Fire Alarms
Fire alarms and smoke detectors save lives: to ensure early detection of a fire in your home do some research into what sort of system to install.

Smoke alarms

All homes should have at least one smoke detector. By recognising the presence of smoke in the house and sounding an alarm, they are an effective way of helping minimise the loss of life in house fires. Smoke alarms are compulsory and must be installed in every residential building on or near the ceiling of every storey.

The Building (Interim) Regulations 2005 state that smoke alarms must meet the Australian Standard AS 3786-1993.  You will find a range of complying models at most electrical appliance outlets or hardware stores.

Smoke alarms must be connected to your building's power mains as well as having a battery back-up, unless your building was built before 1 August 1997, where a battery-powered back-up meets the Regulations. If you are renting a dwelling or unit, it is your landlord's responsibility to ensure smoke alarms are installed and kept in working condition. However, you can take action to ensure compliance with the Regulations at any time.
Fire Alarms

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Alarm Types

There are two types:

"Ionisation smoke alarms" These use a minute amount of radioactive material to detect the presence of smoke, setting off the alarm. Radiation authorities advise the amount of radiation emitted from these devises does not present a risk.

"Photoelectric smoke alarms" These contain a small light source. When the beam is deflected by smoke the alarm sounds.
Both are effective.

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Installation

Smoke alarms are designed to detect smoke before it reaches sleeping occupants in a building. To work effectively, they must be located where they will be able to wake people with sufficient time to evacuate. You can install a battery operated smoke alarm yourself. They simply fasten to the ceiling with two small screws. They should always be located away from corners. On a normal flat ceiling the smoke alarms should be installed a minimum of 100mm from any cornice. Smoke alarms should not be installed between closely spaced exposed beams. If installed on a wall, the top of the alarm should be located 100-300 mm from the ceiling.

Remember, NEVER paint your smoke detector and always choose an alarm that carries the Australian Standards mark, or SSL label. Check the label to be sure.

Fire Alarms

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Location

As a minimum, a smoke alarm outside of the sleeping areas and on each level of the house provides a reasonable protection.

Extra alarms are required in homes with different sleeping areas. If occupants tend to sleep with doors closed, a smoke alarm should be installed in each bedroom, especially if heaters or electrical appliances are used.

Fire Alarms

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Maintenance

For smoke alarms to be effective, it is essential they be maintained. At the very least you should: 

  • Check that your smoke alarm is working by depressing the button on its outside.
  • Replace the battery on an annual basis (if the battery is lithium ion, every ten years).
  • If your smoke alarm emits a warning sound, a high-pitched single beep every 30 seconds, replace its battery.
  • Clean your alarm regularly to remove dust particles.
  • Familiarise yourself with the manufacturer's maintenance guidelines.

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