This section provides information on Fire safety and Prevention in the home for both home owners, land lords and tenants as well as for businesses. Topics such as smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, escape routes and fire safety registers are contained below.
On average 39 people die each year in FIRES in this country.
FIRES do not always happen to other people.
The next FIRE could be in YOUR HOME!
Always keep a spark guard in front of an open fire.
Use a secure fire guard when children are in the room.
Avoid banking fires too high.
If you have a chimney fire, call the Fire Brigade.
Keep portable heaters away from curtains and furniture.
Keep portable heaters away from draughts.
Never move a gas or oil heater when it is in use.
Never refill a hot oil heater.
Never use a portable heater for drying clothes.
Check flexes for signs of wear regularly and replace if necessary.
Don’t run flexes under carpets or rugs where they can be damaged.
Replace blown fuses with one of the correct rating.
Don’t overload sockets – one socket, one plug is a safe rule.
Get a qualified electrician to carry out repairs.
Follow the manufacturers instructions for electric blankets.
Use socket covers if there are children in the house.
Always keep gas cylinders upright and switch off at the regulator when not in use.
Have adequate ventilation in all rooms where gas heaters are used.
Check flexible hoses regularly for signs of wear and have them replaced.
Store gas cylinders in the open air.
If you suspect a leak, do not switch on lighting or any electrical appliance, ventilate the area, switch off the gas at source, contact your gas supplier.
Never hang cloths directly over cookers or hobs.
Turn pot handles inwards on the hob.
Do not wear loose sleeves while cooking.
Use a thermostatically controlled chip pan.
Never overfill a chip pan.
Never leave a chip pan unattended.
Use proper ashtrays on a firm base.
Last thing at night check that a smouldering cigarette has not fallen into seating or onto carpets.
Never, never, never smoke in bed.
Never leave children alone in the house
Use secure fire guards in front of open fires.
Never allow children to throw anything on an open fire.
Keep children clear of the cooker when you are using it.
Switch off and unplug appliances when not in use.
Use child proof socket covers.
Keep matches out of reach of children.
Last Thing at Night
Switch off and unplug all electrical equipment which is not designed for continuous use.
Put a spark guard in front of an open fire.
Ensure that all storage heaters are clear.
Check ashtrays and seating for smouldering cigarette ends.
Close all room doors
Advice to Building Owners & Occupiers
Section 18 of the Fire Services Act (1981 & 2003) allows for Fire Services to give advice (where appropriate) or make recommendations relating to a buildings fire safety arrangements. Such advice is sometimes given by Cork City Fire Department Officers although in general building owners get independent advice from competent professionals.
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). 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 for maximum protection one smoke alarm per room except the bathroom, kitchen and garage. Heat alarms may be considered where fumes from cooking or smoke from cigarettes or open fires could lead to unwanted alarm activations. At a minimum in a two-storey house one detector should be 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.
Testing and Maintenance
Smoke alarms require very little maintenance but to ensure it operates when needed:
Once a week test the smoke alarm by pushing and holding the test button until it activates.
Every 6 months vacuum and brush the casing to get rid of dust.
Every year change the battery.
Every 10 years replace the smoke alarm.
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).
Have an “Evacuation Plan” for you and your family in the event of a fire.
If a fire occurs in your home you may have to get out in dark and difficult conditions. This can be especially challenging if members of your family are very young, older or infirm. Escaping from a fire will be a lot easier if you have already planned your escape route and know where to go:
Involve everyone in the house, including visitors to your home.
Plan two escape routes to get out of the house.
The normal way out is the preferred choice.
Keep your escape route clear of obstructions.
Keep keys to doors and windows immediately available.
Protect your escape route by closing all doors into it, especially at night.
Practise using the agreed plan.
Close all doors behind you as you leave
Select a safe meeting place outside
Do not re-enter the house for any reason.
Make everyone aware of how to call the Fire Brigade.
Check a door for heat with the back of your hand before opening it.
If there is heat and smoke on the other side close it again immediately.
Crawl low in smoke, the air is clearer and cooler at floor level.
