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Queenslanders are often viewed as more laidback and care-free in nature than their southern counterparts however the Sunshine State is set to buck that trend by becoming the most fire-safe state in the nation.
Although it is an existing requirement that working smoke alarms are installed in each bedroom exit path, a 240 volt or 10 year lithium battery interconnected photoelectric smoke alarm will now need to be fitted inside every bedroom as part of new Queensland legislation aimed to prevent injury and death in domestic house fires. A property’s existing battery-operated smoke alarms will therefore also need to be upgraded to mains-powered or 10 year lithium battery alarms. It is crucial that 240 volt mains-powered smoke alarms are installed by a licensed electrician.
Photoelectric smoke alarms are recommended by all Australian fire authorities as they respond more quickly to a broader range of fires than the ionisation type and are less likely to cause false alarms (meaning people are less likely to interfere with them).
Changes to Queensland smoke alarm legislation have been in train since a 2014 coronial inquest examined Australia’s worst domestic house fire in August 2011, which claimed three generations when fire tore through their home in Slacks Creek in Brisbane’s south. The fire caused the greatest loss of life in a house fire in Australian history with eleven people losing their lives – eight of which were under the age of 18.Astonishingly, a domestic house fire occurs every 4.7 hours in Queensland so although the Slacks Creek house fire was the catalyst for the 2014 coronial inquest, reform to current legislation was needed to assist in the reduction of further house fire-related tragedies.
James McDougall, the coroner conducting the inquest, determined there was no evidence of a working smoke alarm in the Slacks Creek house that was occupied by 14 people at the time of the destructive house fire. It was also determined that had smoke alarms been working, there was a reasonable prospect that some or all of the victims could have escaped with their lives.
The recommendations passed down by McDougall in November 2014 after hearing suggestions from the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFES), have formed the foundation for the legislative changes which will impact every home owner in Queensland. Although there is a staged approach to the implementation of new legislation, there is an ongoing importance to guarantee properties are as safe as possible for occupants, so it is prudent to ensure new safety measures are adhered to as soon as possible.
It is also imperative that home owners, landlords and their property managers only engage experienced electricians or technicians who are comprehensively trained in all aspects of the Building Code of Australia and other relevant legislation to carry out compliance services, as it expected that demand for electricians and technicians will be high and therefore supply of experienced professionals may be at an all-time low.