Sign In

Video library - changes to smoke alarm legislation

​​​Changes to smoke alarm legislation – videos

To make it easier to understand these changes, we have developed a suite of short videos giving you the basic information and timings you need to know to be prepared.

1. Changes to legislation.
Hide Transcripts

0:05 And so, Neil, look, Queensland's now
0:07 got the toughest legislation in relation to smoke alarms.
0:10 Can you explain a bit how we got to this point?
0:13 Yes, Matt.
0:14 Several years ago there was a tragic house fire in Queensland
0:17 which claimed 11 lives.
0:19 From that, QFES was asked to provide recommendations
0:23 to the coroner.
0:24 So we did a lot of research about what
0:26 would be best for the community to make their homes as
0:29 safe as possible.
0:31 Luckily, there was some research done in Victoria some years ago
0:34 which indicated that if we put photoelectric smoke
0:37 alarms into every home, into every bedroom,
0:40 and interconnect them, then 50% of lives could be saved.
0:44 So that's a significant number of people that could
0:47 be saved over a period of time.
0:49 We lose approximately 16 people a year in house fires,
0:52 so it's a significant step forward for us.
0:55 But of course, those recommendations also
0:57 mentioned about having well-practised escape plans,
1:00 didn't they?
1:00 Absolutely.
1:01 A photoelectric smoke alarm gives you the early warning.
1:05 But the reality is, unless you use that early warning
1:07 in a proper means by getting out quickly and having a practised
1:10 plan, then you're not going to escape a house fire.
1:13 It's as simple as that.
1:14 You've only got a matter of minutes to get out of a home,
1:17 and pretty much the time it takes
1:19 to boil a jug is the time that you'll have
1:22 to get out of your property.

2. How legislation will roll out.
Hide Transcripts

0:05 So a big one is that, so, on January 1,
0:07 do I need to go out and automatically
0:09 do something next year?
0:10 No, Matt.
0:10 It's all about a staged approach.
0:12 So, 1st of January is new homes.
0:14 As I said, new homes and substantially renovated
0:17 properties will need to have full photoelectric
0:20 in every bedroom and in the hallways and interconnected.
0:24 That needs to be done by an electrician.
0:28 From there, also from the 1st of January
0:31 next year, if you have existing smoke alarms in your home
0:34 and they fail to operate when you test them,
0:37 or if they're over 10 years old-- many alarms
0:40 out there now, because the laws came in sometimes
0:42 up to 20 years ago, those alarms would
0:46 be well and truly out of date.
0:47 As of the 1st of January you need to replace those alarms.
0:51 It's a matter of simply looking at the alarm,
0:53 at the back of the alarm when you take it off the ceiling.
0:56 It will generally tell you when it was made.
0:58 They will last for 10 years.
1:01 So it's important to look at that.
1:03 From then, there's another further five years
1:05 for people that own properties that are rented,
1:08 or persons that are selling.
1:09 So if you sell your property or rent your home out
1:13 after the 1st of January, 2022, you
1:16 will be required to have photoelectric smoke
1:19 alarms in every bedroom, and in every hallway,
1:22 and on every level.
1:24 They need to be interconnected.
1:26 But the difference is, with an existing property,
1:28 is that you can choose to interconnect it
1:30 either wirelessly or by a wire, by an electrician.
1:35 So, Neil, what about the rest of the community, that next period
1:39 of time in there?
1:40 So the final stage is a 10-year stage.
1:42 So 2027, the 1st of January, 2027,
1:46 is when every home in Queensland must have photoelectric smoke
1:49 alarms interconnected in every bedroom and on every level.
1:53 So that gives people up to 10 years to replace their system.
1:57 Our advice is, if you can afford to do it earlier than that,
2:00 then go ahead and do that, because this is the safest
2:03 thing for your family.
2:04 And this is all about saving the lives of your family.

