Fire safety is not just a good idea, it is written into law and in the case of landlords in particular, there are quite a few things to know. Likewise, as a tenant or a homeowner, you should have a firm grasp on the dos and don’ts of smoke detectors.
Smoke alarms are devices that alert the occupants of a home to the presence of smoke, and as the saying goes, where there is smoke there is fire (or a the very least potential for one). Its sole purpose is to save lives in the event of a fire by hopefully providing critical moments for escape.
There are three main types of smoke alarms that are in general use in Australia:
There are also more specific types of fire alarms that are sensitive for specific situations and can be installed in certain areas of the home where the above alarms wouldn’t be ideal. For example:
Depending on your situation, you may want to consider installing different types of alarms in different locations to maximise the sensitivity of the alarms triggering for the right reasons at the right time.
In most cases, photoelectric alarms are the installation of choice for a compliant level of fire safety.
Ultimately, there really shouldn’t be a cost on the safety of any person dwelling in a home in modern Australia, which is why there is legislation governing the importance of having them installed. The fact is though, that the cost is on the home-owner or landlord to provide for the legislation by ensuring that functioning smoke alarms are installed.
If you have a budget that can incorporate the cost of a fire safety consultant to inspect your home and provide you with a fire safety plan that includes the installation of all the alarms you need in all the places you need them, you should get the coverage you need. However, this is not something everyone can afford and if you have moved into a smaller home than you likely don’t really need many and the places to put them maybe fairly logical. It is recommended though, to install more than one alarm so you can have a backup alarm in the event of one malfunctioning.
Fire alarms are available to purchase in most supermarkets, hardware and department stores, as well as from specialist fire equipment outlets. If you are handy or know someone good with the tools, you can buy them yourself and install them. Or you can hire a “handy-person” to quote putting them in at a more reasonable cost.
You can generally find ionisation alarms for under $15, photelectric alarms can range between around $18 and $30 and a lithium battery WiFi alarm can cost around $30 for a basic device and up to around $60 if it has an escape light. Costs go upward from there the fancier the device and the more features and whether you require professional installation by an electrician.
(*Costs quoted here should only be used as a guide and can vary.)
Hiring a fire safety inspector to test the alarms on a property is one sure way to know that all the boxes are ticked for the legislation in the state you live. They can check the alarms are installed in the best locations in the home, test their efficiency and install new ones if required.
Otherwise, you should test your alarms once every six-months and make sure there are spare batteries on hand should you need to change them when the beeping starts.
Legislation governs the installation of smoke alarms all over Australia but it is important to note that there are differences state to state and see some examples for popular cities below.
Brisbane / Queensland
Smoke alarms compliance falls under the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 and states that all residential dwellings require smoke alarms to be installed and maintained.Owners and landlords are allowed to maintain their own alarms.
More information here.
Sydney / New South Wales
The legislation for compliance of fire alarms in NSW is governed by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Smoke Alarms) Regulation 2006 and the Residential Tenancies Act 2010. For properties where people sleep, it is the responsibility of the property owner to ensure that alarms are installed, tested and maintained. Owners and landlords are allowed to maintain their own alarms.More information here.
Melbourne / Victoria
The Building Regulations 2006 dictates smoke alarm compliance in Victoria and is governed by the Victorian Building Authority. The legislation states thatresidential buildings have working smoke alarms installed in locations that are deemed compliant as set out in the Building Code of Australia.More information here.
When you settle into your new home, take a moment to look at all the alarms that should by law already be installed and give them a test and a check. If there aren’t any it is now your responsibility to get them. This should be the first reference point in your fire safety plan (more about fire safety plans here). It might only take a few minutes but thinking about escape routes for you and your family and guests might just be the few minutes that helps saves lives.
(Disclaimer: The above information is to help as a guide only, please double check your requirements by law for your local area to ensure you meet the standards required).
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