SMOKE ALARMS CLASS 1A BUILDINGS

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1 SMOKE ALARMS CLASS 1A BUILDINGS A smoke alarm is a device that combines both smoke detection and alarm facilities into a single unit. Smoke alarms are required to be installed in all new residential Class 1a buildings (single dwellings, grouped dwellings, town houses and the like) and in existing Class 1a buildings where substantial additions and/or alterations have been undertaken; or where homes are sold or newly leased after 1 October WHY INSTALL SMOKE ALARMS? Fatalities in residential house fires are more often than not attributed to the smoke and toxic fumes produced by the fire. Fatalities in residential house fires generally occur at night while the occupants are asleep. Smoke and toxic fumes can put people into a deeper sleep reducing their capacity to wake up in the event of a fire. Smoke alarms will increase the occupant s chances of successfully evacuating a building in the event of fire. Early warning can help save your home and personal property. LEGISLATION REQUIREMENTS Smoke alarms shall be installed in accordance with the Building Code of Australia (BCA) Volume 2, Part in : a) All new Class 1a buildings (Houses); b) Existing Class 1a buildings (Houses) that are being significantly added to or altered; c) Existing Class 1a buildings (Houses) that are being sold after 1 October 2009; or d) Existing Class 1a buildings (Houses) prior to the commencement of a new lease after 1 October Smoke alarms must be an approved smoke alarm that meets the requirments of AS Smoke alarms must be connected to the consumer mains power where consumer mains power is supplied to the building unless exempted by the Loval Government Authority. Note that smoke alarms shall have a stand by power supply, usually a battery backup (required by AS 3786). The Local Government Authority may, upon application, approve battery powered smoke alarms in lieu of consumer mains powered smoke alarms in existing buildings where it is satisfied that installing a smoke alarm connected to the consumer mains power supply would involve a sufficient problem of a structural nature or a sufficient problem of any other nature, the cause of which is not within the control of the owner. Approval from the Local Government Authority to install battery powered smoke alarms is not required where a building is not connected to mains power electricity or where there are no hidden spaces in which to run the necessary electrical wiring and there are no appropriate alternative locations for the smoke alarms (in which case smoke alarms with a 10 year battery life are to be installed). Smoke alarms must be installed in a Class 1a building on or near the ceiling in : a) Any storey containing bedrooms-

2 (i) between each part of the dwelling containing bedrooms and the remainder of the dwelling; and (ii) where bedrooms are served by a hallway, in that hallway; and b) Any other storey not containing bedrooms. LOCATION OF SMOKE ALARMS When deciding on the position of smoke alarms it is important to remember that they are intended to detect smoke before it reaches the sleeping occupants of a building. The alarm is designed to wake the occupants and give them time to evacuate the building. The BCA allows flexibility when considering the location of smoke alarms subject to the performance requirements being met. For example, where a smoke alarm should be located in a hallway, and there is a bathroom adjacent to this location (that will potentially cause false alarms) Council may accept the alarm being installed in the bedroom(s) to meet the performance requirements. This approach should also be adopted when considering sleep-outs or similar type residential buildings that are not connected to the remainder of the building by a hallway or other enclosed structure. In these situations the alarm could be located in the room itself. The BCA provisions require that a smoke alarm be located between each area containing bedrooms and the remainder of the dwelling. In some dwellings the bedrooms are located in a common area and connected by a hallway. In this instance the alarm should be located as shown in Diagram 1. Smoke alarm Diagram 1 - Location of Smoke Alarms Class 1a Buildings

3 A smoke alarm is also required on each other storey that is not already provided with a smoke alarm. The favoured location for this alarm will be in the path of travel people will most likely take to evacuate the building. This will ensure an alarm will be raised before smoke makes the common exit path impassable, eg. If the bedrooms are on the first floor, then an alarm should be positioned near the area of the inter connecting stair at ground level. (See Diagram 2.) Diagram 2 Location of Smoke Alarms If the other storey is not connected to the remainder of the building (for instance a ground floor garage) then the alarm should be centrally located in the lower area. Smoke alarms should be installed on or near the ceiling with special care being taken to avoid dead air spaces. A dead air space is an area in which trapped hot air will prevent smoke from reaching the alarm. This space generally occurs at the apex of cathedral ceilings, the corner junction of walls and ceilings, between exposed floor joists, etc. (See Diagram 3.) If it is impractical to mount the smoke alarm on the ceiling then it may be located on the wall. The recommended position is between 300mm and 500mm off the ceiling. (See Diagram 3). The distance from the apex of a cathedral ceiling to the top of the alarm should be between 500mm and 1500mm.

4 Diagram 3 - Dead Air Space and Proper Mounting of Smoke Alarms on Side Wall HOW DOES A SMOKE ALARM WORK? There are two (2) types of smoke alarms. Photoelectric: Ionisation: This type of smoke alarm uses a light source and photocell. As the smoke enters the detection chamber it interferes with the light beam which in turn causes the alarm to sound. A small amount of radioactive material is used to create an electrical current which travels through ionised air. When smoke enters the detection chamber it impedes the flow of current and causes the alarm to sound. RADIOACTIVITY OF HOUSEHOLD SMOKE ALARMS The radiation dose to the occupants of a house from a domestic ionisation type radioactive smoke alarm is very much less than that from natural background radiation. The small amount of radioactive material that is used in the smoke alarm is not considered a health hazard. Periodically vacuum clean across the installed smoke alarm. Any dust on or from the inside of the smoke alarm does not become radioactive. In Western Australia, the Radiological Council has approved the disposal of individual household smoke alarms to municipal rubbish tips via normal household rubbish. For information concerning the disposal of larger amount of radioactive materials, please contact the Radiation Health Section of the Health Department of Western Australia (Ph: (08) ). NUISANCE ALARMS Smoke alarms are extremely sensitive and may detect smoke and moisture created by common household activities (such as burnt toast or steam from a bathroom). Accordingly, to reduce the likelihood of false alarms, the smoke alarm should not be located near cooking appliances and bathrooms. However if it is necessary to locate alarms in these positions,

5 an ionisation type alarm is more suitable near bathrooms, while a photoelectric alarm may be used near food appliances. INTERCONNECTION OF SMOKE ALARMS Some types of alarm are capable of interconnection to the other alarms so that if one alarm sounds then the other alarms are also activated adding an enhanced level of safety. There is no requirement in the BCA that smoke alarms be interconnected. CLEANING & MAINTENANCE Smoke alarms should be tested on a regular basis and cleaned at least every six months. It is recommended that, where appropriate, the batteries be changed at least once a year.

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