Is this the most dangerous common household item?

The victim of one in three fire-related deaths is aged over 65. But what is to blame?

Is this the most dangerous common household item?

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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    12th Jun 2018
    Common sense really. Change the batteries 1st of April (fool's day) that was done since I was a kid. Good to see that today the batteries are 9V and not easily used in other electronic devices so people do not pinch them, especially in rented premises.
    Old Geezer
    12th Jun 2018
    Smoke detectors also have a use by date and you must by law change them before they are out of date in rental premises of you are a landlord. It is amazing how many smoke detectors I have found that had the batteries removed in rental premises and how many times I had to go back and check them.
    Ted Wards
    13th Jun 2018
    This was one of the issues that the Government turned their back on. Under the old HACC home maintenance scheme, it was done for free every year. Its not rocket science, many people cannot get up on a stool or a ladder to change the battery. Simple, lets start a voluntary scheme where organisations that have qualified people to undertake this quick and simple role and who have been legally screened, do this every year. If we did this across Australia, how quickly this issue is solved for older people.
    14th Jun 2018
    Just ask a young kid in the neighborhood to change the battery and give him or her $5, they always need pocket money. That is how we made it as youngsters in the 50s. Pocket money had to be earned.

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