Tag: interconnected smoke detectors

As the Queensland 2023 festive season approaches, warmer temperatures, holiday decorations and the joy of gatherings fill the air. However, amidst the celebrations, it’s crucial to prioritize Christmas fire safety to safeguard our homes and loved ones. Here are some essential tips to ensure a safe and merry Christmas in Queensland this year!

Mindful Tree Placement: Choose a fresh, green Christmas tree and keep it well-hydrated. Position it away from any potential heat sources. A dry Christmas tree can quickly become a fire hazard, so water it regularly and dispose of it promptly after the holidays.

Position your tree strategically – make sure it’s not blocking any exit routes. This ensures that, in the unfortunate event of a fire, everyone can easily evacuate the home.

Interconnected Smoke Alarms: Equip your home with interconnected smoke alarms inside every bedroom, hallway outside the bedrooms, and have at least one on each level of the dwelling. Press the test button on the alarm to check they are in good working order (i.e. so if one smoke alarm activates, then they all activate). Create a fire escape plan and share it with your family and any guests who may be staying with you. Keep fire extinguishers handy, and make sure everyone knows their location and how to use them. Spending 10 minutes to review this information with your loved ones could avoid becoming a Christmas tragedy.

Lights Check: Inspect all Christmas lights before decorating your tree and home. Discard any frayed or damaged cords and replace burnt-out bulbs promptly. Choose LED lights, which emit less heat than traditional incandescent lights, reducing the risk of fire. Be wary of non-compliant cheap imports and ensure your lights have the appropriate Australian electrical safety regulatory compliance mark (RCM). Make it a habit to turn off all Christmas lights and decorations before going to bed or leaving the house. This simple step not only conserves energy but also reduces the risk of electrical malfunctions that could lead to a fire.

Candle Care: Candles add a traditional warm glow to the festive atmosphere, but they can also pose a fire risk. Keep candles away from flammable materials such as window curtains, place them in stable holders, and never leave them unattended. Consider using realistic looking flameless LED candles as a safer modern alternative.

Power Board Wisdom: Avoid overloading electrical wall outlets and power boards. Spread out the use of multiple appliances and decorations across different outlets to prevent overloading and subsequent overheating. Choose a power board which has in-built overload protection.

Cooking Vigilance: The holiday season often involves elaborate meals and festive cooking. Stay vigilant in the kitchen, and never leave cooking unattended. Keep flammable items, such as kitchen tea towels and oven mitts, away from open flames and other heat sources. Keep a fire blanket nearby to help extinguish any cooking flames.

By following these Christmas tree fire safety tips and ensuring you have interconnected smoke alarms installed in your home, you can create a secure environment for your loved ones to enjoy the Queensland holiday season without worry. Prioritizing fire safety ensures that the only thing sparking during your celebrations is the joy of the season. Merry Christmas Queensland! Thank you all for your fantastic support throughout 2023, and we look forward to another incredibly busy and exciting year in 2024!

Best Wishes and Happy New Year to All!

Questions? We love talking smoke alarms! Feel free to call us 0478 596 402

Wireless Interconnected Photoelectric Smoke Alarms Australia

www.photoelectricsmokealarms.com.au

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) have more helpful information about Christmas tree fire safety – watch the video below and refer to their information sheet which is available for download here.

Whilst battery powered smoke detectors* are easy for homeowners to DIY install, there are certain situations where they are not permitted by law and a hard wired smoke detector must be used. Prior to installing any type of smoke detector, it is important to understand their differences and when each can be used.

What is a hard wired smoke smoke detector?

A hard wired smoke detector is a fire alarm which is hard wired to a domestic dwelling’s 240 volt electricity supply. As electrical wiring is required, hard wired smoke detectors cannot be DIY installed and should always be installed by a certified Electrician. Hard wired smoke detectors have an internal battery back-up which allows for continuous power coverage should there be a temporary outage to the household’s mains electricity supply (i.e. power black-out during a weather storm). When there is more than one, hard wired smoke detectors must be interconnected to each other – this can be achieved in two ways – either by running physical cabling in the ceiling space in-between each alarm, or wirelessly using a radio frequency (RF) transmitter.

When must I install a hard wired smoke detector?

There are 3 situations in Queensland when it is a statutory requirement for 240 volt hard wired smoke alarms to be installed.

