second detector is located at ceiling level in the landing area. Ensure that the detectors are located so that they are accessible for testing and battery change. In a bungalow the detector should be located between the living rooms and the bedrooms. Extra detectors may be required for larger dwellings.

What standard should I look for?

You should only buy units that conform to one of the following standards:

* Irish standard IS409:1988
* British Standard BS5446:Part 1
* American Standard ANSI UL 217
* (or other equivalent standard)

Where should I locate the detectors?

Detectors should be mounted on the ceiling towards the centre of the area. They should not be located too close to extractors or light fittings and should be kept away from the junction of walls and ceiling. Make sure that you can hear your smoke alarm when the doors of your bedrooms are closed.

How often should I test the alarm?

Most smoke alarms have a test button and this should be pressed once a week to ensure that the alarm is working.

How long do batteries last?

Batteries will last at least a year and long life batteries will last a number of years. Most alarms will emit an intermittent beep for up to a week when the battery is low. Change the battery immediately. Remember to check your alarms as soon as you return from holidays.

Will I get a lot of false alarms?

These alarms are very reliable and will rarely give false alarms. Never assume that when your alarm operates that it is a false alarm. Always investigate, it may save your life. It may be an incipient fire that your nose has not yet detected. Sometimes alarms located close to the kitchen will pick up smoke from a burning grill or from burning toast. (Well, after all, that is what it is meant to do)

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