Tag: Queensland smoke alarm law

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 Activate?

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 Queensland’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).

QLD Smoke Alarms Requirements

Smoke alarms must:

  • be photoelectric. 
  • comply with the smoke alarm Australian Standard 3786:2014.
  • be hardwired to the mains power supply with a secondary power source (i.e. non removable 10 year battery) or;
  • be powered by 10 year non-removable battery type photoelectric smoke alarm.
  • be interconnected with every other smoke alarm in the dwelling so all activate together.
  • must not contain an ionisation sensor.

Installing Photoelectric Smoke Alarms In QLD

Photoelectric Smoke alarms must be installed:

  • on each storey
  • in each bedroom
  • in hallways that connect bedrooms and the rest of the dwelling
    – if there is no hallway, between the bedroom and other parts of the storey; and
    – if there are no bedrooms on a storey, at least one smoke alarm must be installed in the most likely path of travel to exit the dwelling.

QLD Rental Property Smoke Alarm Laws

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.

Postscript Update – April 2024

The landlord was charged and fined under the QLD Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 after she admitted failing to install compliant photoelectric smoke alarms in the rental property.

The interstate landlord claimed to be unaware of the changes to QLD’s smoke alarm legislation.

“It’s absolutely no excuse that she failed to keep abreast of the laws required of an investment property owner in having the premises legally wired with smoke detectors after January 2022,” Magistrate Deborah Vasta said. Ms Vasta told the court that the landlord had failed to comply with safety legislation and a coronial inquest into the six deaths was still yet to occur.

“There’s no evidence about whether two smoke alarms that were there were working or not,” she said.

Detectives are continuing their investigation following the fire and a final report will be given to the coroner in the near future.

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ZEN Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

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These new QLD smoke alarm laws have been implemented due to several fires which have tragically resulted in multiple fatalities in each instance.

Coronial inquest findings noted that had each property been fitted with functioning interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms in prescribed locations, the occupants may have stood a better chance of survival.

Early smoke / fire detection improves escape time from a burning building. During a fire emergency, it was not only the heat and flames themselves which presented a life-threatening hazard, many victims were first overcome by an accumulation of smoke and toxic fumes.

Russell Island House Fire – Brisbane 2023

In the early morning of 6th August 2023, Emergency Services were called to a house fire on Russell Island, just off Brisbane’s southeast coast. The cause of the house fire remains undetermined, however it resulted in the loss of six lives – five young boys and their father who returned to the inferno in an attempt to rescue his children. The fire also destroyed two neighbouring homes and left several people needing treatment for burns and smoke inhalation.

The landlord and home owner was subsequently charged and fined for failing to install legally required and compliant smoke alarms in the Queensland rental property.

Slacks Creek House Fire – Brisbane 2011

Just before midnight on 23rd August 2011, an accidental fire ripped through a house in Slacks Creek, South Brisbane.

The fire was to cause the greatest loss of life in a domestic house fire in Australian history, with a total of 11 people (including many children) perishing due to smoke inhalation.

A finding from the 2014 Coronial Inquest stated that;
‘Once this particular fire started, it is likely that some or all of the deaths would have been prevented if the sleeping occupants had been quickly awoken and had realised that they needed to leave the house as quickly as possible … smoke alarms were either not present in the dwelling or were not maintained’.

Many recommendations from the Coronial Inquest were incorporated into the QLD Building Fire Safety (Domestic Smoke Alarms) Legislation Amendment Regulation 2016.

The legislation itself may be viewed at the Queensland Government website below;
https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/view/pdf/asmade/sl-2016-0221

Palace Backpackers Fire – Childers 2000

On 23rd June 2000 at 1am a disgruntled resident deliberately lit a fire inside the Palace Backpackers Hostel in Childers, southeast Queensland.

The fire spread rapidly throughout the old timber building and the hostel did not have working smoke detectors or alarms. The result? 15 young people sadly lost their lives. The arsonist was captured by police and sentenced to life in prison. The devastating effect of this event is still evident on the local township to this day.

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ZEN Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

New Farm, QLD, 4005

Queensland has the most stringent smoke alarm laws in the nation. These laws have been amended and updated over time due to several tragic fires which have resulted in significant loss of life.

Queensland smoke alarm legislation

The two main pieces of legislation in Queensland are the;

  • Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990
  • Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008

The objectives of the legislation are to ensure that all fire safety installations (including smoke alarms) within a building are maintained, and to ensure that people can safely evacuate from a building in the event of a fire.

Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008 – smoke alarms

Part 5A of the QLD Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008 deals specifically with smoke alarm requirements for domestic dwellings. It states that smoke alarms must;

  • Comply with the Australian Standard (AS 3786:2014).
  • Contain a photoelectric sensor, and not also contain an ionization sensor.
  • Be either hardwired into the building’s main power supply or powered by a non-removable minimum 10-year lifespan battery.

Where should smoke alarms be installed?

Part 5A also states exactly where smoke alarms must be installed inside a domestic dwelling (prescribed locations). It says that photoelectric smoke alarms must be installed in;

  • each bedroom.
  • the hallway which connects each bedroom.
  • if there is no hallway connecting each bedroom, then a part of the storey that is between the
    bedroom and the rest of the dwelling.
  • for each storey with no bedrooms—on the most likely travel path of exit from the dwelling.

Where should smoke alarms not be installed

Part 5A (3) also provides exact distances and measurements where smoke alarms should / should not be installed. It states that smoke alarms must not be installed;

  • within 300mm of a light fitting.
  • within 300mm of a corner of the ceiling and a wall.
  • within 400mm of an opening from which air is supplied from an air conditioner or forced air vent.
  • within 400mm of the blades of a ceiling fan.

Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 – smoke alarms

In addition to the above, Division 5A of the QLD Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 stipulates that from 1st January 2022 all rental properties and properties being sold in Queensland must have smoke alarms which;

  • Are less than 10 years old.
  • Operate when tested.
  • Be interconnected with every other smoke alarm in the building so that all activate together.

If the smoke alarm being replaced was hardwired to the domestic dwelling’s electricity supply, the replacement smoke alarm must also be hardwired to the dwelling’s electricity supply. Any newly constructed homes or substantial renovations must have interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms which are hardwired to the mains power supply. A definition of a ‘substantial renovation’ is provided within the Act.

Furthermore, these smoke alarm requirements will become mandatory for ALL dwellings in Queensland by 1st January 2027.

Smoke alarms in QLD rental properties

With respect to QLD rental properties, in addition to all the above points, the Act also states that;

  • The lessor must test each smoke alarm within 30 days before the start of a tenancy in a domestic dwelling.
  • The tenant must test each smoke alarm in the dwelling at least once every 12 months.
  • If the tenant is aware a smoke alarm in the dwelling has failed, the tenant must advise the lessor as soon as practicable.
  • The tenant must clean each smoke alarm at least once every 12 months.

Direct links to the QLD Government website are posted below if you would like to read the full legislative documents for yourself.

Building Fire Safety Regulations 2008 (current as at 24 June 2022)
Fire and Emergency Services Act 1990 (current as at 26 April 2024)

Want to know more? Watch our ZEN quick start video or call us on 0478 596 402 today

We love talking smoke alarms!

ZEN Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

New Farm, QLD, 4005