Deadly smoke detectors

Did you know that you lose your sense of smell when you’re sleeping? This is just one of the reasons why smoke detectors are so important – you can’t smell smoke when you’re asleep, so you need a smoke detector to wake you up if there’s a fire.

Based on Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB) data, it is believed that about 15 per cent of households do not have a working smoke alarm. Fire and Rescue NSW has reported that the victim of one in three fire-related deaths in NSW is aged over 65. Seniors are more likely to let fire alarm batteries run out, or to let the devices themselves expire.

It is especially important for people in this age group, or their loved ones, to ensure all fire alarms are installed correctly and are in good working order, as fire-related deaths are often preventable.

All smoke alarms must contain a battery, even if they are wired into mains power.

Fire alarm batteries should be replaced yearly – it can be helpful to tie this to another event, such as the end of daylight savings. It’s also worth giving your fire alarms a good vacuum once a year, to ensure they aren’t clogged up with dust. Finally, fire alarms themselves should be replaced every 10 years. If you aren’t following these steps, there’s no guarantee your fire alarms are working.

So how can you get your fire alarms checked, maintained and changed if you can’t reach them yourself? If you don’t feel comfortable standing on a chair, or you have high ceilings, you can start by asking a friend or neighbour to help you out. If you live in NSW, and you are aged over 65 or meet other eligibility criteria, you can access the SABRE program, which will send someone to check and change your smoke alarm for free. For those in other states, many councils run smoke-alarm assistance programs for seniors, so contact your local council to find out if they can help.

Finally, if you are a renter, you may not have to replace your own smoke alarm batteries at all. Unless you live in the ACT or the Northern Territory, it is your landlord’s responsibility to maintain and replace smoke alarms. In most cases, it is the tenant’s responsibility to check the smoke alarms monthly – you can do this quite easily by pushing the little button on the face of the device with a broom handle. It is also the tenant’s responsibility to let their landlord know if the alarm isn’t working after testing, or if it starts to make a chirping noise. So, if you know your landlord hasn’t been keeping up with this task, it’s worth giving your landlord or agent a call.

Do you look after your smoke alarm?

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