Smoke alarms are life-saving equipment capable of detecting smoke even before you notice the fire. This gives you critical seconds to either control the fire or evacuate.

There are different types of smoke alarms and it can be confusing how they operate. So we’ve listed here the common questions home owners and building managers might have about smoke alarms.

What are the current regulations that govern smoke alarms?

Under Clause 146A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (EPAA) 1979, and Division 7A of Part 9 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000, at least one working smoke alarm should be installed on each level in all buildings in NSW where people sleep.

The smoke alarms must also comply with the requirements of Australian Standard AS 3786. These provisions came into effect on 1 May 2006. A person who does not comply with the legislation is guilty of an offense with a maximum penalty of $550.
NSW legislation provides for a minimum level of protection, but Fire & Rescue NSW recommends owners and occupants consider higher levels of protection.

What are the new smoke alarm regulations?

On 23 March 2020, updated Residential Tenancy Regulations (NSW) came into force mandating increased obligations for landlords and property managers regarding smoke alarm maintenance including annual testing and battery replacement. Regulations that came into effect in NSW in March 2020 have impacted obligations for smoke alarm maintenance and water efficiency in rental properties.

NSW fair trading has advised that penalties for non-compliance will be imposed from April 2021. So if you haven’t got your smoke alarms checked, now would be the best time.

What types of residential buildings require smoke alarms?

These types of Residential accommodation require smoke alarms; detached houses, terrace houses, town houses, villa units (Class 1a buildings), apartments, home units, flats (Class 2 buildings), caretakers flats, single residences above shops (Class 4 parts of buildings), relocatable homes, e.g. manufactured homes and moveable dwellings.

Where should smoke alarms be installed?

The Building Legislation Amendment (Smoke Alarms) Act 2005 specifies the minimum requirements for smoke alarms, but Fire and Rescue NSW recommends installation of interconnected alarms in:
every bedroom
• living space (including hallways and stairways)
• the garage

Different types of premises require smoke alarms to be installed in various locations. For residential dwellings, a smoke alarm must be installed on each level of the home. The alarm should be installed between the kitchen and sleeping areas, close enough to be heard from the bedrooms. Do not install smoke alarms near the kitchen or bathroom.

How often should smoke alarms be tested?

  • Every month – Smoke alarms should be tested by pressing the test button to make sure the battery and the alarm work.
  • Every six months – Smoke alarms should be maintained and cleaned with a vacuum cleaner to remove any dust or particles that prevent the smoke alarms from working properly.
  • Once a year – If your smoke alarm runs on a battery, it should be replaced annually, like at the end of Daylight Saving. If your smoke alarm runs on a lithium battery, it is built into the alarm and cannot be replaced. You need to replace the entire unit every 10 years.
  • Every 10 years – Change your smoke alarms because they do not last forever. The sensitivity in all smoke alarms will reduce over time, especially after their expiration date.

For more information or questions about smoke alarms in NSW, contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss your requirements with you.