One in four homes in NSW lack a smoke alarm
There are growing calls from experts to change laws in NSW to ensure homes are fully equipped with smoke alarms, after a Fire and Rescue NSW report showed one in four homes don’t have a working device.
It’s a figure that lags behind Queensland, which is considered to have best practice in Australia, where 85 per cent of homes have operational alarms.
“Queensland’s legislation is the tightest in the country. It recently went through some changes and they’re leading the way in terms of what needs to be done to ensure homes are fire-safe-compliant,” Julieanne Worchurst from Smoke Alarm Solutions says.
The company, which has serviced smoke alarms in more than 280,000 rental properties across Queensland and NSW, believes there is a stark contrast between the neighbouring states when it comes to fire safety.
In 2016 Queensland amended its Building Fire Safety Act, which required landlords to meet a higher safety level in their rental properties. Key changes included the installation of a smoke alarm in every bedroom and that they must be interconnected, meaning if one alarm goes off, they all do.
“The more alarms there are in a dwelling, the more chance you have of detecting the fire and potentially saving more lives,” Mrs Worchurst says.
However, in NSW there is a minimum of a one device in a house – a standard that is behind on the technology and knowledge available around preventing fast-fuelled fires, according to Fire and Rescue NSW assistant commissioner Mark Whybro.
“You’re most vulnerable when you’re asleep, and you want everyone to know about it, and that fact is modern furnishings burn very quickly compared to older furniture,” he says.
“Our research has shown you could have total home involvement in three minutes. [Alarms are] a key contributing factor to your survival.”
Fire and Rescue NSW also found that more than 50 per cent of home fire deaths in NSW were in properties that didn’t have a working fire alarm.
Since releasing the report, Fire and Rescue NSW has written to the Australian Building Codes Board, which recommended smoke alarm requirements be increased across the country.
There is no requirement in NSW to have smoke alarms installed or serviced by a professional.
The proposed changes are backed by Real Estate Institute of NSW president Leanne Pilkington, who believes the onus should be on landlords to ensure there are working smoke alarms, serviced by professionals.
“We’ve got to be careful how much responsibility we’re placing on property managers. They’re not experts in all these different areas of the building code,” Ms Pilkington says.
“Landlords should be required to have professional inspections done on a yearly basis.”
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