New Smoke Alarm Laws for Queensland Homes

SMOKE alarm systems in Queensland homes will be overhauled under new laws designed to prevent a repeat of the tragic Slacks Creek fire that claimed 11 lives back in August 2011.

Fire and Emergency Services Minister, Bill Bryne said that more than 150 people have died in house fires in Queensland since 2004. The introduction of the new bill will require photoelectric smoke alarms to be installed in the bedrooms and connecting areas of all homes phased in over the next 10 years starting from 1 January 2017.

Mr Byrne told State Parliament that under the changes homeowners will need to install additional smoke alarms in every bedroom, between areas containing bedrooms, in any hallway servicing bedrooms and in any other storey of a residential dwelling.

Those smoke alarms will need to be interconnected and either hard-wired or powered by a 10-year lithium battery

They will also need to meet minimum performance standards “with photoelectric-type smoke alarms acting as the performance baseline”, Mr Byrne said.

“From 1 January 2017, all smoke alarms installations will need to be fully compliant for new buildings or when significant renovations occur,” Mr Byrne said.

Current Obligations with smoke alarm laws in Queensland

By law, all homes and units in Queensland must be fitted with smoke alarms. It is your responsibility to make sure you have a working smoke alarm installed.

  • Homes built before 1 July 1997 must have at least one 9-volt battery-operated smoke alarm
  • Homes built or significantly renovated after 1 July 1997 must have a 240-volt (hard-wired) smoke alarm.
  • Buildings submitted for approval from 1st May 2014 must have hard-wired and interconnected smoke alarms.

Read more about smoke alarm legislation

Proposed changes

  • Smoke alarms are to be in almost every room under new Queensland Legislation from 1 January 2017. Every Queensland home will need to have photoelectric, inter-connected hard-wired smoke alarms in bedrooms, living areas and escape paths by 2027, under new legislation introduced in Parliament.
  • The legislation will mean all domestic homes will have to install “additional smoke alarms in every bedroom, between areas containing bedrooms, in any hallway servicing bedrooms and in any other storey of a residential dwelling”.
  • The alarms would also have to “be interconnected and either hard-wired or powered by a 10-year lithium battery” and meet minimum performance standards “with photoelectric type smoke alarms acting as the performance baseline”.
  • Homeowners will have until 2027 to adhere to the changes, once the legislation had passed.

Our Recommendation

We recommend that all landlords look into the new legislation when finishing off their renovations or preparing their property for lease in order to be compliant as the changes come into effect.

Choosing a smoke alarm

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services recommends all homes are fitted with photoelectric smoke alarms (not ionisation types).

Photoelectric smoke alarms

Photoelectric smoke alarms are generally more effective than ionisation types because they ‘see’ the smoke by detecting visible particles of combustion. For this reason they are good at detecting smouldering fires and dense smoke, and are not as prone to false alarms (from cooking etc.).

There are two kinds of photoelectric smoke alarms:

  • 240-volt smoke alarms (also called ‘hard-wired smoke alarms’). These are connected to the house electrical system and have a battery back-up power supply
  • 9-volt smoke alarms (also called ‘battery-operated smoke alarms’) are stand-alone battery operated alarms.

Safety standards — what to look for

When choosing a smoke alarm, make sure it:

  • Complies with the Australian Standard AS 3786-1993
  • Has the Standards Australia Mark or is Scientific Services Laboratory (SSL) certified.

View a list of compliant smoke alarms.

Installing and positioning smoke alarms

Smoke rises — try to place smoke alarms on the ceiling. If this is not possible, alarms may be placed high on a wall, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

By law, a smoke alarm must be installed on or near the ceiling in a hallway or area close to bedrooms and the rest of the house (in a multi-storey house, a smoke alarm must be installed on each level). Anyone who sleeps with their door closed should have a smoke alarm installed in their bedroom.

Don’t install alarms:

  • Near windows, doors, fans or air conditioners (air movement may prevent smoke and gases from reaching the smoke alarm or cause false alarms)
  • In or just outside the bathroom (steam can cause false alarms)
  • closer than 1.5 metres to fluorescent lights (electrical ‘noise’ or flicker may affect the smoke alarm)
  • In kitchens (cooking steam and smoke can cause false alarms)
  • Anywhere with lots of insects (insects flying into the alarm can cause false alarms).

The number of smoke alarms you need depends on the size of your home. For further advice on selecting (PDF), placing (PDF) and maintaining (PDF) smoke alarms, contact your local Queensland Fire and Emergency Services fire station.

Maintaining and replacing smoke alarms

  • Check the battery once a month by pressing the test button. If you cannot reach the button easily, use a broom handle
  • Keep smoke alarms clean. Dust can interfere with their operation
  • Replace the batteries at least once a year. In most models when batteries are low, the detector will sound a short ‘beep’ every minute or so to remind you to replace the batteries
  • Never paint smoke alarms
  • Do not disable the alarm if cooking smoke or steam sets it off, instead turn on a fan or open a window to clear the air
  • Do not remove the batteries from your smoke alarm
  • Replace smoke alarms before the expiry date on the manufacturer’s warranty.

Read more about smoke alarms on the Queensland Fire and Emergency website .

Do you have a Safehome?

Safehome is a free safety and fire awareness inspection service conducted by Queensland Fire & Emergency Services. During the Safehome inspection local firefighters visit your home to help you to reduce fire risk and discuss your fire safety concerns.

Further reading