Smoke - The Silent Killer

Fact Sheet 1 - Smoke the Silent Killer    

The Danger

To date 27 people have died in fires in 2003 in Ireland*. Tragically most of these deaths could have been prevented if a working smoke alarm had been present in the home.  

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.  

Believe it or not the lethal danger posed by smoke can be turned into a lifesaver by installing a smoke alarm. Smoke alarms are the first line of defence against fire and international research indicates that a working smoke alarm reduces the risk of death in a fire by nearly 50%. It gives time to act before smoke and fumes can build up to life threatening levels. 

Smoke Alarms – Install and Test

The average smoke alarm costs around €12, a small price to pay for peace of mind.   When buying a smoke alarm ensure that it conforms to one of the following standards

  • Irish Standard IS 409 of 1998
  • British Standard BS 5446 (Part 1 and have the British Standard Kitemark)  

Some smoke alarms now on the market come with a ten year battery (lithium battery). These alarms are designed to be replaced as a whole unit thus avoiding the need for battery replacement. They cost a little extra but are well worth it.  

Two smoke alarms, properly located on the ceiling, should suit the average home. Larger homes will require more. In houses of more than one story in height install a smoke alarm on each level.  

Position smoke alarms where they can be clearly heard from key positions in your home e.g. from behind the closed door of a bedroom. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the positioning of smoke alarms.  

If smoke alarms are already installed in the home they should be tested, once per week, to ensure they are in good working order. All smoke alarms have a test button which should be used to check that they are operational. 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. 

Keep them clean. Dust and debris can interfere with their operation, so vacuum over and around your smoke alarm regularly.
If your smoke alarm starts making a ‘chirping’ noise, replace the batteries and reset it.

Ensure that everyone in the household is familiar with the sound of the smoke alarm and has practiced and perfected the evacuation drill.  

A regular smoke alarm unit (excluding the battery) should last approximately five to eight years, after which it should be replaced. Like most electrical devices, smoke alarms wear out.  

Finally, if your smoke alarm sounds never assume it’s a false alarm! – always act immediately. Better to be safe than sorry.   *Provisional figures, 23/9/03    

For further information please contact Fire Department Leitrim County Council Tel: 071 9650402

  • EU Sturctural Fund
  • European Union