Tag: QLD smoke alarm laws

Smoke alarm regulations vary slightly across different states and territories in Australia, contributing to widespread confusion, particularly in Queensland, where a phased implementation of new smoke alarm legislation is underway. In this updated 2024 knowledge series, we aim to debunk several myths and misconceptions about smoke alarm requirements. By providing direct links to official government sources and referenced legislation, readers can authenticate the information for accuracy and currency.

One frequently asked question is ‘must smoke alarms be hardwired in Queensland?’. The concise answer is no, not always – it depends on the type of dwelling and specific circumstances. While many houses require hardwired smoke alarms, an equal number allow the use of non-removable battery-powered alternatives, maintaining full legal compliance. Read on to discover the instances when Queensland law mandates the use of hardwired smoke alarms and when lithium battery-powered options are permissible.

What is a hardwired smoke alarm?

A hardwired smoke alarm is one connected directly to a dwelling’s 240-volt mains electricity supply. Unlike lithium battery-powered counterparts, hardwired smoke alarms cannot be self-installed due to wiring requirements and should be professionally installed by a qualified and licensed electrician. Although they draw power from the household mains, these alarms must also include an internal battery backup to ensure continuous operation during temporary disruptions in mains electricity, such as power outages during thunderstorms—a not uncommon occurrence in Queensland.

When is it mandatory to install hardwired smoke alarms in Queensland?

In Queensland, there are three scenarios where it is a statutory requirement to install 240-volt hardwired smoke alarms in a residential homes. They are as follows:

  1. If you are constructing a brand new home
  2. If you are performing a substantial renovation
  3. If you are replacing an existing hardwired smoke alarm

1) If you are constructing a brand new home

If you are constructing a brand new home in QLD then hardwired smoke alarms are required as part of the building approval process – Queensland’s Building Regulations 2021 (part 4 – smoke alarms for domestic dwellings) and Australia’s National Construction Code 2022 Volume Two and Part 9.5 of the associated Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) Housing Provisions detail minimum necessary standards for the construction of new domestic dwellings, including the standards for fire safety and smoke alarms.

Page 14 of Queensland’s Building Regulations 2021 states that when constructing a new home, the smoke alarms must be hardwired to the domestic dwelling’s electricity supply; and must be interconnected to every other smoke alarm installed in the dwelling.

2) If you are performing a substantial renovation

If you are performing a substantial renovation to your QLD property, then 240V hardwired smoke alarms must be installed as part of the renovation process. Division 5A (section 104RBA) of the QLD Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 states that hardwired smoke alarms must be installed when a substantial renovation is being performed to an existing QLD dwelling. The Act goes on to define a ‘substantial renovation’ as work carried out under a building development approval for alterations, or if the total building works surpass 50 per cent of the dwelling’s volume over three years.

QLD Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) website also states that as part of a building approval process requiring a Building Certifier, all new homes and renovations should have the required smoke alarms installed pursuant to the requirements of the National Construction Code (NCC).

3) If you are replacing an existing hardwired smoke alarm

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, then the replacement smoke alarm must also be hardwired to the dwelling’s electricity supply (i.e. you can’t remove a 240V hardwired smoke alarm and replace it with a battery powered smoke alarm).

Outside of the 3 scenarios described above, it is legal and perfectly acceptable in QLD to install smoke alarms which are powered by a non-replaceable 10-year battery and maintain compliance. As there is no wiring involved, battery powered smoke alarms can also be DIY installed.

If there are some existing hardwired smoke detectors in your home, a combination of both hard wired and wireless 10-year battery powered alarms can even be installed to meet compliance, while offering a more affordable DIY approach. For example, replace the existing 240V hardwired smoke alarms in your home with new hard wired, and then in those extra locations where smoke alarms are still needed (and none installed), you can install wireless 10-year battery powered smoke alarms and have them all interconnected with one another – compliance is achieved.

Both the QLD Government and the QLD Fire and Emergency Services state on their websites at the links below.

QLD Fire and Emergency Services state here; ‘An existing dwelling with battery operated smoke alarms may replace them when required with battery operated photoelectric type smoke alarms that meet the Australian Standard 3786–2014.

The QLD Government states here; ‘alarms should also be hard-wired to the 240v power supply OR powered by a non-removable 10 year battery’. and here ‘there are compliant smoke alarms available (e.g. wireless alarms) which don’t need electrical work to be carried out during installation. A licensed electrician will need to be engaged if the installation involves electrical work’.

