Note: This post was originally published in January 2014. In light of the fire on October 3 in central Geneva that claimed the life of one person and left several others seriously injured, among other recent fires, we are re-posting today. 

After moving to Geneva, one of the first differences I noticed between home and here was the absence of smoke detectors and fire alarms in my building and other public spaces. In my home country, smoke detectors are required in residences, businesses, and public buildings; they’re so prevalent, it is easy to forget they are there – until an emergency.

In Geneva, fire extinguishers are mounted in the hallway outside my door and in other buildings I’ve been in, but there are no smoke alarms to be seen.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Where to purchase smoke detectors in Geneva: If you want to install them yourself, smoke detectors (détecteurs de fumée) are sold at many DIY shops in and around Geneva, such as Do It+Garden (at MParc-La Praille) and Jumbo (Meyrin).

Before installation, if you are renting your flat or house, be sure to check with your règie about whether you will be subject to penalty for any damage installation or use of a smoke detector may cause.

Why aren’t smoke detectors common in Geneva? There’s more than one answer to that question. For instance, the fire codes here do not mandate the installation or use of smoke alarms, especially in older buildings. Also, many structures are built of less flammable materials, such as concrete, steel, or stone, compared to buildings in some other parts of the world; this means fires are less likely to spread to other parts of a building.

Related: Read our previous post on Emergency Services in Geneva 

We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland.  If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/.

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