Smoke alarms save lives. Without them in your home, your risk of death from a house fire is up to 3 times higher. In Queensland, about three-quarters of all home fire deaths happen in homes without smoke alarms — nearly half of all house fire deaths occur when people are sleeping.
Smoke alarm laws
By law, all homes and units in Queensland must be fitted with smoke alarms. It is your responsibility to make sure you have a working smoke alarm installed.
- Homes built before 1 July 1997 must have at least one 9-volt battery-operated smoke alarm
- Homes built or significantly renovated after 1 July 1997 must have a 240-volt (hard-wired) smoke alarm.
- Buildings submitted for approval from 1st May 2014 must have hard-wired and interconnected smoke alarms.
Read more about smoke alarm legislation.
Choosing a smoke alarm
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services recommends all homes are fitted with photoelectric smoke alarms (not ionisation types).
Photoelectric smoke alarms
Photoelectric smoke alarms are generally more effective than ionisation types because they 'see' the smoke by detecting visible particles of combustion. For this reason they are good at detecting smouldering fires and dense smoke, and are not as prone to false alarms (from cooking etc.).
There are two kinds of photoelectric smoke alarms:
- 240-volt smoke alarms (also called 'hard-wired smoke alarms'). These are connected to the house electrical system and have a battery back-up power supply
- 9-volt smoke alarms (also called 'battery-operated smoke alarms') are stand-alone battery operated alarms.
Safety standards — what to look for
When choosing a smoke alarm, make sure it:
- complies with the Australian Standard AS 3786-1993
- has the Standards Australia Mark or is Scientific Services Laboratory (SSL) certified.
View a list of compliant smoke alarms.
Installing and positioning smoke alarms
Smoke rises — try to place smoke alarms on the ceiling. If this is not possible, alarms may be placed high on a wall, according to the manufacturer's instructions.
By law, a smoke alarm must be installed on or near the ceiling in a hallway or area close to bedrooms and the rest of the house (in a multi-storey house, a smoke alarm must be installed on each level). Anyone who sleeps with their door closed should have a smoke alarm installed in their bedroom.
Don't install alarms:
- near windows, doors, fans or air conditioners (air movement may prevent smoke and gases from reaching the smoke alarm or cause false alarms)
- in or just outside the bathroom (steam can cause false alarms)
- closer than 1.5 metres to fluorescent lights (electrical 'noise' or flicker may affect the smoke alarm)
- in kitchens (cooking steam and smoke can cause false alarms)
- anywhere with lots of insects (insects flying into the alarm can cause false alarms).
The number of smoke alarms you need depends on the size of your home. For further advice on selecting, placing and maintaining smoke alarms, contact your local Queensland Fire and Emergency Services fire station.
Maintaining and replacing smoke alarms
- Check the battery once a month by pressing the test button. If you cannot reach the button easily, use a broom handle
- Keep smoke alarms clean. Dust can interfere with their operation
- Replace the batteries at least once a year. In most models when batteries are low, the detector will sound a short 'beep' every minute or so to remind you to replace the batteries
- Never paint smoke alarms
- Do not disable the alarm if cooking smoke or steam sets it off, instead turn on a fan or open a window to clear the air
- Do not remove the batteries from your smoke alarm
- Replace smoke alarms before the expiry date on the manufacturer's warranty.
Read more about smoke alarms on the Queensland Fire and Emergency website.
Do you have a Safehome?
Safehome is a free safety and fire awareness inspection service conducted by Queensland Fire & Emergency Services. During the Safehome inspection local firefighters visit your home to help you to reduce fire risk and discuss your fire safety concerns.