Tag: QLD smoke alarm legislation

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.

Queensland smoke alarm legislation

The two key pieces of QLD smoke alarm legislation are called the;

  • Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990
  • Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008

The goal of the legislation is to reduce loss of life by ensuring that all fire safety installations (including photoelectric smoke alarms) within a domestic building are adequately maintained.

Building Fire Safety regulations 2008 – smoke alarms

Part 5A of the QLD Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008 deals with photoelectric smoke alarm requirements for domestic dwellings. It states that 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.

Where smoke alarms must be installed

Part 5A also states exactly where smoke alarms must be installed inside a domestic dwelling (the prescribed locations). It says that photoelectric smoke alarms must be installed in;

  • each bedroom.
  • the hallway which connects each bedroom.
  • if there is no hallway connecting each bedroom, then a part of the storey that is between the
    bedroom and the rest of the dwelling.
  • for each storey with no bedrooms—on the most likely travel path of exit from the dwelling.

Where smoke alarms must not be installed

Part 5A (3) also provides exact distances and measurements where smoke alarms should / should not be installed. It states that smoke alarms must not be installed;

  • within 300mm of a light fitting.
  • within 300mm of a corner of the ceiling and a wall.
  • within 400mm of an opening from which air is supplied from an air conditioner or forced air vent.
  • within 400mm of the blades of a ceiling fan.

Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 – smoke alarms

The QLD Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 says that from 1st January 2022 all rental properties and properties being sold or substantially renovated 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

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. Any newly constructed homes or substantial renovations must have interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms which are hardwired to the mains power supply. A definition of a ‘substantial renovation’ is provided on pages 103-104 of the Act.

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

Smoke alarms in QLD rental properties

With respect to QLD rental properties, the Act also requires that;

  • The lessor must test each interconnected smoke alarm within 30 days before the start of a tenancy in a domestic dwelling.
  • The tenant must test each interconnected smoke alarm in the dwelling at least once every 12 months.
  • If the tenant is aware a smoke alarm in the dwelling has failed, the tenant must advise the lessor as soon as practicable.
  • The tenant must clean each interconnected smoke alarm at least once every 12 months.

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

Building Fire Safety Regulations 2008 (current as at 24 June 2022)

Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 (current as at 26 April 2024)

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