With the start of the New Year, new smoke alarm laws are now effective. We all too commonly see house fires occur and unfortunately often homes are not fitted with working smoke alarms. It is timely to remind landlords and homeowners to ensure their smoke alarms have been checked and comply with the latest legislation.
In the deadliest of situations, smoke alarms are vital devices that have been proved to save lives. It is your legal responsibility as a landlord to confirm your smoke alarms are compliant and in good working order to ensure all occupants of the property are alerted should your property catch fire and in turn have time to escape safely.
Queensland State Government passed laws, effective as of 1 January 2017 that all Queensland homes now require installation of photoelectric smoke alarm. These changes were made following a coroner’s report into Australia’s worst house fire, where eleven people lost their lives in 2011.
Over the next 10 years this change in legislation will be phased in that will require all 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.
Studies have shown that photoelectric alarms typically respond to smoky fires within about three to five minutes. Most ionisation alarms take much longer – up to 20 minutes or more – by which time escape can be much more difficult. 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”.
A licensed electrician should be used to hard wire and interconnect your smoke alarms to ensure they are working safely and effectively.
For all landlords, be sure to discuss your legal responsibilities regarding smoke alarm installation with your property manager.