Fire safety programs ignite greater awareness around smoke alarms

Paul Eyers
By Paul Eyers
4 Min Read

It’s one of the most crucial safety features every home can have. But often, it is also the most overlooked. 

Smoke alarms play a vital role in early fire detection, giving residents time to evacuate the property and save their lives.

Yet, statistics indicate many Aussies either do not have enough, don’t maintain them correctly or have them installed in the wrong parts of the home.  

Weak alarm coverage, flat batteries and ineffective alarm placements are common mistakes homeowners make when it comes to fire alarms that can leave their lives under threat in the event of a fire. 

And despite smoke alarms now being mandatory by law in every Australian state and territory, some homes are still without the essential safety device, especially in more regional areas. 

According to recent research conducted by RACV, 42 per cent of Victorians test their smoke alarms less than once a month. 

Meanwhile, nearly one-fifth don’t understand how their smoke alarm works or is operated.

Warning signs of a faulty smoke alarm:

  • The smoke alarm unit is turning a yellow colour.
  • A continuous ‘chirp’ sound.
  • Your smoke alarm is activated for no reason.
  • There is no sound when operating the tested function.

RACV and the Country Fire Authority (CFA) recently announced a rural smoke alarm installation program to provide 500 at-risk residents, such as renters and older people, with free smoke alarms.

The free alarms will be provided alongside training programs to boost community understanding of fire safety risks. 

The programs aim to increase the understanding and awareness of home fire hazards and reduce the number of preventable fire fatalities through topics including how to identify fire safety risks, fire safety advice for parents of small children and educating primary school-age children on the importance of fire safety.

The alarm giveaway will help residents provide broader fire detector coverage within at-risk homes, with investigation data showing fatal house fires often start in less expected parts of the home, such as bedrooms, further underlining the importance of comprehensive smoke alarm coverage within properties.

Seven steps to maintaining smoke alarms:

  1. Replace batteries (if applicable) annually. 
  2. Replace the entire alarm unit every decade. 
  3. Test smoke alarms every four weeks.
  4. Vacuum over smoke alarms to clean from dust, debris and other blockages
  5. Never keep a smoke alarm for more than ten years. 
  6. Never paint or spray substances over a smoke alarm. 
  7. In case of accidental activation, do not disable it. Vent the room and fan the device.

RACV Head of Policy James Williams said the program hopes to educate Victorians on how they can better prevent fire risks.

“Through our work with CFA, we aim to address the gaps we know exist in smoke alarm coverage throughout Victorian homes,” Mr Williams said.

“We believe every Victorian deserves to feel safe and secure in their own home.”

CFA Chief Officer Jason Heffernan says everyone should have operational smoke alarms on their property, which could potentially save a life.

“We’ve seen the devastating results of house fires where there wasn’t a working smoke alarm, so this is an important program to ensure we’re helping our communities, especially those more vulnerable such as renters and elderly Victorians,” he aid.

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Paul Eyers has worked as a journalist for a range of media publishers including News Corp and Network Ten. He has also worked outside of Australia, including time spent with ABS-CBN in the Philippines. Stepping away from the media, Paul spent five years sharpening his tools in construction - building his skill set and expertise within the trade industry. His diverse experiences and unique journey have equipped him with an insider view of Australia’s construction game to dig deep into the big stories.