By Clyde Pellew, Principal Electrical Engineer
Just before midnight on August 2011, a fire started on the ground floor of a house in Slacks Creek on Brisbane’s southside. It would go on to claim the lives of 11 people, the greatest loss of life in a domestic house fire in Australian history.
In the inquest that followed in 2014, the Coroner James McDougall found that the house had no working smoke alarms, and that is was likely that some of the deaths would have been prevented if the occupants had been quickly awoken. As a result of these findings, new Domestic Smoke Alarm legislation was enacted in Queensland to increase occupant safety in residential homes, providing early warning for safe evacuation.
From 1 January 2017, all new dwellings or those being renovated were required to have smoke alarms installed that complied with the National Construction Code (NCC). In addition:
The legislation is applicable to the following accommodation types as captured in the NCC:
If you are the landlord of one of these accommodation types, you are responsible for upgrading the dwelling (or unit) no later than the required date indicated above. Bodies Corporate or managing entities are not responsible for smoke alarm upgrades.
As the landlord of one of these accommodation types, the legislation requires you to install photoelectric (AS3786-2014) type smoke alarms that are hardwired, or for existing dwellings the smoke alarms can be powered by a non-removable 10-year battery.
In addition, you must ensure that each smoke alarm is interconnected with every other smoke alarm in the dwelling, so they all activate together.
The legislation requires that smoke alarms must be installed in the following locations:
Smoke alarms should be installed on the ceiling (if it is practicable) and must not be:
There are special requirements for stairways, sloping ceilings and ceilings with exposed beams.
If impractical for the prescribed location requirements to be met (e.g. may be affected by steam from shower or fumes from cooking), the owner may put the alarm at another location that will provide a warning to occupants of the dwelling.
A Class 2 exemption exists for high-rise apartments where the NCC requires a Fire Detection and Alarm System to specification E2.2a Clause 4 System. In the case of a Class 2 high-rise, the Fire Detection and Alarm System requires the following to be installed by January 2022:
With the adoption of the legislation in January 2017, the deadline of January 2022 will apply to all dwellings either rented, sold or transferred. With this looming deadline, now is the time for landlords to implement or plan the necessary upgrade works to ensure compliance.
Failure to comply can result in these consequences:
If you’d like any advice or help planning compliance to Queensland’s smoke alarm legislation for your building, get in touch with our Lead Electrical Engineer, Clyde Pellew at firstname.lastname@example.org