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In Case of Fire
  • Is the direct telephone number for the local Fire Brigade posted on or near the telephone? Are the numbers large enough to quickly read in a fire emergency?
  • Is your house number visible from the street so that emergency vehicles can find you? Can it be seen easily?
  • Has your family made and practiced a fire escape plan with at least two ways out? If you deadlock your doors, do you keep the keys ready for an emergency escape? Are they located near the exit doorways? Have you arranged a safe meeting place outside?
  • Do you have a smoke detector installed in your home? Is it checked monthly?
  • Do you have a fire extinguisher in your home?
  • Is your garden hose permanently attached to the tap and does it reach all points of the house?
  • Do all members of your family know to Stop, Drop and Roll if clothing catches fire?
Electrical Fire Safety
  • Do you always have electrical repairs, alterations or renovations done by a qualified electrician?
  • Are the cords to electrical appliances kept in good repair and not placed under rugs or through doorways?
  • Do you ensure that power points are not overloaded?
  • Is your electric blanket switched off before you get into bed?
  • Are televisions, stereos, videos and other electrical equipment operated with enough space around them to prevent overheating?
  • Are all your electrical appliances switched off and unplugged after use?
Home Heating Fire Safety
  • Do you always use a fire screen with an open fire in your fire place?
  • Is the heating equipment in your home properly installed and maintained so the flues and filters are cleaned and there are no leaks or defects?
  • Are heating appliances kept safely away from combustible items such as curtains, furniture and laundry?
General Housekeeping for Fire Safety
  • Are matches kept out of reach of the children?
  • Are light bulbs prevented from touching any material that could ignite?
  • Do smokers dispose of ashes, used matches and other materials carefully? Do they ever smoke in bed?
  • Are flammable liquids stored in proper containers away from heat or open flame? Are they used with care, with good ventilation?
  • Do you regularly remove old rags, newspapers, and other household rubbish which could feed a fire?
  • Do you regularly clean the lint filter of your clothes dryer?
Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors saves lives. Installing them at home is an easy and inexpensive precaution against tragedy.

Smoke detectors do no prevent or extinguish fires, but they do provide an early warning that fire has started, giving you precious extra time to evacuate and call the fire brigade. This is especially important at night, when occupants of the house are asleep. Most fatalities from house fires occur at night.

Choosing a smoke detector

While there are a wide range of fire alarm units and systems available, for most existing homes a battery operated smoke detector which you can install yourself is sufficient. New dwellings must have the smoke alarm connected directly to the dwelling's power supply as well as a battery back up.

There are two kinds of smoke detectors: ionisation or photo electric. With either operating principle, an alarm is sounded at the first trace of smoke.

Features you should look out for in choosing a smoke detector include:

  • Australian Standards. Self contained smoke alarms must comply with AS 3736. Look for the Standards mark issued by the Standards Australia. Alternatively, smoke detectors labelled Scientific Services Laboratory AS 3786 are acceptable.
  • Battery requirement. Look for smoke detectors that require low cost, low voltage batteries that last at least one year.
  • Low battery warning. Smoke smoke detectors emit a "beep" every 30 seconds for up to a month to indicate the battery needs replacement.
  • Test button. Smoke detectors must be testes regularly. The test button should be easy to locate and operate, even when the smoke detector is installed on the ceiling.
Where to install your smoke detector

Because smoke rises, to detect smoke as early as possible your smoke detector should be installed on the ceiling or high on a wall.

The best placement of smoke detectors depends upon the situation in your individual home. Keep the following pointers in mind:

  • One smoke detector may not be enough. Install a smoke detector outside each sleeping area and on each floor of the house. You may also wish to install a smoke detector in the bedroom of someone who is a particularly sound sleeper or who is apt to be careless with smoking materials.
  • Kitchens. Many home fires start in kitchens. However because smoke from cooking will set off the alarm installing a smoke detector in kitchens can cause a nuisance. Special models are available for use in kitchens and caravans.
  • Avoid draughts. Do not install smoke detectors near windows, doors or air sources where drafts could affect alarm sensitivity.
  • Avoid dead air spaces. A dead air space is an area in which trapped hot air will prevent smoke from reaching the alarm. This generally occurs at the apex of cathedral ceilings and  the corner junction of walls and ceilings and between exposed floor joists.
  • On a ceiling. the smoke detector should be located 300mm from any exposed beam, cornice or wall.
  • On a wall, the smoke detector should be located 300mmm to 500mm from the ceiling.
  • On a cathedral ceiling, the smoke detector should be located 500mm to 1500mmm from the highest point.
  • Stairways. On stairways, install detectors in the path people will most likely take to evacuate the building. This will ensure an alarm will be raised before smoke makes the exit impassable.
Testing and maintaining your smoke detector

A smoke detector that doesn't operate in an emergency is a dead loss. To keep the safety edge, remember to maintain your smoke detector following the manufacture's instructions.

It is important to test the unit regularly, once a month at the minimum. You should test the unit manually even if it has an indicator light or low battery warning. When the batteries are low, replace them. This is usually necessary once a year. Make it a habit to replace the batteries once a year on a date you can remember, such as your birthday, or when you change the clocks for daylight savings.

Keep the unit clean. Usually this requires carefully vacuuming out the dust and dirt once a year. never paint your smoke detector- paint could damage the unit.

What to when the alarm sounds

A fire alarm is only effective when people responds properly. When you install your smoke detector, have a family meeting to discuss fire emergencies. draw a floorplan of your house and mark exit paths and alterative exits. Post the 000 number near your telephone. Practise with your family what to do when the alarm sounds. Exit quickly and meet outside at a pre-arrange meeting point (the letterbox is a good place) to ensure everyone is safe. Crawl low in the smoke. Feel doors before opening them. If they are hot, fire may be on the other side; take another route. Once out, stay out. Remember. a smoke alarm gives you advance warning; use those precious minutes to get out safely.

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NSW Rural Fire Service