Fire safety and smoke alarms
Last published 10 Nov 2017
Preventing household fires and making sure your smoke alarms are working
Fire safety at home
If there is a fire, dial 000
Many of the household fires that affect the lives of NSW residents every year can be prevented. The key to reducing the danger of a fire in your home is for everyone in your household to understand the risks so they can be minimised.
It’s important to be prepared before something happens and there are a few simple things you can do to help protect you and your family. Taking the time to regularly check risk areas, making sure you have working smoke alarms, and preparing a home fire escape plan, can give you a greater chance of avoiding and escaping the devastating effects of fire.
How to keep your home fire safe
Fire and Rescue NSW recommend regular and simple safety checks to make your home fire safe:
- never smoke in bed
- never leave cooking unattended
- check electric blankets for damage (including frayed cords) and replace old ones regularly
- always turn off electric blankets before getting into bed
- keep curtains, clothing, tablecloths and bedding away from heaters and candles
- if you use a clothes dryer clean the lint filter every time you use it
- only use one appliance for every powerpoint
- switch off appliances when they are not being used
- always extinguish candles or any other open flames before going to bed or leaving a room
- store matches and lighters in a secure place away from young children
- test the smoke alarms every month by pressing and holding the button until it beeps
If your alarm doesn’t beep when tested, report it to FACS Housing. If you live in community housing, contact your housing provider to report faulty smoke alarms.
Be prepared in case of a fire
Talk to your family, including your children, about what to do if there is fire
- point out where the smoke alarm is and explain what it does
- develop a home escape plan – include a meeting place and two ways to get out of each room
- discuss and practise the plan with everyone in the household and keep a copy handy
- make sure keys to all locked doors are easy to access
Hearing impaired tenants can have a strobe light connected to their smoke alarm.
How do I deal with a fire?
Your first priority is to ensure that you and your family are safe.
- do not attempt to fight a fire
- escape as quickly as possible and phone 000
- do not go back inside to save possessions
- if there is smoke, cover your nose and mouth with a cloth and keep close to the floor
- if a fire starts in your home or unit, leave immediately and close the front door firmly, use the nearest stairs to reach ground level and never use a lift if there is a fire
- if a fire starts in another unit, or in a common area, leave the building if it is safe
- if it is not safe to leave, phone 000 tell them your location, stay in your unit and close your doors and windows to keep the smoke out
- heavy sleepers, such as children and those affected by alcohol or drugs, may not hear the alarm so you might need to offer assistance
- if a family member has a hearing or mobility problem, assign someone to help them
Fire and Rescue NSW will advise when a person can re-enter a fire damaged property.
In most cases Fire and Rescue NSW will notify Family and Community Services (FACS) that a fire has occurred and we will contact you to discuss how we can help you, or you can phone us and assistance will be arranged as quickly as possible.
Why do I need a smoke alarm in my home?
In NSW, all homes and units are required by law to have smoke alarms because they help to protect your life and your property. Smoke alarms are early warning systems that detect smoke and fires and sound a warning alarm – for this reason smoke alarms should not be removed or damaged.
Smoke alarms in FACS managed properties are connected to the house or unit’s wiring system. The alarms are usually mounted in a high position and may be located in the living room, hallway or bedrooms.
You will notice two different lights on your smoke alarm:
- a steady green light which indicates that the alarm is being powered
- a red light that flashes once a minute to indicate that the alarm is working.
What should I do if the alarm goes off?
If your smoke alarm goes off and you smell smoke, everyone should leave the property immediately. Once outside, phone 000 and report the fire.
Smoke alarms can sometimes be triggered by cooking smoke or steam from showers. This can be prevented by ensuring there is enough ventilation when cooking, showering or smoking. If the alarm is triggered by these activities, you can stop the beeping by pressing the hush button on the alarm or fanning away the smoke or steam.
If the power to your property is turned off, you will hear a short beep every few seconds. When the power is first connected to the alarm, it may sound for two to three seconds and continue to beep once every 40 seconds for around 10 minutes. This is normal.
If a smoke alarm sounds regularly for no clear reason, or you think it is not working properly, contact us. Community housing tenants must contact their provider directly.
How do I look after my smoke alarm?
Do not remove or interfere with any parts of the smoke alarm – it’s against the law.
The smoke alarm will be inspected and checked annually by a contractor and arrangements will be made with you to organise this. Please ensure you give entry to the contractor as the service check is required by law and will ensure your smoke alarm is still working properly.
You can test the alarm by pressing and holding the button until it beeps.
Do not attempt to open the alarm as it is connected to the main power supply and could give you an electric shock. The standby battery in the alarm should last for five to ten years and does not fit into any other electrical appliance.
Carefully vacuum the smoke alarm several times a year to remove dust, cobwebs or insects.
Insects may be attracted to smoke alarms and can trigger the alarm. If this occurs, spray the ceiling around the alarm with insect surface spray. Never spray the alarm directly.