This is really important!
As it was April 1st yesterday it's a good policy to change the battery in your smoke alarm. Many fire departments throughout Australia promote the changing of batteries on April 1st. Other promote it during the changing of the clocks for daylight saving time which is 5th of April.
Working smoke alarms save lives.
If you don't have hardwired smoke alarms a 10 year lithium battery alarm is a good idea. Legislation may require them, depending upon the age and use of your property.
We have a combination of hardwired, lithium battery and photo electric smoke alarms throughout our own home, and in our rentals. Smoke alarms are there to wake you up, and we have an alarm in EVERY bedroom in EVERY home as well as in passage and living areas.
Your local hardware stores have basic alarms for a few Dollars, but they also have the 10 lithium ones for around $40 and hardwired ones (sparkie required!) for the same price. I was in Bunnings yesterday and they have triple packs of Duracell batteries at the payment registers.
The following is taken from the South Australian Municipal Fire Services web site:
If you have any questions about smoke alarms please feel free to ask as my OH was a fire safety officer and he's the one who asked me to post this..
Domestic Smoke Alarms
In South Australia, legislation is in place to make smoke alarms compulsory for all residential buildings.
Home owners are required, by Regulation 76B under the Development Act, 1993, to install battery powered or hard-wired (240 volt mains powered) smoke alarms*.
* Houses built since 1 January 1995 must be equipped with hard-wired smoke alarms. All other houses must be equipped with at least 9 volt battery powered smoke alarms. When a house with 9 volt battery powered smoke alarms is sold the new owner has six months to install alarms which are hard-wired to the 240 volt power supply or powered by 10 year life, non-replaceable, non-removable batteries.
Penalties apply for non-compliance.
Why Do You Need a Smoke Alarm?
Smoke obscures vision and causes intense irritation to the eyes. This, combined with the effects of the poisons in the smoke, can cause disorientation, impaired judgement and panic reducing the victim's ability to find an exit.
Most fire-related deaths result from the inhalation of toxic fire gases rather than from direct contact with flame or exposure to heat.
Correctly located smoke alarms in your home give early warning of fire, providing you with the precious time which may be vital to your survival.
Home Fire Escape Plan
The installation of smoke alarms forms one part of a Home Fire Escape Plan. It is vitally important that every family has a complete Home Fire Escape Plan which is practised and understood by all occupants. Advice on the development of a Home Fire Escape Plan is available from the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service (MFS) by telephoning 8204 3611 or visiting our website http://www.mfs.sa.gov.au.
Types of Smoke Alarms
Ionisation Smoke Alarms
Ionisation Smoke Alarms detect small diameter smoke particles, the invisible products of combustion, and are most effective in the case of flaming fires. They are not suitable for locations affected by cooking, combustion heating appliances or open fires.
Photo-Electric Smoke Alarms
Photo-Electric Smoke Alarms detect larger smoke particles, the visible products of combustion, and are most effective in the case of smouldering fires. They are suitable for installation near kitchens or in areas containing combustion heaters or open fires.
Recent research indicates that photo-electric alarms provide the best detection across a range of fires.
For homes which already have ionisation alarms, we recommend that they be supplemented with additional, interconnected photo-electric alarms. When existing ionisation alarms reach 10 years of age, they should be replaced with photo-electric alarms.
The MFS recommends that the best protection is provided by photo-electric smoke alarms which are hard-wired to the 240 volt power supply and interconnected to give the earliest warning possible.
Both the ionisation and the photo-electric types of smoke alarm are available as interconnectable alarms. Where two or more alarms are installed, the MFS recommends that they be interconnected.
The interconnection of alarms ensures that, if one alarm detects smoke, all interconnected alarms will activate to sound the warning. Ensure that the alarms you purchase are capable of this function.
For assurance of quality in manufacture, the MFS recommends that you buy smoke alarms which comply with Australian Standard 3786. Look for 'AS 3786' and/or the Standards Australia 'five ticks' symbol on the packaging.
Fire Detection Systems
In a large domestic dwelling, it is advantageous to have the domestic fire alarms interfaced to a Residential Fire Alarm Indicator Panel. The occupants, and the Fire Service on their arrival, will then know exactly where the fire has been detected in the house.
Residential Fire Alarm Indicator Panels are also an advantage in lodging houses, blocks of flats or apartments.
Note: Residential alarms may only be used where the Building Code of Australia does not call for an Australian Standard 1670 system.
Smoke Alarms for Impaired Persons
For those who are deaf or hard of hearing, there are smoke alarm systems available that incorporate strobe lights and vibrating elements in addition to the audible alert signal.