If you are unable to use the normal way out, consider alternative routes:
Make sure everyone is aware of these alternatives. If you discover a fire, or the smoke alarm sounds, you will only have a short time to get out. If possible:
Close the door of the room where the fire is
Get everyone out as quickly as possible and stay out
Telephone the fire service on 112 or 999 from a neighbour's house or mobile phone
Never go back into a house until the fire service says it is safe to do so
If you are cut off by fire, try to remain calm:
Close the door and use towels or sheets to block any gaps
Try to make your way to the window
If the room becomes smoky, crawl along the floor
Open the window and try to attract the attention of others
What is Carbon Monoxide (CO)
Carbon Monoxide (also known as CO) is a colourless, odourless poisonous gas and is a common yet preventable cause of death from poisoning worldwide. Approximately half of the deaths from unintentional CO poisonings result from the inhalation of smoke from fires. Other significant causes are vehicle exhausts and deaths in industrial / commercial settings. On average 2 people die each year in Ireland from unintentional CO poisoning in the home in incidents related to domestic heating or other fossil fuel installations in the home (i.e. excluding the inhalation of smoke from fires).
The incomplete combustion of organic fossil fuels such as oil, gas or coal is a common environmental source of CO and is responsible for many cases of non-fatal unintentional CO poisoning.
In normal conditions the combustion process (the addition of oxygen) will result in carbon in the fossil fuel, combining with oxygen, in the air, to produce Carbon Dioxide (CO2), the same substance we exhale when we breathe.
However, if there is a lack of air for the combustion process or the heating appliance is faulty, Carbon Monoxide can be produced.
When CO is inhaled into the body it combines with the blood, preventing it from absorbing oxygen. If a person is exposed to CO over a period, it can cause illness and even death.
Carbon Monoxide has no smell, taste or colour. This is why it is sometimes called the "Silent Killer".
Carbon Monoxide alarms can be used as a backup to provide a warning to householders in the event of a dangerous build up of CO. Check that the Carbon Monoxide alarm complies with the EN 50291 standard. Remember that Carbon Monoxide alarms are no substitute for regular inspection and maintenance of appliances, vents, flues and chimneys.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide poisoning
These can be similar to those caused by other illnesses such as a cold or flu. They include:
Unexplained headaches, chest pains or muscular weakness
Sickness, diarrhoea or stomach pains
Sudden dizziness when standing up
If anyone in your house has any of the symptoms outlined above get fresh air immediately, then go to your doctor as soon as possible and ask him/her to check for Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
If you find a person ill or unconscious near any fuel burning appliance, be careful in case you also become a casualty. Get fresh air immediately by opening windows and doors and seek urgent medical attention.
Stop using the appliance immediately and do not use it again until it has been checked by a registered installer or a qualified service agent.
Carbon Monoxide Alarm
Many different alarms are available but we recommend that the alarm;
Complies with European Standard EN 50291 - This should be marked on the box
Carries the CE Mark
Has an 'end of life' indicator - This indicator should not be confused with any 'fault' indicator
Carries an independent certification mark – For example a kite mark, this indicates that the alarm has been approved by an accredited testing and certification organisation.
One alarm may not be sufficient, if the appliances/flues are located in more than one room, then an alarm should be fitted in each of those rooms.
Always follow the alarm manufacturer's instructions and if any aspects are unclear, contact them directly for further guidance.
You should test the alarm regularly and replace it when it reaches the end of its life.
While Carbon Monoxide alarms may provide an extra measure of warning remember these are no substitute for regular inspection and maintenance of appliances, vents, flues and chimneys.
For further information and advice go to:
A fire safety strategy for a building is made up of three essential elements;
- Passive fire safety measures
- Active fire safety measures
- Management fire safety measures
For a building to function safely each of these elements must be adequately provided.
Passive fire safety measures
Passive fire safety measures are features which are built into the structure of the building and are physical features of the building. These features include the provision of escape routes and exits, the provision of fire resistance to the building structure and the provision of access to and around the building.
Active fire safety measures
Active fire precaution measures are systems which activate or are required to be activated in the event of an outbreak of fire. Active fire precaution measures would include fire detection and alarm systems, emergency lighting and fire fighting equipment. Fire safety management within a building must include a full appraisal of the active and passive fire safety measures within the building. All deficiencies in the fire safety measures should be noted and a programme of remedial works to upgrade the building to an acceptable standard should be put in place.
