With three house fires across Brisbane in the last three weeks, it is timely to remind landlords and homeowners to ensure their smoke alarms have been checked and comply with the latest legislation that is to be implemented from 1 January 2017.
Smoke alarms are vital devices that have been proved to save lives in in the deadliest of situations. As a landlord, it is your legal responsibility to confirm your smoke alarms are in good working order to ensure your tenants are alerted and have time to escape should your property catch fire.
While it is fortunate that there were no casualties as a result of the recent fires in Brisbane, it is sadly not always the case. Following a coroner’s report into Australia’s worst house fire, where eleven people lost their lives in 2011, the Queensland State Government recently passed laws that mandate the installation of photoelectric smoke alarms in all Queensland homes.
The legislation will be phased in over 10 years and will require smoke alarms in domestic dwellings be photoelectric, hard-wired or powered by a 10-year lithium battery, installed in bedrooms in addition to living areas and escape paths, and connected to other alarms in the house.
As of 1 January, 2017, photoelectric alarms will be required to be installed in homes whenever a smoke alarm is being replaced, or a new one is being installed in any way.
Homeowners and landlords should be aware that the new laws will apply:
- To all new dwellings or substantially renovated properties from 1 January, 2017
- To all dwellings sold or leased, or Government-owned housing, by January 2022
- To all domestic dwellings by January 2027.
Photoelectric smoke alarms are generally more effective than ionisation types because the ‘see’ the smoke by detecting visible particles of combustion. For this reason, they are good at detecting slow burning or smouldering fires, which release not only choking smoke, but poisonous toxins, often at night when the occupants are asleep. During sleep our sense of smell is drastically reduced and this is why many fire victims have been found to have died from smoke inhalation well before any flames have come close to them.
Photoelectric smoke alarms are also less sensitive to the heat generated by bathroom steam and cooking. This reduces the incidents of false alarms that can annoy residents enough for them to remove the batteries from older smoke alarms.
Emergency Services Minister Bill Byrne said “the evidence is overwhelming that interconnected smoke alarms and installing them in bedrooms greatly increases the chances of families escaping from fires unharmed”.
It is advisable to use a licensed electrician to hardwire and interconnect your smoke alarms to ensure they are working safely and effectively.
If you are a landlord, be sure to discuss your legal responsibilities around smoke alarm installation with your property manager.