Smoke alarms

It is compulsory to install working smoke alarms in all residential and commercial buildings.

Fire safety in the home

It is compulsory to install working smoke alarms in all residential buildings such as houses, units, flats, boarding houses, and townhouses.

Smoke Alarms

Smoke alarms are intended to detect smoke before it reaches sleeping occupants. 

The alarm is designed to wake the occupants to allow them time to evacuate the building. Smoke alarms must be installed on or near the ceiling of any storey. 

Smoke alarms located in a storey not containing a bedroom are to be located in the area of the stairway. 

smoke alarm placement map


All smoke alarms are required to be connected to the mains power with a battery back-up; however, if the building was constructed prior to 1 August 1997, battery operated smoke alarms are acceptable. All smoke alarms must comply with Australian Standard AS3786. 

Rental properties

If you are renting a house or unit, it is your landlord's responsibility to ensure smoke alarms are installed and kept in working condition. 


It is important that smoke alarms are checked and maintained on a regular basis.

You can check that the smoke alarm is working by depressing the button on its outside. You can use a broom handle to do this.

  • It is recommended that the 9 volt battery is replaced annually.
  • If the smoke alarm emits a warning sound, a frequent high-pitched single beep, replace the battery.
  • Clean your alarm regularly to remove dust particles.
  • Familiarise yourself with the manufacturer's maintenance guidelines.

Common causes of house fires

  • Accidents or distractions from cooking in the kitchen
  • Fireplace, heater-related incidents and electric blankets
  • Electrical faults
  • Candles and oil burners
  • Clothes dryers.

Fire safety in commercial buildings

Building legislation requires owners of all commercial buildings install and maintain certain safety features and essential safety measures. These measures are required in an emergency to give early warning to the occupiers, aid in evacuation of the building, or extinguish or suppress a fire. 

The Building Commission’s website has information that assists owners in meeting their obligations. 

The following are some examples of essential safety measures:

  • Smoke alarms
  • Air conditioning systems
  • Fire hydrants
  • Emergency lifts and lighting
  • Fire windows
  • Ext doors and exit signs
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Emergency power supply
  • Fire isolated stairs, passages ramps
  • Fire control centres
  • Fire rated materials
  • Fire curtains and doors
  • Path of travel to exits
  • Emergency warning systems
  • Fire detectors and alarm systems
  • Smoke control systems
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Sprinkler systems

Since August 2002, all nursing homes, hostels and other similar housing centres are required to have residential sprinkler systems installed.

The building regulations require that each essential safety measure installed in a building is maintained in a specific manner and within a specific time period; for example:

Essential safety measure

Building Commission provisions for determining standard of performance

Nature and/or frequency of test or inspection

Materials and assemblies required to satisfy prescribed fire hazard properties


Annual Inspection for damage, deterioration, or unauthorised alteration

Fire doors (including sliding fire doors and their associated warning systems) and associated self-closing, automatic closing and latching mechanisms

C2.12 to C2.13, C3.4 to C3.8, C3.10 to C3.11,

Every three months as per AS1851 – 2005 Section 17 check operation of handles, closers and electronic strikes

Paths of travel to exits

D1.7 to D1.8, D1.12

Inspection every three months to ensure there are no obstructions and no alterations

Emergency lighting

E4.2, E4.4

Every 6 months to AS / NZS 2293.2-1995

Portable fire extinguishers


Every 6 months to AS 1851-2005 Section 15.4

Essential safety measures annual report

The building regulations also require that the owner of a building prepares an annual report detailing the maintenance of the building’s essential safety measures. The required contents and structure of this report can be found in the building regulations.

A building owner must ensure that the following are available at the building for inspection by the municipal building surveyor or chief officer at any time on request after 24 hours notice:

  • Any annual essential safety measures report.
  • Records of all maintenance checks.
  • Records of any service or repair work carried out to any essential safety measure.

Fire safety inspections

Council's Building Services Unit responds to fire safety complaints in existing buildings and audits high-risk buildings such as nursing homes and hostels.

Further information

For queries or to make a report, contact Council’s Building Services on 9298 4327