Changing clocks this weekend an alarming time

THIS Sunday is the annual opportunity to seriously think about home fire safety, as we leave Daylight Saving and enter into colder winter months.

In most states across Australia, on Sunday our clocks will go back an hour at 3am, and whilst we make this change before going to bed it is also the ideal time to replace the batteries in our smoke alarms.

In Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory, who don’t observe Daylight Saving, this weekend is also a reminder to not be an ‘April Fool’ with fire safety and take the same action.

The coming of winter increases our dependence on higher-risk appliances and equipment, meaning working smoke alarms are more essential than ever for you and your family.

Check your smoke alarms

This weekend, change the batteries in your smoke alarms. Even if they’re not low or going flat, being proactive and changing the batteries now will prevent the ever-dreaded low battery chirping that seems to always occur when you’re trying to sleep.

Then, test them. Press the test button for at least 10 seconds and see if they are working.

Next, check their expiry dates. Smoke alarms must be replaced after 10 years due to the increase of failure because of internal dust, component corrosion and reduced sensitivity. If your alarms were manufactured in 2007 or before, arrange for their replacement.

Whilst looking for the expiry date, also look for the type of alarms you have. If they are the ionisation type – identified by a yellow radioactive material symbol – then they are best replaced with the more superior photoelectric type, even before they reach 10 years old. Photoelectric smoke alarms are better at detecting smoke from smouldering fires, and house fires typically start slowly when these detectors work best, long before ionisation types. Remember that every second counts, and extra time to escape could mean getting out alive.

Finally give your alarms a clean by using your vacuum cleaner and its dusting crevice tool to reduce dust, wipe over with a damp cloth, and spray insect spray around them (not on).

Be aware of fire safety risks

The coming of winter increases our dependence on higher risk appliances and equipment, including heaters, electric blankets, candles and warmer clothing. These things can lead to fatal consequences if used incorrectly, unchecked or not maintained. This risk means having working smoke alarms are essential in case the unfortunate occurs.

Know the risks and educate everyone in your family.

Check heaters and electric blankets before you use them, especially their condition and cabling. If cords are frayed or they’re a number of years old, it could be time to replace them.

Do not leave heating equipment on nor candles unattended.


Never use heaters to dry anything, and always have a one meter clearance from them when they’re on.

If using a heater in your bedroom, keep it away from your bed in case you kick the covers off while sleeping and towards or onto it.

Don’t leave your electric blanket on while sleeping, as you could suffer from serious burns to yourself or ignite your bed and bedding.

Refresh your home fire safety strategy, including an escape plan, and be prepared for what to do when a fire occurs and how you will get out of the house to a safe place.