Why this weekend is the perfect time to check your smoke alarm

Living Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 31 March 2020

End of daylight saving a reminder to turn back clocks and check smoke alarms.

When Victorians turn back their clocks by an hour to mark the end of daylight saving on Sunday 5 April, it’s a reminder to check your home smoke alarms are working.

Victoria’s fire services are asking people to do this life-saving check after recent research showing that the number and location of functioning smoke alarms increase your family’s chances of escaping a fire.

They are urging Victorians to use this weekend to check smoke alarms and carry out home maintenance like checking on fire risks such as damaged power cords or inspecting heating systems.

A smoke alarm


“Over the past 10 years, most fatal fires started in either someone’s loungeroom or bedroom,” says Gavin Freeman, Country Fire Authority deputy chief officer.

“I urge Victorians to keep themselves safe as we head into winter, when heaters and electric blankets bring a greater risk of house fires.”

He says many fatal fires start at night and the smell of smoke won’t wake people up.

The CFA recommends smoke alarms with a 10-year lithium battery, installed on the ceiling at least 30 centimetres from the wall and interconnected so when one alarm sounds, all the others do the same. 

MFB’s deputy chief officer David Bruce says having a working smoke alarm is “your first line of defence in the event of a fire”.

“If you’re doing the right thing and staying home it will only take a few minutes to clean and then test your smoke alarm by pushing the button,” he says.

“Regardless of the type of smoke alarm you have, all smoke alarms need to be replaced every 10 years.”

With a big increase in people working from home offices, the fire services say it’s also important to check that you’re not overloading power-boards, which can also be a fire risk. Now is also a good time to check heating and cooling systems, and ensure home fire extinguishers or fire blankets aren’t out of date. 

The fire services also recommend drawing up a family fire plan, similar to the plans you would have in an office, ensuring all family members know the quickest two ways out of each room and how to call triple zero.

The CFA says research shows that less than half of all properties attended by fire services had smoke alarms and, of those that did have alarms, one third didn’t work.

It recommends maintaining your smoke alarms by: 

  • Testing it monthly by pushing the test button to make sure it beeps.
  • Dusting the alarm with a vacuum cleaner brush.
  • Changing the battery at least once a year.
  • If your smoke alarm is more than 10 years old, changing your alarm to a new unit with a 10-year lithium battery.

RACV’s head of home insurance Zoe Malempre says people working from home must take extra care when charging phones, laptops and tablets, as charging devices on soft surfaces like a couch or bed can be a fire danger.

“Soft surfaces don’t allow enough air to circulate around the charging device so hard surfaces are best when charging.”

CFA’S top tips for home safety 

 https://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/home-fire-safety-checklist

In the kitchen

  • Never leave cooking unattended.
  • Keep tea towels and cloth pot-holders away from the stove. 
  • Keep grills, fans and cooking surfaces free of grease. 
  • Replace faulty appliances. 

In the lounge room 

  • Keep toys, clothing and curtains away from heaters. 
  • Ensure heaters are turned off when you go to bed. 
  • Keep a fire screen in front of open fires. 
  • Keep candles, incense and oil burners away from anything flammable. 
  • Keep lighters and matches away from children. 

In the bedroom 

  • Don’t smoke in bed. 
  • Don’t leave an electric blanket on for more than 30 minutes. 
  • Don’t put anything on top of a bed when an electric blanket is on, including objects, pets or people. 
  • Have a smoke detector in every bedroom. 

In the laundry 

  • Clean the lint filter in the clothes dryer after each load. 
  • Let the dryer complete its cool-down cycle before stopping it. 

In the home office 

  • Never overload power boards. 
  • Don’t use faulty devices. 

 

Need a property inspection?

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