The What Why and How of Smoke Alarms

In most states across Australia smoke alarms complying with Australian Standards must be fitted in all rental properties and in accordance with the Building Code of Australia (see below for the individual state requirements).
Fire and rescue emergency services across Australia are urging landlords to install the new photoelectric smoke alarm. The photoelectric smoke alarm could save more lives as the new technology detects slow burning and smouldering fires earlier than the ionization type of alarms.
If you’re not sure what type of smoke alarm you have look for a yellow and black radiation symbol, the new photoelectric smoke alarms look like any other alarm but do not have the radiation symbol.


The battery powered photoelectric smoke alarm can be purchased from any hardware store or electrical retailer, the price is comparable with the common ionisation alarms and can be installed by anyone it doesn’t have to be a licensed electrician unless of course your smoke alarm is wired in this case only a licensed electrician can replace your 240 volt smoke alarm and it must be replaced with a 240 volt smoke alarm. If your 240 volt smoke alarm is relatively new but not photoelectric, it’s a good idea to add a battery powered photoelectric smoke alarm beside your existing smoke alarm for better protection.

It is important for both tenants and property owners to know the regulations and requirements :
• At least one smoke alarm must be located between bedrooms and the most likely escape path on each level of every residential property.
• Smoke alarms have a limited life span of around 10 years.
• People’s sense of smell is drastically impaired while they sleep meaning smouldering fires may burn for some time with poisonous gases emitted that can kill a person before they are even aware of the danger.
• Smoke alarms should be tested monthly.

• The grille area of the smoke alarm should be cleaned every 6 months using a vacuum to remove dust or debris.
• A smoke alarm is required to emit a warning signal before the battery fails, usually a chirping sound.
• Batteries should be replaced at least once a year to ensure correct operation. It is recommended that you change your smoke alarm battery at the same time each year using a Birthday, Christmas or some other significant date to remind you.

• Landlords have the right of access to rented premises to fit smoke alarms after giving the tenant at least two days notice.
• Give your tenants the manufacturer’s instructions on how to clean, test and replace batteries for smoke alarms (In SA it is the landlord’s responsibility to clean, test & replace batteries unless otherwise stated in the Tenancy Agreement).
• Landlords are responsible for supplying the smoke alarm(s) and for their installation. You will also be required to install a new battery for each smoke alarm at the commencement of each new tenancy.
• Tenants are responsible for cleaning, testing and the replacement of batteries in battery powered smoke alarms (Except SA, Landlords are responsible unless otherwise stated in the Tenancy Agreement).
• The tenant is not responsible for the replacement of batteries in ‘hard-wired’ smoke alarm systems that have battery back-up. This is the responsibility of the landlord.
• At no time can a tenant remove or relocate the smoke alarm or do anything to interfere with the alarm’s warning sound.
• At no time can the tenant remove the batteries unless they are replacing them.
• At no time can the landlord remove or relocate the smoke alarm unless it is being replaced or maintained.
• At no time can the landlord do anything to interfere with the alarm’s warning sound.
• At no time can the landlord remove the batteries unless they are replacing them.
• If the tenant is physically unable to change the battery the tenant is required to notify the landlord as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the need for it to be replaced.
• The condition report section of the tenancy agreement must include a specific reference to smoke alarms so that tenants and landlords are able to note and comment on the presence of smoke alarms at the beginning and end of the tenancy.
Where to place smoke alarms
• You should install a smoke alarm in each bedroom, hallway and living area.
• If you live in a house with more than one level, install a smoke alarm on the ceiling at the head of the stairway connecting the levels.
• Much better protection will be provided if you inter-connect all smoke alarms in your home, so that when one alarm operates, all alarms operate, alerting occupants throughout the house.
• Avoid installing smoke alarms too close to air conditioners, heaters, fans and similar devices, because these might affect the performance of your smoke alarms.
• To minimize false alarms, avoid installing smoke alarms close to kitchens and bathrooms. A primary reason why smoke alarms don’t operate when needed is because batteries have been removed after repeated false alarms. False alarms are often caused by steam from bathrooms or by cooking fumes. Photoelectric alarms are less prone to false alarm.


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