Management Fire Safety Measures
Management fire safety measures relate to the day to day management of fire safety in a building. There is a legal responsibility on persons having control over premises to take reasonable measures to prevent the occurrence of a fire and to protect the lives and safety of occupants in the event of fire. The active and passive fire safety measures outlined above could be completely negated unless the building occupants are aware of the significance of the measures, of their role with regard to prevention of fire and of the appropriate action to take in the event of fire. A fire safety programme must be established in a building in order to correctly manage fire safety and meet legal obligations. A person should be designated Fire Safety Manager with responsibility for drawing up, implementing and overseeing the fire safety programme. The Fire Safety Manager should be of adequate status within the organisation and should have authority to effectively discharge his/her responsibility. It should be noted at the outset that the elements of the fire safety programme are based on the assumption that active and passive fire safety measures are present within the establishment. In the absence of adequate active and passive fire safety measures within a building more stringent management fire safety measures will be required.
Fire Safety Programme
The main elements of a Fire Safety Programme are:
- Emergency procedures/evacuation drills;
- Regular fire safety inspections;
- Maintenance and servicing of fire equipment;
- Staff training;
- Information to occupants;
- Keeping of records;
- Emergency planning.
All occupants must be capable of responding correctly in the event of fire. Accordingly, a plan should be prepared outlining the procedures to be followed. This predetermined plan can be broken down into a number of sections:
- a procedure for raising the alarm;
- a procedure for calling the fire brigade;
- an evacuation procedure;
- an assembly point and roll call procedure;
- a procedure for fighting the fire;
- a procedure for assisting the fire brigade.
(i) A Procedure for Raising the Alarm:
Depending on the establishment size the fire alarm system may be very simple or may be sophisticated. All occupants should be aware of how to raise the alarm. The sound of the alarm should be different and distinct from any other signal used in the building.
(ii) A Procedure for Calling the Fire Brigade:
The Fire Brigade should be called immediately in the event of fire, however small. Where there is a receptionist or telephonist he/she is usually given the responsibility of contacting the Fire Brigade. When calling the Fire Brigade give clear information including:
Name and address of building, Eircode (if known), directions to the building if necessary
Type Of Fire Situation (If Available) –e.g. Fire Location, Fire Size, Materials Involved, Persons Missing.
(iii) An Evacuation Procedure:
Initiate the evacuation procedure once the fire alarm has been sounded. The evacuation procedure will depend on the building use e.g. the evacuation procedure for a hospital will be different from the procedure for a manufacturing facility or an office building
(iv) An Assembly Point and Roll Call Procedure:
Designate an assembly area (or areas) clear of the building. All building occupants should proceed to the assembly area on evacuation. The assembly area should be clear of access points for the Fire Brigade. At the assembly point a roll call should be taken to ensure all occupants are accounted for. Missing persons should be notified to the Fire Brigade when they arrive at the scene.
(v) A Procedure for Fighting the Fire:
In the early stages of a fire it may be possible to successfully contain it or extinguish it with first aid fire fighting equipment. To accomplish this staff members should be instructed in the use of hand held extinguishers and hose reels. Certain members of staff may be designated as a fire fighting team as part of the emergency procedures. Their function would be to assess and "if safe to do so" tackle the fire with the available equipment until the Fire Brigade arrive.
(vi) A Procedure for Assisting the Fire Brigade:
When the Fire Brigade arrive they need to be given as much information as possible in order to take the best course of action. The type of information required includes:
location of the fire; materials involved; details of missing persons; location of nearest fire hydrants; location of all access doors to the building. location of any special risks.
Keys for access into any locked areas.
Fire Evacuation Drills
Drills should be carried out at regular intervals to test the effectiveness of the predetermined arrangements. The aims of an fire evacuation drill are:
- To ensure safe, orderly and efficient evacuation of all occupants of the building.
- To use all exit facilities available in order that occupants are familiar with them.
- To test all aspects of the emergency procedures.
- To achieve an attitude of mind that reacts rationally when confronted with a fire or other emergency situation.