3. Why photoelectric alarms?
Hide Transcripts

0:05 So why the mandating of photoelectric
0:08 as opposed to ionisation alarms?
0:10 So, we've had ionisation alarms for many, many years.
0:13 But since 2006, all fire services in Australia
0:16 have recommended photoelectric smoke alarms.
0:19 The reason for that is, they're a far more reliable smoke
0:22 alarm for all types of fires, but particularly for the fires
0:26 that kill people at night while they're sleeping.
0:29 And it's also that-- a less chance
0:31 of there being a false alarm, really, isn't it?
0:33 Absolutely.
0:35 Ionisation smoke alarms, as you would know,
0:38 and many of the community know, every time I cook toast,
0:41 or whenever I cook something in the oven,
0:44 my smoke alarm will go off.
0:45 People falsely think that that's actually working
0:48 and that's really good.
0:49 But reality is, that is causing a complacency issue out there,
0:54 and people are taking their batteries out
0:55 of the smoke alarms, they're taking them
0:57 off the ceiling in frustration.
1:00 Because, at the end of the day, this
1:01 is all about going off when it needs to go off.
1:04 You won't have that problem with photoelectric smoke alarms.
1:06 Photoelectric smoke alarms actually
1:08 need to see the smoke for them to work.
1:11 And, so we all know when we cook our toast
1:15 a smoke alarm will go off, and yet you can only
1:16 barely smell burning toast.
1:18 You can't see any smoke.
1:20 So those sorts of things will be alleviated.
1:22 So what does the new legislation mean in that area there,
1:26 about having smoke alarms in bedrooms and outside
1:28 of bedrooms?
1:29 Well, the new legislation means that from 1st of January
1:32 next year, 2017, if you're building a new home
1:37 or doing substantial renovations,
1:39 you'll be required to put in photoelectric hardwired smoke
1:42 alarms that are interconnected in the bedrooms
1:44 and the hallways, and they need to be interconnected together.
1:48 The idea of the interconnection is an important one.
1:50 Interconnection is all about ensuring
1:52 that if one alarm goes off in the home,
1:54 they all go off in the home.
1:55 You can imagine, with a smoke alarm
1:57 out in the hallway, which is what the old legislation said,
2:00 if you sleep with your bedroom door closed, the chances of you
2:03 hearing that smoke alarm to the level
2:04 that you need to is pretty much nonexistent.
2:08 Smoke alarms give off about 85 decibels of sound
2:12 from the smoke alarm.
2:13 If you're a long way away from that, in a large bedroom,
2:16 or if you sleep with the door closed or your children do,
2:18 or your teenage children do, they're
2:20 probably going to get about 36 or 40 decibels at their bed
2:23 head.
2:24 Research clearly shows, unless you get 75 at your bed head,
2:27 the chances of you waking up are reduced.

4. Weighing up the cost.
Hide Transcripts

0:05 This is about saving people's lives,
0:07 and what value people put on their families, isn't it?
0:09 This is exactly right.
0:10 And look, we've have had a lot of people ask, you know,
0:13 this is a significant cost to me,
0:15 and that's why we have given some time frames,
0:17 which we'll talk about shortly.
0:19 But those time frames allow people to budget for this.
0:22 The reality is the new legislation
0:25 will cost you about a cup of coffee a week.
0:27 Is that important for your family?
0:29 Then most people would say yes.

5. Your fire escape plan.
Hide Transcripts

0:05 The complementary piece, once you've been woken up,
0:07 and once you hear the alarm go off,
0:09 is about getting out of the house, isn't it?
0:11 Exactly.
0:12 And without a practised fire escape plan,
0:14 that's very, very difficult. It might sound simple
0:16 because you go in and out of your house every single day,
0:19 but you try and do it at 2:00 in the morning,
0:21 without lights, and with a house full of smoke.
0:24 It is really difficult. So you need to practise it,
0:27 you need your whole family to know where they've got to go.
0:29 You need two ways out of every room,
0:31 and that might be out the window.
0:33 If you've got security grilles, you
0:35 need to think about how I'm going to get out
0:37 of that window, and it might be by breaking
0:39 the other pane of glass and sheltering yourself
0:41 with blankets, et cetera.
0:43 But it's about making sure that you are well prepared,
0:46 that if something happens in the middle
0:48 of the night while you're asleep, you go straight into action,
0:50 and you know what to do.

6. How it affects response times.
Hide Transcripts

0:05 But of course, the other thing with people getting earlier
0:08 notice is it means that we can respond earlier to these
0:11 incidents, too, doesn't it?
0:12 Correct.
0:13 Smoke alarms are about getting your family out of your home,
0:16 but obviously the sooner you can get out and be alerted
0:19 to a fire, the more chance you've got of ringing 000
0:22 and alerting the Fire Brigade to that fire.

7. Television advertisement.
Hide Transcripts

VO: Most Queensland homes still have traditional ionisation smoke alarms that need to smell smoke before they alert you.
VO: By the time you hear it, it could be too late.
VO: But there’s another option.
VO: Linked photoelectric smoke alarms can see smoke and alert everyone...
VO: ...when it’s still just a smoulder.
VO: The extra time that gives you can make all the difference.
VO: That’s why we’ve introduced new Legislation to make us safer in our homes.
VO: Get up to speed at
VO: Authorised by the Qld Goverment, Brisbane.

Escape Plan Logo


To get everyone out safely during a house fire, it is essential to also have a well-practised fire escape plan.