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Community & Business

24 August, 2023

When was the last time you checked your smoke alarms?

It’s been well over 15 years since smoke alarms became law across NSW, but most smoke alarms don’t last 10 years. Have you changed yours?

By Emily Middleton

It’s something easily forgotten, but this simple battery change can save a life. Sounds dramatic but it frankly is true: smoke alarms save lives.

On Monday night, the crew from Gilgandra’s Fire and Rescue unit undertook a simulation where firefighters were required to respond to a ‘firefighter down’ in a structure fire. This required removing the firefighter from the smoke filled structure, rapid removal of turnout gear, and administering first aid. It’s a situation they hope never to face, but preperation for it if it should arise is essential.

This simulation called for a timely reminder to ensure you have working smoke alarms in your home. Gilgandra’s Fire and Rescue crew even said themselves that a fire can fully engulf a house in as little as three minutes.

“Let the only time we have to come inside be to fit new smoke alarms,” they said.

Since 2006, under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000, smoke alarms must be installed in all buildings in NSW where people sleep. The smoke alarms must meet the requirements of Australian Standard AS 3786, Smoke Alarms. NSW legislation provides for a minimum level of protection; however, Fire and Rescue NSW recommends owners and occupants consider higher levels of protection.


For homeowners

NSW legislation stipulates that smoke alarms must be installed on every level of your home.

This includes owner occupied homes, rental proper- ties, relocatable homes, caravans and camper-vans or any other residential building where people sleep. These alarms must be placed in hallways near bedrooms; how- ever, if bedrooms are in different parts of the house, you must have alarms installed in each of these locations.

If there are no hallways associated with the bed- rooms, alarms must be installed between the part of the home containing the bedroom and the rest of the house. You must have smoke alarms on all levels of your home even if there are no bedrooms located on that level.


For tenants

NSW legislation mandates that your landlord is responsible for ensuring your residence meets the mini- mal requirements of having at least one working smoke

The fire and rescue crew’s simulation was a timely reminder to check your smoke alarms. Photos: Fire and Rescue NSW Station 300 Gilgandra.

alarm installed on every level of your home. Tenants must notify their landlord or agent if they discover that a smoke alarm is not working (this includes when the battery needs to be changed).

Tenants must notify their landlord when they change a battery in a smoke alarm or engage a licensed electri- cian to repair or replace an alarm. The different circum- stances where a tenant can change a battery or engage a licensed electrician are provided by the Department of Fair Training NSW’s website. This does not apply to social housing tenants.


For landlords

From March 2020, NSW landlords and agents need to ensure that smoke alarms installed in rented proper- ties are in working order.

Where a smoke alarm is not in working order, land- lords and agents must ensure the alarm is repaired (this includes replacing a battery) within two business days.

Landlords and agents must check smoke alarms every year to ensure they are working.

Landlords and agents must ensure:

• Smoke alarms are replaced within 10 years of manufacture, or earlier if specified by the manufacturer 

• Batteries are installed or replaced every year (or for lithium batteries, in the period specified by the manufacturer).

Landlords and agents must give at least two business days’ notice to inspect or assess the need for smoke alarm repair or replacement, and at least 1 hour notice to carry out repair or replacement of a smoke alarm.


For caravans and motorhomes

Caravans and camper vans have limited escape options in the event of a fire. You have just a few seconds to get out of a burning caravan, as they are constructed of lightweight and and potentially highly combustible fittings. A working smoke alarm can mean the difference between life and death.

NSW legislation stipulates that you must have at least one working smoke alarm inside the van where the bed is, and one in the annex if people are sleeping there.

These smoke alarms must be fitted with a "hush" button, allowing the occupant to silence the alarm for 10 minutes.

Smoke alarms can be purchased at most major supermarkets and hardware stores across NSW.

The Gilgandra Fire and Rescue team will happily come and install smoke alarms for you. 

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