The frequency of drills will depend on the building use. Initially drills should be held at frequent intervals e.g. every two months until everyone is familiar with the procedures. Thereafter drills should be held at least twice yearly. The drill should be initiated by activating the fire alarm and all stages of the drill should be observed and a review of the drill should be held. Any deficiencies can then be noted and remedied. [Where the fire alarm system is connected to a remote monitoring centre this centre should be notified of the proposed drill]
Regular Fire Safety Inspections:
Regular inspections are required to ensure the continued functioning of the active and passive fire safety measures in a building and to detect dangerous practices. The following should be monitored by regular inspection.
Stairways and Exit Doors: Stairways and final exit doors must never be obstructed, and all exit doors must be capable of being opened easily and immediately from the inside while the building is occupied
Fire Resisting Doors: Fire doors are provided in a building in order to contain smoke and fire gases. Fire doors must be kept closed when not in use.
Rubbish and Combustible Waste: Rubbish and combustible waste including paper, cardboard, plastics and chemicals should not be allowed to accumulate in any area. Where large quantities of combustible waste are produced at the site it should be removed to an outdoor storage area or waste skip located away from the building.
Outdoor storage of combustible materials should be well clear of the building and other outdoor facilities e.g. transformers, bulk flammable liquid tanks etc. The material should be stored in well defined stacks with clear isles between them. The stacks should be located so as not to obstruct access for fire fighting. Where there is outdoor storage regard should be had to the security of the site against intruders.
Indoor storage of combustible materials should preferably be in designated storage areas. Storage should be arranged with clear isles between stacks at least one metre wide. Goods should be stacked clear of light fittings, heating pipes and appliances, and fire fighting equipment. Flammable liquids, gas cylinders, aerosols and materials liable to spontaneous combustion should be segregated from other storage. Detailed guidance is available on the storage of such materials.
Machinery and equipment should be checked regularly for signs of wear, damage or overheating. Faulty equipment should be removed from use until repaired.
Maintenance and Servicing of Fire Equipment:
Active fire precautions systems installed in the building require regular checking and maintenance to ensure their continued operation and availability. Visual checks are required for most types of systems on a frequent basis with full operational check by a trained person required once every year. Maintenance and servicing is required for:
Fire Alarm Systems. Emergency Lighting Systems. Fire Extinguisher Hose Reels. Fire Hydrants.
Reference should be made to the installation codes (Irish or British Standards) for full details of the required type and frequency of maintenance checks.
Staff Instruction and Training:
For a fire safety programme to be effective, staff must be familiar with the parts of the fire safety programme which relate to them. Comprehensive instruction and training should be given to staff to enable them to carry out their functions under the programme. All staff should receive instruction in everyday fire prevention measures and emergency procedures.
First aid fire fighting
All staff should receive a written copy of the emergency procedures and of the procedures for any other task that has been delegated to them in the event of fire. All staff should also receive some instruction in the use of first aid fire fighting equipment. Where a specific fire fighting team has been set up those who have been designated for the team will require further instruction and training with the fire fighting equipment.
Fire Safety Register:
The Fire Safety Manager who is responsible for the implementation and oversight of the fire safety programme should keep a Fire Safety Register as a complete record of all fire safety matters on the premises. The following information should be recorded in the register:-
the name of the Fire Safety Manager, and those nominated to deputise for him/her; the details of specific fire duties that have been assigned to staff; the details of instruction and training given to staff, and by whom; the date of each fire and evacuation drill and results of exercises held; the type, number and location of fire protection equipment in the premises, including water supplies, hydrants etc.; the date of each inspection of the building itself, its fittings and services and the actions taken to remedy any defects found; details of all fire incidents and false alarms that occur and the actions taken as a result.
The register will serve as a record and also as a checklist for the Fire Safety Manager to ensure that checks and training which are required are being carried out on an ongoing basis.
Fire may still occur in spite of good fire prevention procedures. Advance planning should be carried out to minimise the cost and disruption of a fire. While insurance will cover the material loss, loss of customers and suppliers and other consequential losses may ultimately cause the failure of the company. Damage control plans should address the procedures required before, during and after the fire.