Smoke alarms powered by a non-removeable 10-year battery offer an affordable solution to smoke alarm installation in your QLD property. Unlike hardwired alarms, there is no electrical wiring required which means they are often easier and more cost effective to install.

When purchasing smoke alarms with a non-removeable 10-year battery just be sure that they are the photoelectric type, they are less than 10 years old from manufacture date (it must be printed on the alarm), they comply with Australian Standard 3786:2014 and that you install them in all the prescribed locations in your home as required by the Building Fire Safety Regulations 2008 (Part5A).

We trust that you’ve found this informative article helpful in understanding the three instances in Queensland where the installation of a hardwired smoke alarm is mandatory in residential properties. Beyond these specified situations, it’s entirely acceptable for compliance and fully within the bounds of the law to install smoke alarms powered by a non-removable 10-year battery through DIY methods.

We love smoke alarms! Feel free to call us with any questions you may have 0478 596 402

Referenced legislation in this article:

Queensland Building Regulations 2021 (Part 4)

Australia’s National Construction Code 2022 Volume Two (note: formerly called the Building Code of Australia BCA).

Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) Housing Provisions Part 9.5 Smoke alarms

QLD Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990

QLD Fire and Emergency Services Website – smoke alarms for new builds or renovationshttps://www.qfes.qld.gov.au/prepare/fire/smoke-alarms/new-builds-or-renovations

Queensland Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008

As the winter chill gradually gives way to the warmth of a Queensland spring, we find ourselves emerging from the cozy hibernation of the colder months. Spring cleaning, gardening and home maintenance tasks become top priorities, and one crucial activity that should not be overlooked is the checking of your interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms. Whilst this may not seem like the most glamorous of springtime duties, it is undeniably one of the most important ones. The primary purpose of smoke alarms is to protect you and your loved ones in the event of a fire. By checking them in the spring, you ensure that they are in good working condition and ready to alert you in case of an emergency.

Here’s how you should make checking your smoke alarms a regular springtime ritual.

Clean your smoke detectors:

Did you know that the changing of the seasons can have an impact on your photoelectric smoke alarms? Over time, dust and debris can accumulate inside them, reducing their efficiency and increasing the possibility for nuisance alarms. Whilst you’re already in spring cleaning mode, why not take a few extra minutes to ensure your alarms are fully clean and operational? Gently vacuum around the exterior shell of your smoke detectors with the soft brush attachment from a vacuum cleaner to remove any cobwebs, dust build-up etc. which may have occurred over the winter months.

Smoke alarm battery check:

Smoke alarms often rely on batteries for power, and these batteries can weaken or die over time. Fortunately most modern smoke detectors are now equipped with 10-year long life lithium batteries which are sealed inside the smoke alarm itself (after 10 years the entire smoke alarm is simply swapped out for a new one). However, if you still have an older style smoke alarm which uses 9V replaceable batteries then spring is a great time to either replace the old batteries with fresh ones, or our recommendation is to upgrade to new alarms with 10-year long life batteries. So, go ahead, replace those dusty old 9V replaceable battery smoke alarms in springtime with the newest photoelectric smoke alarms equipped with 10-year long life batteries, and ensure your alarms are always ready to do their job.

Test your smoke alarms:

Testing your interconnected smoke alarms is a relatively quick and straightforward task. You don’t need any special tools or expertise. Smoke alarms have a ‘test’ button that you can press to ensure they are working correctly. It’s a small effort for a significant safety boost. In QLD the smoke alarms must be interconnected (so if one smoke alarm activates, they all do). When testing your smoke alarms be sure to check that all the smoke alarms are interconnected and activate together, usually within about 10-15 seconds of the test button being pressed on the first smoke alarm. If not, it’s time for some troubleshooting or possibly a replacement.

Smoke alarm expiry date:

Smoke alarms don’t last forever and should be replaced 10 years from the date of manufacture. According to Australian Standard 3786:2014, the smoke alarm date of manufacture should be printed on the rear of the smoke alarm – go on, have a look. If they’re older than 10 years then they should be replaced with newer models. Why? Photoelectric sensors and other internal components can degrade over time, leading to a less effective smoke alarm.

Location of your smoke alarms:

Whilst you’re at it, double-check the placement of your interconnected smoke alarms. Are they strategically positioned throughout your home as per Queensland smoke alarm laws? In Queensland there should be one smoke detector inside each bedroom, the interconnecting hallway outside the bedrooms, and at least one on each level of your home. If there is no interconnecting hallway outside the bedrooms then a smoke alarm must be installed outside the bedroom and other parts of the storey. Proper placement can make all the difference in early detection.

