Working smoke alarms worth every cent

Recent house fires again demonstrate the importance of working smoke alarms, especially for the elderly.

In the two fires, in Hawthorn near Melbourne and Richmond in Hobart, working smoke alarms alerted the occupants, giving them time to escape.

The Hawthorn occupant was alerted to a fire that had started upstairs, whilst the Richmond couple made a swift escape in the early morning hours after their bathroom spa pump ignited.

In emergency situations like house fires, there is very limited time to react and every second is critical for survival. Both situations could have ended in tragedy without their working smoke alarms that gave them critical time to escape.

In many house fires where smoke alarms have been inoperable, such as their battery being removed, people have been killed.

Householders must understand and practice good fire safety habits to be better-equipped if a fire emergency occurs to protect themselves and their families.

All domestic dwellings across Australia are required by law to have working smoke alarms, and part of good housekeeping is to regularly check them all.


All Australian fire services recommend installing photoelectric smoke alarms and discourage ionisation types.

Rapid responses from smoke alarms is essential for survival, and photoelectric types have been found to react faster to more common smouldering fires unlike their ionisation counterparts.

Ionisation smoke alarms use Americium, a radioactive element, to detect smoke and therefore have a radioactive symbol printed on them.

If homes have ionisation smoke alarms they should be replaced with photoelectric ones.

Regularly testing smoke alarms is essential to ensure they are in an operating condition. The use of a vacuum cleans any dust or insects that can cause false alarms. If the smoke alarms are not working or testing correctly, they must be replaced.

Windows and doors should have no obstructions and be easy to open. Obstructions in a fire reduces the available time to escape time and increases risk of harm.