Tag: photoelectric smoke alarm

The rise in the cost of living across Australia, and in Queensland in particular, has become a pervasive concern for individuals and families alike. Relentlessly rising electricity costs, fuel, food and insurance premiums means less available disposable income. While financial strain is a well-known consequence, a lesser-known and equally pressing issue is the impact of these pressures on residential house fire safety.

As families tighten their budgets to meet basic needs, the temptation to cut corners on home maintenance and safety measures becomes more pronounced. One area where this compromise can have severe consequences is fire safety. Neglecting home fire safety, by not installing or maintaining interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms, can significantly elevate the risk of house fires and leave a family exposed. Faulty appliances, aging electrical panels, outdated wiring and cheap electrical gadgets are other examples of potential fire hazards that may be overlooked in the quest to trim expenses.

In a recent article published in the Courier Mail newspaper, University of Wollongong fire expert Dr Owen Price said the rising cost of living was likely affecting fire risk within homes as many of the steps people could take to protect themselves required money.

“A lot of people realise they are at risk, but they often don’t do anything about it and when cost of living comes in it’s often lowest on people’s priorities,” he said.

Cash strapped families also tended to live in cheaper, older housing, which was more vulnerable to fire, Dr Price said.

Older buildings with outdated fire prevention measures, such as a lack of interconnected smoke alarms, or inadequate escape routes can pose a serious threat to residents. In such cases, the cost of living pressures directly translate into compromised safety.

The stress induced by financial strains can also lead to behavioral changes that impact fire safety. Individuals working multiple jobs or long hours may be more prone to fatigue, increasing the likelihood of negligence in daily tasks such as turning off stoves or unplugging electrical devices. Additionally, the inability to afford quality appliances and heating equipment may force individuals to resort to makeshift solutions, elevating the risk of electrical fires.

To mitigate these risks, it is crucial for individuals facing cost of living pressures to prioritize fire safety. This includes installing and maintaining interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms, performing regular checks of electrical systems, investing in quality appliances and avoiding cheap knock offs, and staying vigilant about potential hazards. Public awareness campaigns and community initiatives can further emphasize the importance of fire safety in the face of financial challenges, ensuring that individuals and families can navigate these pressures without compromising their well-being. The QLD Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) free ‘Safehome‘ initiative is one such example. QLD Firefighters will advise you on correct positioning of interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms and discuss fire safety concerns.

By fostering a culture of awareness and not neglecting preventative measures such as interconnected fire alarms, we can ensure that the cost of living crisis doesn’t come at the expense of our most precious asset – our safety and well-being. As Queenslanders, let us renew our commitment to safeguarding homes from the silent threat of fire that lurks within the shadows of the cost of living crisis.

Please feel free to use our discount coupon code GDAY$5 during the checkout process to help offset the cost of your next purchase of interconnected smoke alarms.

Queensland was rocked by another devastating house fire tragedy earlier this month when police confirmed that five young brothers and their 34-year-old father died in a house blaze on Russell Island, off Brisbane’s Redland Bay. Emergency services rushed to the home on Todman Street just after 6am on Sunday 8th August to find the two-storey house fully engulfed, with two neighbouring properties also alight. A 21-year-old woman thought to have been inside the house when the fire broke out managed to escape with injuries.

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Assistant Commissioner, John Cawcutt, said the blaze was “one of the worst fires we’ve had for a long time”. Fire and Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan also said the fire was a great tragedy. “Of course a very sad day for Queenslanders,” he said. “Our hearts break for those involved in the tragedy. It seems a tragic loss of life”. A forensic investigation is currently underway to determine how the fire started, and why the smoke alarms did not activate.

In terms of sheer loss of life from a single domestic house fire, the Russell Island fire tragedy is second only to the August 2011 Logan house fire, which was Queensland’s deadliest house fire, causing the death of 11 family members. A coronial inquest could not establish the exact cause of that blaze but a coroner found there was a ‘reasonable prospect’ that all or some of the victims could have escaped if smoke alarms had been working. That tragedy led to the introduction of new QLD laws for interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms inside every bedroom, hallways outside the bedrooms, and on every level of Queensland homes.

