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Prevent your home going up in smoke - Warning from the VIC Building Commission

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Prevent your home going up in smoke - Warning from the VIC Building Commission

April 2007

Fires in homes grow quickly and commonly fire deaths occur when smoke alarms are not operable. That’s why all Australians should change their smoke alarm batteries each year.

Smoke alarms are compulsory in Victoria and must be installed in all homes, units, flats and townhouses. It is the legal responsibility of homeowners and landlords to install and maintain smoke alarms.

Though this regulation makes Victorian residences safer from fire, safety relies heavily on the householder. If your smoke alarm battery is flat it will not warn you or your family in the event of a fire.

According to the most recent Productivity Commission report, accidental residential structure fires reported to fire service organisations have decreased on a yearly basis since the introduction of mandatory smoke alarms. The latest statistics show that from the years 2001/02 to 2005/06 the number of accidental house fires has dropped from 159 to 113 per 100,000 households. This can be attributed to operable smoke alarms.

The most common causes of house fires are cooking, smoking and electrical faults in home products. House fires are life threatening, particularly at night when people are sleeping. Smoke from a fire will not normally wake you when you are asleep. However, a working smoke alarm will provide you with a signal to evacuate your building. That’s why you should check that your smoke alarms are located correctly and working.

But there are other precautions you can take to protect your home from fires:

  • Ensure your family has a fire exit plan
  • Make sure all fire extinguishers are operational.
  • Ensure that clothing, bedding and other hazardous items are away from heaters or other ignition sources and electrical goods.
  • Check electrical appliances for frayed cords and that power boards and switches are not overloaded.

Smoke alarms must be installed on or near the ceiling of every storey in your home.

The Building Regulations 2006 state that smoke alarms must meet the Australian Standard AS 3786-1993. You will find a range of complying models at most electrical appliance outlets or hardware stores.

Smoke alarms must be connected to your home’s power mains as well as having a battery back-up, unless your home was built before 1 August 1997, where a battery-powered back-up meets regulations.

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