1) If you are constructing a new home

If you are constructing a new home then hard wired smoke detectors are required as part of the building approval process – Queensland’s Building Regulations 2021 (part 4) and the National Construction Code (NCC 2019 volume 2 part 3.7.5) detail minimum necessary building standards, including those for fire safety and smoke alarms.

Queensland’s Building Regulations 2021 state that when constructing a new home, the smoke detectors must be hardwired to the domestic dwelling’s electricity supply; and must be interconnected to every other smoke detector installed in the dwelling.

2) If you are performing a substantial renovation

Division 5A (section 104RBA) of the QLD Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 states that hard wired smoke detectors must be installed when a substantial renovation is being performed to an existing dwelling.

A ‘substantial renovation’ is defined as building work carried out under a building development approval, or the total building works equaling 50 per cent of the dwelling over three years.

3) If you are replacing an existing hard wired smoke detector

Division 5A (section 104RC) of the QLD Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 states that if the smoke alarm being replaced was hardwired to the domestic dwelling’s electricity supply, the replacement smoke alarm must also be hardwired to the dwelling’s electricity supply. A smoke alarm must be replaced if it fails to operate or is older than 10 years from manufacture date (manufacture date is on the back of the alarm).

What if I don’t need to replace my existing hard wired smoke detectors? Can I leave them in place and install additional battery powered detectors in all the required locations and be compliant?

This is a common question. Provided the existing hard wired smoke detectors work and their manufacture date is less than 10 years they do not need to be replaced.

Battery powered interconnected photoelectric smoke detectors can then be installed in all prescribed locations as required by QLD law and compliance is achieved. The position of the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) is that the existing hard wired smoke detectors are then considered to be extra additional alarms, and do not need to be interconnected to the newly installed battery powered smoke detectors.

Installing new hard wired smoke alarms

Red smoke alarms are a 100% Australian owned company that manufacture quality 240 volt hard wired smoke alarms for those people that do need to replace or install hard wired smoke alarms. Aside from the 10 year product warranty, what makes the Red hard wired smoke detector so good is that it comes in two versions depending on the preferred type of battery back-up. The Red hard wired smoke alarm (model R240RC) comes with an in-built rechargeable 10 year lithium battery (never needs replacing) whereas the Red hard wired smoke alarm (model R240) has a user replaceable 9 volt back-up battery. The choice is yours.

Another great feature of Red hard wired smoke detectors is how they can be interconnected with one another. There are two options. First, each Red hard wired smoke detector can be physically interconnected by having an electrician run cabling from alarm to alarm in your ceiling space. If this is too cost prohibitive and/or difficult to do, the second option is to interconnect the hard wired smoke detectors using wireless radio frequency (RF) technology. This is achieved by installing a small Red hard wired base beneath each hard wired smoke alarm. The base acts as an RF transmitter and allows the hard wired smoke detectors to become interconnected and communicate to one another without the need to run cabling from alarm to alarm. An added benefit of the Red hard wired base is that it also allows the Red hard wired smoke alarm to talk to not only other Red hard wired smoke alarms, but also to the Red remote control and other Red battery powered smoke alarms and Red heat alarms – extremely versatile.

Summary

This article has demonstrated the 3 criteria where hard wired smoke detectors must be installed as per QLD legislation. In all other scenarios it is acceptable to use battery powered smoke detectors to achieve compliance.

Before purchasing new replacement smoke detectors for your home be sure to check if your existing smoke detectors are hard wired, or not. Doing this may save complications later, if for example you purchased battery powered smoke detectors, only to discover that what you really needed are hard wired smoke detectors.

* A ‘battery powered’ smoke detector is a smoke detector powered by a non-removable 10-year battery compliant with Australian Standard 3786:2014.

Referenced legislation:

QLD Building Regulations 2021 (part 4)

National Construction Code (NCC) 2019 volume 2 part 3.7.5

QLD Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 (Division 5A)

QFES Smoke Alarms for New Dwellings and Renovations

There is no point waiting until a fire occurs before figuring out what to do and where to go – especially when family members are involved. Having a well developed and rehearsed home fire safety plan will provide loved ones with crucial time to escape, and could certainly mean the difference between life and death. This blog post shows how to develop a home fire safety plan and demonstrates that it needn’t be a difficult task.

Develop a floor plan and identify the emergency exit paths

The main purpose of a home fire safety plan is to provide the occupants of a dwelling sufficient knowledge and skill to escape a burning building. This is achieved by a) documenting the required information b) communicating the information and then c) practicing the home fire safety plan.