Why didn’t the smoke alarms go off in the Russell Island house fire?
The rented two storey Queenslander home allegedly had smoke alarms installed, however the female survivor of the blaze said she didn’t hear any smoke alarms activate, adding that concerns had previously been expressed about them. It remains unclear why the alarms didn’t activate and whether they were in working order. ‘With a fire of that intensity it will be difficult to know whether there were smoke alarms present or not but that will be part of the investigation,’ Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Deputy Commissioner Joanne Greenfield said. It is understood the home was transported to the site around 2017. ‘So thinking about the legislation that was in place at that time it would have required one hardwired smoke alarm, that’s if it was following the legislation,’ QLD Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Leach said.

A close family friend issued a harrowing plea to all Australians on the behalf of the Children’s surviving mother, stating that she ‘just wants the world to know – check your smoke alarms and hold your babies’.

What are QLD’s smoke alarm laws?

From 1st January 2022, all properties being sold or leased for rent in Queensland were required by law to be compliant with the smoke alarm rules below (on 1st January 2027 the law is being extended to cover all QLD homeowners and occupiers, irrespective of whether the property is being sold or rented out).

In addition to the above, rental property managers and landlords are required to test and clean smoke alarms and replace any flat or nearly flat batteries within 30 days before the start of a tenancy. This also includes a renewal tenancy.

In recent years, Australia has witnessed a surge in the adoption of lithium-ion battery technology, and Queensland is no exception. Small, lightweight and versatile, these batteries power everything from smartphones to e-scooters, e-bikes and even household renewable energy storage systems. Whilst these convenient batteries have transformed the way we live, work and play, their introduction has been accompanied by a concerning rise in lithium-ion battery fires in QLD homes.

Data collated from Australian state fire departments indicate that more than 450 fires across this country have been linked to lithium-ion batteries since 2021 (including 157 in Queensland). Several of these fires have garnered significant media attention – see below.

Numerous factors contribute to this alarming safety trend, but one of the primary culprits behind lithium-ion battery fires is improper charging practices. If incompatible chargers are used, or devices like e-scooters are left charging unattended for extended periods, it can lead to overheating and a subsequent lithium-ion battery fire.


Another common cause of lithium-ion battery fires stems from manufacturing defects in either the battery charger or the battery itself. Poor adherence to quality standards during manufacture can lead to internal faults, increasing the risk of overheating and fire. Furthermore, improper storage and transportation of batteries can cause short circuits, posing a threat of fire. To mitigate these risks, consumers should avoid purchasing cheap lithium-ion batteries and chargers second-hand or from unregulated online marketplaces, as low-quality, counterfeit, and non-original equipment manufacturer (OEM) batteries and chargers can exacerbate fire hazards.


E-scooters and e-bikes, due to their nature of use, are often subjected to rough handling and exposure to environmental elements. Consequently, damage to the battery can occur, leading to internal short-circuits and potential fires. Even seemingly minor physical damage to the battery’s protective casing can create a pathway for ‘thermal runaway’, triggering a catastrophic fire event. When lithium-ion batteries fail, they undergo thermal runaway, involving the violent bursting of one or multiple battery cells, releasing toxic, flammable, and explosive gases, and resulting in an intense, self-sustaining fire. Putting out a lithium-ion battery fire is challenging, as it escalates rapidly with intense heat and cannot be easily extinguished with water or regular fire extinguishers. Additionally, such fires often reignite several times after being extinguished.

What about my photoelectric smoke alarms – don’t they also contain a lithium-ion battery?
The lithium batteries in smoke alarms differ in design from lithium-ion batteries used in e-scooters. Photoelectric smoke alarms contain two 3V, single-use, lithium batteries sealed within the alarm itself. These batteries are non-replaceable and are designed to deplete slowly and steadily over a 10-year lifespan. At the end of this period, the entire smoke alarm is disposed of (including the sealed batteries), and a new smoke alarm is installed. The fire and thermal runaway risks associated with recharging lithium-ion batteries are mitigated with non rechargeable smoke alarm lithium batteries.