Before the fire:
A damage control team consisting of the key personnel from the different departments within the organisation should be established. Their task would be to examine the consequences of possible incidents and to formulate a planned response to the incidents. A response team should be established whose task it is to carry out damage limitation work during and immediately after a fire. A list of outside agencies whose services could be required in the event of fire should be compiled and maintained. This list could include building contractors, plant hire companies, fire engineering firms, estate agents, insurance brokers etc.
The building itself should be examined and modified where necessary to mitigate the affects of a fire. Assuming active and passive fire precaution measures have been put in place, issues such as ventilation and drainage should be considered. All vulnerable stock should be stored clear of the floor in racking or on pallets.
During the fire:
Work to prevent any extension of fire/water damage should begin as early as possible. When the Fire Service are in attendance this work will be carried out at the discretion of the officer in charge at the fire. Work will primarily be aimed at preventing consequential water damage. Machinery and stock should be covered with plastic sheeting. Dams placed across doorways or at other areas will prevent water from flowing into unaffected areas. Drains which may become blocked with fire debris should be cleared.
Stock in danger from the fire may be moved from the area if safe to do so.
After the fire:
The level of work required after the fire will depend on the extent of damage and the following should be considered.
Temporary repairs to roofs and window openings should be carried out to make the building weather tight. Debris should be checked for any recoverable items and then cleared away. Water should be pumped from basements, pits and lift wells.
Machinery and equipment involved in a fire will deteriorate quickly even if they have not been directly wetted. Machinery should be cleaned, dried and coated with oil as early as possible. Contaminated electronic equipment should be cleaned as early as possible. Information is available on the cleaning of such equipment and some specialised firms may undertake this cleaning.
The guidance set out above should not be taken as a legal interpretation of the legislation applying to fire safety in any particular building type. It is offered as general guidance to those who are tasked with developing a fire safety programme in their organisation.
This section contains a list of codes and standards which address different building types. In will primarily be of use to building designers and building owners. This list is compiled as an aid to designers. The inclusion of any code or standard in the list should not be taken as an endorsement of that code for any particular project.
Technical Guidance Document B (1997 ) – Fire Safety.
Technical Guidance Document K (1997) – Stairways, Ladders, Ramps and Guards
Technical Guidance Document M (2000) – Access for People with Disabilities [corrections added in January 2001]
BS 5588 SERIES Fire precautions in the design, construction and use of buildings
Part 1: 1990 Code of practice for residential buildings
Part 4: 1978 Code of practice for smoke control in protected escape routes using pressurisation
Part 6: 1991 Code of practice for places of assembly
Part 8: 1988Code of practice for means of escape for disabled people
Part 9: 1989Code of practice for ventilation and air conditioning ductwork
Part 10 1991Code of practice for shopping complexes
Part 11 1997 Code of Practice for shops, offices, industrial, storage and other similar buildings
BS 5906: 1980 (1987)Code of practice for storage and on-site treatment of solid waste from buildings
BS 5502:Part 23:1990 Buildings and Structures for Agriculture Part 23 Code of Practice for Fire Precautions
BS 5839 Fire detection and alarm systems for buildings
Part 1: 1988 Code of practice for system design, installation and servicing
Part 6: 1995 Code of practice for the design and installation of fire detection and alarm systems in dwellings
Department of the Environment and Local Government
This series of guides is issued to assist persons in discharging their statutory fire safety responsibilities under the Fire Services Act 1981. These guides refer to existing Buildings in the uses specified.
Fire Safety in Guest Accommodation
Fire Safety in Pre-schools
Fire Safety in Flats
Fire Safety in Hostels
Fire Safety in Nursing Homes
Fire and the Design of Educational Buildings – Building Bulletin 7
Code of Practice for the Management of Fire Safety in Places of Assembly
Code of Practice for Fire Safety of Furnishings and Fittings in Places of Assembly
Both issues by the Department of the Environment
Code of Practice for Safety at Sports Grounds – Department of Education
Code of Practice for Safety at Outdoor Pop Concerts and other outdoor musical events – Department of Education
Code of Practice for Safety at Indoor Concerts – Department of the Environment and Local Government
National Standards Authority of Ireland
I.S. 3217 : 1989 Code of practice for emergency lighting
I.S. 3218: 1989 Fire Detection and Alarm Systems