If you are dependent on others for movement (eg paraplegic), a smoke alarm system may be interfaced with equipment that will send a pre-recorded message or signal to the service provider so that the fire service and a designated carer can be immediately notified to respond.
Power Supply Options
Hard wired - 240 volt power supply with 9 volt battery backup
Battery Operated - 9 volt battery with low power warning signal
Lithium Battery - an alternative 9 volt, non replaceable, non removable battery system with extended life (typically 5-10 yrs)
Interfaced with Domestic Security - 12 volt with battery backup to meet AS3786 Standards
Legislation requires that a qualified electrician install hard-wired (240 volt) smoke alarms.
Battery-powered alarms may be installed by the householder, carefully following the manufacturer's instructions.
Changing the Battery
Change the battery once a year or if a 'battery low' warning 'beep' is emitted. Ensure that the appropriate battery is used for the smoke alarm you have installed. (Refer to the manufacturer's instructions.)
It is strongly recommended that batteries are changed each year. An ideal time to do this is when you change your clocks back at the end of daylight saving.
Change your clock; change your smoke alarm batteries.
Mark it on your kitchen calendar.
Remember: Hard-wired (240 volt) smoke alarms may also have backup batteries which must be changed regularly.
Testing Smoke Alarms
Press the test button once a month, and when you return from an extended absence, to ensure that the smoke alarm is working. Test the backup battery of a hard-wired (240 volt) alarm by isolating the power supply (main switch or circuit breaker) before pushing the test button.
To test the alarms which are connected to a security system, refer to the owner instruction manual or follow the testing advice which is displayed on the control panel.
Cleaning Smoke Alarms
At least every six months, remove dust, lint or cobwebs from the outside of the alarm using the soft brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner or a soft bristle brush.
Any other cleaning should be done in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.
Test the alarm after cleaning.
All smoke alarms have a recommended service life of 10 years under normal operating conditions (AS 3786) after which time the MFS strongly recommends they should be replaced with a hard wired (240v) photo-electric smoke alarm.
Ionisation smoke alarms contain a minute particle of radioactive material. (Ionisation type smoke alarms can be identified by the black and yellow radiation symbol which appears on the smoke alarm casing.) An exemption under the Act permits up to two domestic ionisation smoke alarms to be disposed into domestic waste during any period of seven days. For more information go to the EPA website at: http://epa.dev.deh.sa.gov.au/smoke_alarm.html
Old photo-electric smoke alarms (no radiation symbol) can be discarded with normal domestic rubbish.
Location of Smoke Alarms
If you have a passageway leading to the bedrooms, install the alarm at the end closer to the living area.
If you sleep with your bedroom doors closed the MFS recommends additional alarms in the bedrooms, interconnected with those located in passageways and other parts of the dwelling, to ensure that you are alerted by the activation of any alarm.
If there is no passageway but the bedrooms are accessed directly from the living area, install the alarm outside each bedroom 900mm from the doorway. For additional protection, also install alarms in each bedroom. Install them as close as practicable to the centre of the room and interconnect them with the alarms located in other parts of the dwelling. Consider the installation of photo-electric alarms in the living area to reduce the incidence of nuisance alarms.
If there are bedrooms at both ends of the house install interconnected alarms in the passageway to each of these areas.
In passageways, the installation point should be at the end closest to the living area and certainly before the first bedroom is reached so that when the alarm sounds, there will be sufficient time to allow evacuation by normal exit routes eg doors.
If you have two or more storeys, smoke alarms should be installed on each level and the MFS recommends that they be interconnected.
Dead Air Spaces
Corners between walls, between a wall and ceiling and at the apex of a sloping ceiling contain dead air space which smoke may not readily penetrate.
Alarms placed in these spaces may not activate.
On a sloping ceiling the alarm should be installed between 500 and 1500mm down the slope from the apex.
If a flat or sloping ceiling has closely spaced exposed beams the areas in between the beams should be considered as dead air space and the alarm should be attached to the bottom of a beam.
Note: The MFS does not recommend side wall installation.
Always Ensure That Smoke Alarms
- Are not painted over - this may restrict the airflow into the alarm.
- Are located where there are no continual drafts - dust or lint may cause the alarm to activate.
- Are located away from the bathroom and laundry - steam may activate the alarm.
- Are not disconnected from the electrical supply to overcome nuisance alarms from cooking or smoke from an open fire. Instead, seek advice from the MFS and install the appropriate type of alarm in the right place.
- Are replaced within 10 years of installation. Check the manufacturer's instructions.
Ducted Air Conditioning Systems
The MFS recommends that factors such as ducted air conditioning systems may require additional interconnected smoke alarms to be installed.