When purchasing a photoelectric smoke alarm, it is essential to choose one that complies with Australian Standard 3786:2014, as indicated by the official Australian Standard mark on the packaging and the product itself. Product testing required of this standard helps ensure that the smoke alarm poses no electrical danger during normal use. Additionally, the smoke alarm should carry the electrical Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM), affirming compliance with Australian electrical safety regulations outlined in Australian Standard 3820:2020. Avoiding cheap imported knock-offs without the RCM mark is crucial for battery safety.

Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM)

The surge in lithium-ion battery fires in Australia calls for a collective effort from manufacturers, regulators, and users to address this growing concern. While the benefits of lithium-ion batteries are undeniable, the risks associated with their usage demand immediate attention. By enhancing safety regulations, improving manufacturing standards, educating and promoting responsible usage and re-charging practices, we can embrace the lithium ion-battery revolution in QLD while ensuring a safer and more sustainable future for all. For more information on lithium-ion battery safety please refer to the QLD Fire and Emergency Services (QFES).

On February 17, 2023, the Standards Australia Committee published a new Australian Standard for smoke alarms, known as Australian Standard 3786:2023. This standard replaces the previous version, Australian Standard 3786:2014. The superseding of standards is a common occurrence, as standards are regularly updated and amended over time. In the case of Australian Standard 3786, it has undergone multiple iterations since its initial release in 1990.

Why was a new Australian smoke alarm standard issued?

There are several reasons behind the issuance of new Australian Standard 3786:2023:

-Technological advancements: With the emergence of new smoke alarm technologies and the evolution of existing ones, it was necessary to update the standard to incorporate these changes. This ensures that the standard remains relevant and reflects the current technology available in the market. For example, the new standard now includes provisions for interconnected smoke alarms.

-Safety considerations: Safety is of utmost importance in this standard. As new fire risks are identified and existing ones are better understood, the standard has been updated to address these concerns. This involves providing clearer guidelines for the safe usage of smoke alarms and associated testing protocols.

-International harmonization: In a globalized world, harmonizing standards across different countries and regions is crucial for interoperability and mutual recognition of products. Australian Standard 3786:2023 has been aligned with the International Standard ISO 12239:2021 for smoke alarms using scattered light, transmitted light, or ionization.

-Feedback and continuous improvement: The development of Australian Standard 3786:2023 was an iterative process that took into consideration feedback from users, stakeholders, and experts. Committee members involved in the development included the National Fire Industries Association, Australian Building Codes Board, Property Council of Australia, CSIRO, and the Fire Protection Association Australia.

Now, let’s explore the key differences between the new Australian Standard 3786:2023 and the old Australian Standard 3786:2014:

-Recognition of combination and multi-criteria smoke alarms: The new standard acknowledges the introduction of smoke alarms that combine multiple sensors within a single housing, allowing for enhanced detection capabilities.

-Inclusion of unrelated sensors: The new standard references the inclusion of sensors within smoke alarms that are unrelated to smoke detection. For example, a smoke alarm could now include a carbon monoxide sensor, creating a dual purpose product that is both a carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarm.

-Additional requirements: The new standard introduces new requirements for smoke alarms powered by mains household power, temporary disablement facilities, smoke alarms using radio frequency links, and assessment for wall-mounted smoke alarms.

Do I need to upgrade my smoke alarms so they are compliant with Australian Standard 3786:2023?

If you currently have smoke alarms that comply with Australian Standard 3786:2014, you do not need to immediately upgrade them to comply with the new Australian Standard 3786:2023. Compliance with a standard only becomes a legal requirement when it is referenced in legislation by the Australian government or other regulatory bodies. As of the time of writing this article, fire safety legislation in Queensland still references Australian Standard 3786:2014, and the National Construction Code 2022 (adopted by states and territories from May 1, 2023) also continues to reference the 2014 version. Therefore, legal compliance remains unchanged. However, it is important to note that regardless of changes in the Australian Standard, smoke alarms should always be replaced if they fail to operate or are older than 10 years from the date of manufacture. Interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms are recommended for replacement.

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