New Smoke Alarm Legislation

Changes to Queensland’s Smoke alarm legislation

On Wednesday 31 August 2016, Queensland Parliament passed new smoke alarm legislation making Queensland households the safest in Australia in relation to fire safety.

This legislation was developed following recommendations handed down after the 2011 Slacks Creek fatal house fire which claimed 11 lives. In the years since, lives have continued to be lost in house fires in Queensland. This new legislation will save lives.

It specifies that every Queensland residence will have interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms in all bedrooms of the home and in hallways where bedrooms are connected.

Photoelectric smoke alarms can also be known as optical or photo optical smoke alarms.

Interconnected means if one smoke alarm sounds all other smoke alarms in a premises will sound; so it won’t matter what part of the house the fire starts in, the alarm closest to you will quickly alert you to a fire danger. Photoelectric smoke alarms are more likely to alert occupants to a broader range of fires in time to escape safely.

​Every home should also have a clearly defined and well-practised fire escape plan. By having a well-practised fire escape plan, you’ll stand a better chance of avoiding panic and getting everyone out safely during a house fire.

What is changing?

All Queensland dwellings will be required to have interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms in all bedrooms, in hallways that connect bedrooms with the rest of the dwelling and on every level.

When is this happening?

There is a 10-year phased roll-out of interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms in Queensland that will happen over three specific periods starting from 1 January 2017. This means interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms are required for compliance:

  • From 1 January 2017:  in all new dwellings and substantially renovated dwellings (this applies to building applications submitted from 1 January 2017).
  • From 1 January 2022: in all domestic dwellings leased and sold.
  • From 1 January 2027: in all other domestic dwellings.

​What about new or replacing existing smoke alarms?

Any new smoke alarm being installed or existing smoke alarm being replaced from 1 January 2017 must also be a photoelectric-type alarm which complies with Australian Standard 3786.

If your smoke alarm is more than 10 years old it must be replaced with a photoelectric smoke alarm. A smoke alarm which is hard wired to the domestic power supply must be replaced with a hard wired photoelectric smoke alarm. Be sure to check your alarm’s date of manufacture (which should be stamped on it). Any smoke alarms that do not operate when tested must also be replaced immediately.

How do you know if a smoke alarm is photoelectric?

To tell if you have a photoelectric-type smoke alarm look on the front, back or inside of the smoke alarm unit for the word ‘photoelectric’, ‘optical’, ‘photo optical’ or the symbol ‘P’. If it does not contain these words or symbols your alarm should be replaced.

​What type of photoelectric smoke alarm systems are there?

Queenslanders who own existing homes can either have their smoke alarms hardwired into their home’s electrical wiring or have their smoke alarms powered by a non-removable, 10-year battery or a combination of both, subject to existing building approvals.

All smoke alarm systems must be interconnected to comply with the new laws. Hardwired and battery operated smoke alarms can be interconnected by wiring or by wireless radio technology.

Remember the packaging must state that the alarm complies with Australian Standard 3786. ​

Can I have both hardwired and wireless smoke alarm systems in my home?

The new legislation does allow for a combination of hardwired and wireless smoke alarm systems subject to them meeting the criteria of interconnectivity. You would need to check with the smoke alarm manufacturer or distributor or your electrical contractor to see if the smoke alarms chosen are compatible for interconnection.​

Where will smoke alarms need to be installed?

The new legislation means that interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms will need to be installed on each storey and:

  • in each bedroom
  • in hallways that connect bedrooms and the rest of the dwelling
  • if there is no hallway, between the bedroom and other parts of the storey
  • if there are no bedrooms on a storey, at least one smoke alarm must be installed in the most likely path of travel to exit the dwelling.

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.