Teach your family about the smoke alarms:

Checking your interconnected smoke alarms in the spring also presents an opportunity to educate your family about fire safety (especially children). Show them how to test the alarms and what to do and who to call in case they hear one go off. This knowledge can be invaluable in an emergency situation. Phone 000 (triple zero) for the Queensland Fire Brigade in a real life fire emergency situation.

So there you have it, as you embark on your spring cleaning rituals and home maintenance tasks, don’t forget to check your smoke alarms. It’s a simple yet essential step to ensure the safety of your home and loved ones. With working interconnected smoke alarms in place, you can enjoy the beauty and rejuvenation of a QLD spring with the peace of mind that you are well-prepared for any potential fire-related emergencies. So, make it a springtime tradition to give your smoke alarms the attention they deserve – because the safety of your loved ones always comes first.

We love talking smoke alarms! Feel free to phone us on 0478 596 402

www.wireless-interconnected-photoelectric-smoke-alarms-australia.com

Queensland was rocked by another devastating house fire tragedy earlier this month when police confirmed that five young brothers and their 34-year-old father died in a house blaze on Russell Island, off Brisbane’s Redland Bay. Emergency services rushed to the home on Todman Street just after 6am on Sunday 8th August to find the two-storey house fully engulfed, with two neighbouring properties also alight. A 21-year-old woman thought to have been inside the house when the fire broke out managed to escape with injuries.

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Assistant Commissioner, John Cawcutt, said the blaze was “one of the worst fires we’ve had for a long time”. Fire and Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan also said the fire was a great tragedy. “Of course a very sad day for Queenslanders,” he said. “Our hearts break for those involved in the tragedy. It seems a tragic loss of life”. A forensic investigation is currently underway to determine how the fire started, and why the smoke alarms did not activate.

In terms of sheer loss of life from a single domestic house fire, the Russell Island fire tragedy is second only to the August 2011 Logan house fire, which was Australia’s deadliest house fire, causing the death of 11 family members. A coronial inquest could not establish the exact cause of that blaze but a coroner found there was a ‘reasonable prospect’ that all or some of the victims could have escaped if smoke alarms had been working. That tragedy led to the introduction of new QLD laws for interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms inside every bedroom, hallways outside the bedrooms, and on every level of Queensland homes.

Why didn’t the smoke detectors go off in the Russell Island house fire?
The rented two storey Queenslander home allegedly had smoke detectors installed, however the female survivor of the blaze said she didn’t hear any smoke detectors activate, adding that concerns had previously been expressed about them. It remains unclear why the alarms didn’t activate and whether they were in working order. ‘With a fire of that intensity it will be difficult to know whether there were smoke alarms present or not but that will be part of the investigation,’ Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Joanne Greenfield said. It is understood the home was transported to the site around 2017. ‘So thinking about the legislation that was in place at that time it would have required one hardwired smoke alarm, that’s if it was following the legislation,’ QLD Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Leach said.

A close family friend issued a harrowing plea to all Australians on the behalf of the Children’s surviving mother, stating that she ‘just wants the world to know – check your smoke alarms and hold your babies’.

What are QLD’s smoke alarm laws?

From 1st January 2022, all properties being sold or leased for rent in Queensland were required by law to have smoke alarms installed as per below (on 1st January 2027 the law is being extended to cover all QLD homeowners and occupiers, irrespective of whether the property is being sold or rented out).

In addition to the above, rental property managers and landlords are required to test and clean smoke alarms and replace any flat or nearly flat batteries within 30 days before the start of a tenancy. This also includes a renewal tenancy.

The two key pieces of legislation in QLD are called the Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 and the Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008.

The goals of the legislation are to ensure that all fire safety installations (including smoke alarms) within a building are maintained.

Part 5A of the Building Fire Safety Regulation deals with interconnected smoke alarm requirements for domestic dwellings and says smoke alarms must;

  • Comply with the Australian Standard AS 3786:2014
  • Contain a photoelectric sensor, and not also contain an ionization sensor
  • Be hardwired into a building’s power supply or powered by a non-removable minimum 10-year lifespan battery

The QLD Fire and Emergency Services Act says that from 1st January 2022 all rental properties in QLD must have smoke alarms which;

  • Are less than 10 years old
  • Be interconnected with every other smoke alarm in the building so that all activate together
  • Operate when function tested

Additionally, these requirements will become mandatory for ALL dwellings in Queensland by 1st January 2027.

If you would like to read the QLD legislation in full, direct links are provided below.

https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/pdf/inforce/2018-07-01/sl-2008-0160https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/pdf/inforce/current/act-1990-010