The lifesaver of your house (aka Smoke Alarms 101)

Published On: June 4, 2019

If there’s one little device in your house that is absolutely responsible for saving your life, without question that would be the humble smoke alarm.

Yup. The smoke alarm.

I know you’re probably thinking “of course the smoke alarm is important” – but when was the last time you checked it? They don’t just magically last forever.

Here’s what you need to know.

Smoke Alarm Facts

  • On average, 21 deaths occur in residential fires across NSW every year.
  • One third to a half of those fatalities may have been prevented if the homes had working smoke alarms and had a practised home escape plan.
  • Smoke alarms detect smoke well before any sleeping occupant would.
  • It can take as little as three minutes for a fire to take hold and takes only two quick breaths of thick, black smoke to render someone unconscious.

Source: Fire and Rescue NSW

So you’ve got roughly 21 deaths a year to residential fires, and up to 10 or so could have been prevented if they had WORKING smoke alarms.

How much do you want to bet each of those 10 that were preventable thought they did have a working smoke alarm?

Fire fighters love this little guy

Smoke Alarm Law

Outside of saving your life, you also need to think about what the law says you need to do.

NSW legislation states that smoke alarms must be installed on every level of your home. This includes owner occupied homes, rental properties, relocatable homes, caravans and camper-vans or any other residential building where people sleep.

In addition to the minimum requirements by law, Fire and Rescue NSW encourages NSW residents to replace old, outdated smoke alarms a with new interconnected alarms in every bedroom, living space (including hallways and stairways) and even the garage in their home (yup, even the garage).

Those interconnected alarms aren’t really something you can DIY easily, so if you want a good electrician to change your smoke alarms, contact us.

Insurance and Smoke Alarms

A really big factor to think about is insurance.

Most insurance companies won’t cover you in the event of a fire if you don’t have a working smoke alarm.

If you’re a landlord, some insurance companies won’t cover you in the event of a fire if you can’t show documented testing and inspection of your smoke alarms.

This is not a joke – make sure you double check your policy, and if you need it – get us to do some testing for you.

Keep your family safe

We’ve already covered that almost half of the deaths by fire would have been prevented if there had been a working smoke alarm in the house.

But let’s think about how many fires have occurred that there was no loss of life.

NSW Fire and Rescue respond to around 4500 fires every year.

Yes, you read that right. A whopping four and a half thousand fires every year! That works out to be more than 12 fires every day. And that’s just in NSW!

Fire fighters get pretty busy!

Of those 4500 fires, there are 21 deaths (and it could have been 11).

That means there were 4,479 that no one died in – either because the fires were small, or because they had enough warning to get out!

Up to date and working smoke alarms detect smoke a lot earlier than a human can, and that gives you more warning if a fire breaks out. Even a few extra seconds can be the difference between you and your family being part of the 4,479, or being part of the 21.

We’d really like it if you were part of the bigger group.

Smoke Alarm Maintenance

Smoke alarms aren’t just a set and forget thing. Fire and Rescue NSW recommends the following maintenance:

Every month: Smoke alarms should be tested (by pressing and holding the test button for 5 seconds) to ensure the battery and the alarm work.

Every six months: Smoke alarms should be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner. This will remove any dust or particles that could prevent the smoke alarm from working properly.

Once a year: If your smoke alarm has a battery, you should replace it annually. A good way to remember is to change it when you change your clocks at the end of Daylight Saving. If your smoke alarm uses a lithium battery, it is inbuilt into the alarm and cannot be replaced. The entire unit needs to be replaced every 10 years.

Every 10 years: Replace your smoke alarm. Smoke alarms do not last forever and the sensitivity in all smoke alarms will reduce over time. All types of smoke alarms should be removed, replaced and disposed of at least every 10 years.

There’s a fair bit of maintenance there, but it doesn’t need to be a pain. We often do testing, maintenance, and installations for residential smoke alarms in Sydney.


It’s a pretty serious topic, but this is about saving lives.

It isn’t a joke. Follow the maintenance guide we’ve outlined above. Test your alarms RIGHT NOW if you can.

If you really want to be sure, call us. We can test smoke alarms in Sydney without a problem.

Stay safe!

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