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Having smoke detectors in your home will act as a potentially lifesaving warning system. Without smoke alarms you run the risk of not giving you and your family enough time to escape in the event of a fire. Even if you are a light sleeper, you can become overwhelmed by smoke before you get the chance to wake up.
Regardless of how you feel about the effectiveness of smoke detectors, the law requires that you have a suitable number of detectors in your home. As a New South Wales citizen, you have a responsibility to occupants of both your property and any surrounding properties in the event of a fire.
In rural areas of New South Wales, wildfires are also a major concern. Homeowners play a large part in preventing bush fires occurring in populated rural areas by obeying the law and having adequate early warning systems in place. The more forewarning the fire services receive, the faster they can respond to a fire and stop it from spreading.
When choosing smoke and fire detectors the size of your property is important. Hard wired smoke detectors are the most reliable as they use your home electricity as a primary source of power. In the event of an electrical outage, hard wired detectors use a battery for back-up power. Alternatively, you can use smoke detectors that are powered by a battery alone.
Not everyone can hear a smoke alarm going off, which is why it’s important to think about anyone with hearing impairments. For those with hearing impairments, you can purchase emergency lights which trigger with your smoke detector.
The government has deferred to Fire & Rescue NSW for recommendations on best practice when installing smoke alarms. Naturally the fire service is on the front lines when it comes to fighting the battle against fatalities resulting from fires. These recommendations are based on real life scenarios where homeowners most likely survived due to having sufficient smoke alarms installed.
Having a single smoke alarm installed in a downstairs room of a large property will not offer you adequate warning. At the very least you should have a smoke detector installed on every floor of your home. The accepted standard for Australian smoke detectors and fire alarms falls under AS3786. The product will display that it meets the Australian Standards AS3786.
If you are not an electrician, you should not attempt to fit a hard wired smoke detector. It is important that the detector is installed by a qualified electrician and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. You should test your alarms frequently to ensure they are working correctly. Fire & Rescue NSW recommend testing alarms at least once a month, if not more.
Smoke alarms and their components are not made to last forever. You will need to replace batteries at least once a year or when a battery only alarm fails during testing. The lifespan of the alarm itself will depend on the manufacturer. Keep manufacturer’s instructions in a safe space and replace the alarm in accordance with the manufacturer’s guidelines.
Fire and smoke create fear and confusion, so it is important to have a well rehearsed escape plan. Holding fire drills is an essential part of any escape plan. Remember to consider any family member with a disability and ensure they have adequate support in the event of a fire. Once you have escaped from a fire, dial triple zero right away and do not attempt to return to the property for possessions.
For more information on smoke detectors and the regulations concerning them, contact our registered building inspectors at Houspect and we will help you formulate a plan to ensure your home is safe.