The first step in developing a home fire safety plan is to draw a basic floor plan / map of your house, including key locations such as each person’s bedroom. Review the floor plan collectively with all occupants of the dwelling – identify both the primary and secondary path of exit so there are two means of escape for each person in the event of a fire. Some things to consider – are there obstacles to negotiate such as large furniture? Are there ‘landmarks’ along the way which could assist if smoke has reduced visibility to zero? Are there people in the home of differing ages, mental acuity or reduced physical mobility? If so it may be worth allocating a ‘buddy’ to help these people. Agree on a muster point where everyone is to gather at a safe distance having evacuated the building.

Practice the home fire safety plan

It’s one thing to talk about it, it’s another thing to actually do it. Rehearse the home fire safety plan and physically practice an escape with EVERY member of the household, twice yearly. During the rehearsal, a mobile phone timer could be used to create a sense of urgency, reduced visibility due to thick smoke can be simulated by placing a blindfold on the occupant and have them attempt to navigate the exit path in a controlled manner. Once outside the building, everyone should assemble at the fire safety plan’s designated muster point and perform an after action review to identify any opportunities for improvement. Time taken to escape the building can be logged and used as a performance benchmark for future rehearsals.

Interconnected smoke alarms and the home fire safety plan

Interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms provide greater early warning and response time to a fire, they should be installed within your home and form part of the overall home fire safety plan. Ensure they are installed in every bedroom, communal hallway outside the bedrooms and if in a multi-story dwelling then at least one on every floor. During the rehearsal of the home fire safety plan, test the interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms so all actually activate, and everyone becomes acquainted with their sound and meaning. Doing so may help lessen the sense of surprise or shock in a real-life fire event, and it is especially important for children who may not associate the smoke alarm sound with danger.

Fire safety essentials

Rehearsing your home fire safety plan is a great opportunity to impart some basic fire safety essentials. You may wish to document the following information in your home fire safety plan and ensure it is understood by all;

  • Immediately phone triple zero 000 for Australian emergency services, including the fire department.
  • Stay low to the ground to minimize inhaling toxic smoke and fumes which generally rise.
  • Prior to opening a door, test it using the back of the hand to ascertain if there is heat on the other side.
  • Close doors (but don’t lock) as you pass through them to limit air supply and possible expansion of the fire.
  • Once outside at the designated muster point perform a head count. Do not head back inside the burning building for any reason.

Summary

A home fire safety plan should be unique to each residence, and the occupants should be familiar with it. Review the home fire safety plan bi-annually and practice escaping from the building so that theoretical knowledge becomes reality. Ensure interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms are installed and test these during the practice-run. Basic fire safety essentials should also be added to the home fire safety plan and practiced – doing so will increase the opportunity for your loved ones to escape a burning home in a real-life emergency situation.

These new laws were introduced in Queensland due to several house fires which resulted in multiple fatalities.

Had the dwellings in each instance been fitted with functioning wireless interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms the victims may have stood a chance of surviving.

Early detection = early alarm = early escape from a burning building. When the fire occurred, it was not only the flames themselves which presented as a hazard – most victims were first overcome by breathing in fumes and thick smoke.

Palace Backpackers Fire – Childers

In June 2000 a resident of the Childers Palace Backpackers Hostel maliciously lit a fire inside. The fire quickly spread throughout the timber building. Unfortunately the hostel did not have working smoke detectors or alarms and fifteen young people died as a result. The after effects of this tragic event are still evident on the local township to this day.

The arsonist was captured by police and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Slacks Creek House Fire – Brisbane

A few minutes before midnight on 23rd August 2011, a  fire tore through a house in the suburb of Slacks Creek, South Brisbane.

This fire caused the greatest loss of life in a domestic house fire in Australian history, with eleven people (including many children) dying due to inhaling toxic smoke.

A finding from the 2014 Coronial Inquest stated that;
‘Once this particular fire started, it is likely that some or all of the deaths would have been prevented if the sleeping occupants had been quickly awoken and had realised that they needed to leave the house as quickly as possible … smoke alarms were either not present in the dwelling or were not maintained’.

Many prescriptive requirements and recommendations from the Coronial Inquest were subsequently incorporated into the QLD Building Fire Safety (Domestic Smoke Alarms) Legislation Amendment Regulation 2016.

The legislation can be read here;
https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/pdf/asmade/sl-2016-0221