Smoke alarms

Requirements for smoke alarm installation

Smoke alarms are a simple and effective way to detect smoke and provide a warning when there is a fire. Smoke alarms can also potentially save lives and help reduce property damage in the event of a fire.

Government regulation of smoke alarms

The Environmental Planning and Assessment (Development Certification and Fire Safety) Regulation 2021 requires smoke alarms to be installed in all residential buildings (e.g. single dwellings, residential units and apartments, townhouses, boarding houses, hotels etc).

This Regulation relates to existing buildings, which have not been provided with smoke alarms under a relevant building approval, certificate or fire safety order.  This regulation does not override the specific requirements of a relevant building approval, certificate or fire safety order relating to the installation of smoke alarms or smoke detection and alarm systems.

Offences relating to smoke alarms

It is an offence not to have smoke alarm/s installed in any residential building in accordance with the regulation and a fine may be issued for the offence.

It is also an offence to interfere with or remove a smoke alarm, unless the smoke alarm is being repaired or replaced.

Smoke alarms must be maintained in accordance with the relevant standards at all times.

Places that must have smoke alarms

Under the Regulation, smoke alarms must be installed in:

  1. all dwellings, houses, terrace houses, town houses and villas
  2. apartments, home units and flats
  3. flats within other buildings e.g. caretakers' flats and single residences above shops
  4. buildings used for 'shared-accommodation', including guest houses; bed and breakfast accommodation; boarding houses; backpacker establishments; hostels; residential parts of hotels; motels; health care buildings; hospitals and nursing homes.

Smoke alarms in residential dwellings

Smoke alarms for residential dwellings (types 1-3 above) are required to comply with Australian Standard AS 3786-1993, Smoke Alarms.

Smoke alarms to existing buildings (which are not subject to any requirements under a building approval, construction certificate, complying development certificate or Council order) are required to be either 'hard-wired' (connected to the mains electricity power supply with a battery back-up), or be powered by a suitable battery. However, it is recommended that wherever possible, smoke alarms should be hard-wired and provided with a battery back-up to provide a higher level of safety to the building occupants.

Smoke alarms which have been installed under a building approval, construction certificate, complying development certificate or Council order are required to be hard-wired and provided with a battery back-up at all times.

Smoke alarms installed in residential dwellings (including units and apartments) after 1 May 2014 are also required to be interconnected, if there is more than one smoke alarm within the dwelling.

Smoke alarms in other buildings and undertaking building work

Smoke alarms in buildings (type 4 above), must meet more stringent standards and National Construction Code - Building Code of Australia requirements.

The National Construction Code - Building Code of Australia contains the requirements for smoke alarms and smoke detection and alarm systems whenever building work is undertaken. Specific BCA requirements and standards apply to all new building work, including alterations and additions to buildings.

How many alarms do you need?

The location of smoke alarms and the number required depends on the size and layout of the building.

Smoke alarms are required to be located so that they detect smoke before the smoke reaches the sleeping occupants. The sound emitted by the smoke alarm is designed to wake sleeping occupants to give them time to escape from the building.

In residential dwellings, villas, townhouses, apartments and units etc, smoke alarms must be installed in every storey.

If there is more than one smoke alarm in the dwelling/unit, as of 1 May 2014, the smoke alarms must be interconnected to each other.

Storeys without bedrooms

At least one smoke alarm must be installed in every storey which does not contain bedrooms.

The alarm should be located in the most likely path of travel which the occupants will take to escape from the building. This ensures that the alarm sounds before the smoke prevents the occupants from escaping from the building.

Storeys with bedrooms

In storeys containing bedrooms, smoke alarms are to be located on or near the ceiling:

  • in every corridor or hallway associated with a bedroom, or
  • if there is no corridor or hallway, between the part of the building containing the bedroom and the remainder of the building, dwelling or unit.
If the bedrooms are located on the first floor or upper floor, the smoke alarm should be located near the area of the interconnecting stair.

For additional safety, building owners may also install smoke detectors within each bedroom.

Apartment and residential flat buildings

All residential units and apartments must be provided with smoke alarms in accordance with the Regulation (and any relevant building approvals, certificates or fire safety orders).

If your residential flat building or apartment building does not contain smoke alarms, you are encouraged to seek advice from an accredited certifier, professional fire safety consultant or Council as soon as possible and to arrange for the installation of the required smoke alarms and other required fire safety measures as soon as practicable.

Interconnection requirements

If there is more than one smoke alarm in the dwelling/unit, as of 1 May 2014, the smoke alarms must be interconnected to each.

How to install smoke alarms

Battery-operated smoke alarms can usually be installed easily by homeowners or maintenance contractors.

Hard-wired smoke alarms must be installed by a licensed electrical or fire safety contractor.

Smoke alarms must be installed on or near the ceiling. If it is impractical or inappropriate to install the smoke alarm on the ceiling (e.g. due to a 'dead-air space' in the ceiling area), the smoke alarm may be installed on the wall, providing the manufacturer's details state that the smoke alarm is suitable for this location.

Smoke alarms should not be installed in a 'dead-air space'. A 'dead-air space' is an area in which trapped air may prevent smoke from reaching a smoke alarm, such as the corner junction of ceilings and walls, at the top of cathedral style ceilings or between exposed joists or beams.

Upgrade your fire safety levels

Randwick City Council encourages all property owners, proprietors of strata plans  and building managers to have their buildings assessed by an accredited building certifier or professional building/fire safety consultant to ensure that the levels of fire safety are adequate.  Refer to fire safety  building upgrades for further information.

Last Updated: 24 October 2022
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