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Smoke Alarms are must in every household

Jun 02, 2017 | How To Guides, Electrical Safety Tips, Electrical Services

Smoke Alarms

What you need to know. 

Legislative requirements

In South Australia, legislation is in place to make domestic smoke alarms compulsory for all residential buildings. In some situations the smoke alarms need to be interconnected. See "Interconnecting smoke alarms" below.
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 replaceable battery powered smoke alarms. From 1 Feb 1998 when a house with replaceable 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.

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.

Best protection

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.

Interconnectable alarms

The interconnection of multiple alarms ensures that if one alarm detects smoke, all interconnected alarms will activate to sound the warning. Alarms can be interconnected by wires in the ceiling space or by wireless interconnection.
From 1 May 2014 multiple smoke alarms must be interconnected in all new Class 1 and Class 2 buildings and in any new extensions to buildings which require more than one alarm.
"Class 1 and 2 buildings" means:

Any single dwelling including detached houses or attached houses such as row houses, terrace houses, town houses, villa units, etc.
A boarding house, guest house, hostel or the like with a total floor area not exceeding 300m2 and in which not more than 12 persons would ordinarily reside.
Note: Larger buildings of these types will require a commercial type fire alarm system
 Any building containing 2 or more sole-occupancy units each being a separate dwelling (ie. flats, motel units, apartments and the like) where the building is not required to be fitted with a commercial type fire alarm system

Regardless of when your house was built, the MFS recommends that if you have multiple smoke alarms they should be interconnected. Both the ionisation and the photo-electric types of smoke alarm are available as interconnectable alarms.

Where to buy a smoke alarm? 

Smoke alarms can be purchased from:

  • Department stores
  • Hardware stores
  • Electrical retailers
  • Security companies
  • Fire protection companies

Where should smoke alarms be placed in your home? 

Choose smoke alarms that have the label of a recognized testing laboratory.
Install smoke alarms inside each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement.

On levels without bedrooms, install alarms in the living room (or den or family room) or near the stairway to the upper level, or in both locations.
Smoke alarms installed in the basement should be installed on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs leading to the next level.

Smoke alarms should be installed at least 10 feet (3 meters) from a cooking appliance to minimize false alarms when cooking.

Mount smoke alarms high on walls or ceilings (remember, smoke rises). Wall-mounted alarms should be installed not more than 12 inches away from the ceiling (to the top of the alarm).

If you have ceilings that are pitched, install the alarm within 3 feet of the peak but not within the apex of the peak (four inches down from the peak).

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