Written Answers. - Fire Safety Regulations.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

101 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment if, in view of the fact that 18 children have died in fires in the past 16 months, he will make fire alarms compulsory in domestic dwellings; if he will extend the regulation governing furniture materials to the fixed furnishings in mobile homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

I would like to see a fire alarm such as a smoke detector in every home, including mobile homes and caravans. These devices provide an early warning of fire, and particularly where occupants are asleep, they can play a major role in saving lives and property.

However, I am firmly convinced that people should be encouraged to install fire alarms, rather than that an attempt should be made to make their provision compulsory. Responsibility for ensuring that a home is safe from fire rests with the householder. A householder who installs a smoke detector by choice is likely to be far more conscious of the value of fire safety than someone who installs one only because he is forced to do so. In my view, it is better to convince householders of the value of domestic fire alarms by advice and publicity.

On numerous occasions, I have publicly advocated the provision of smoke detectors as a valuable protection against death and injury by fire. A number of publicity campaigns to highlight the advantages of smoke detectors in homes have been run by the National Safety Council. The council has just produced a special leaflet entitled "Fire Safety for the Travelling Community" which contains detailed advice on particular aspects of fire safety in caravans, including the desirability of having a smoke alarm. The leaflet is being distributed with the assistance of local authority fire officers, social workers and other persons who work with the travelling community.

In November 1989, my Department wrote to all housing authorities reminding them of the need for adequate fire safety precautions in local authority houses. A schedule of fire safety measures designed to assist them in the planning of new housing schemes and, where applicable, in the planning of refurbishment work under the remedial works scheme, was also sent to them. The importance of smoke detector alarms was emphasised and local authorities were requested to take steps to encourage tenants to install and keep such devices in good working order. In addition, authorities were requested to advise their tenants on fire precaution measures applicable to the type of dwellings they occupy. Special guidelines have been issued to authorities in respect of demountable dwellings, including a recommendation that, for which dwellings, suitable smoke detectors should be provided. The question of requiring the provision of smoke alarms in new houses is being considered in the context of the making of building regulations.
I have no function in regard to the Industrial Research and Standards (Fire Safety) (Domestic Furniture) Order, 1988. However, I am informed that under the provisions of the order it is illegal to manufacture, assemble or sell furniture for domestic use unless it complies with specific flammability and labelling requirements. These requirements also apply to furniture that is ordinarily intended to be affixed to and to form part of a caravan.