Smoke Detectors and You

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An article by Heidi Walkinshaw

One headache for Property Managers that still continues are those dreaded smoke detectors.  We hear on the news about yet another house fire with a fatality, and the question of effective and working smoke detectors is repeatedly raised.

So how effective are your systems when handling smoke detectors in properties? Can you be sure that your office has the right plan in place should the situation arise, where you are sitting one morning watching the morning news over your bowl of cornflakes only to discover  one of your properties flashing up on the news bulletin having burnt down overnight? This doesn’t happen though, right? WRONG!

In 2006/2007 the NSW Fire Brigade reported to have attended 3,659 building fires. 2,426 of these were residential properties with 448 of the 728 (61.5%) injuries sustained and 10 of the 18 (55.5%) fatalities occurring at a residential property as well. 200 smoke alarms in these cases were reported to not be operational.

How solid are the systems in place to cope with smoke detectors in your office? Property Management Software such as REST Professional provides a section under the property to record details such as the type of smoke alarm installed, the last inspection date and any additional comments that may be of use. It also provides a function for you to print out a report and check the last dates inspected. There are even companies out there who will maintain smoke alarms for the property at a small fee to the Landlord Client.

It is recommended by the NSW Fire Brigade that;

Every month - All of your smoke alarms should be tested to ensure that the battery and the alarm sounder are working.

Every six months - you should clean your smoke alarm with your vacuum cleaner. This will remove any particles that will hinder smoke alarm performance. If you are using a 9V lead battery you should consider changing it twice a year.

Once a year - If your smoke alarm has a removable alkaline battery, you should replace the battery once a year. If your smoke alarm uses a lithium battery, it will not need replacing annually as the battery is built into the alarm. The entire unit will need replacing every ten years.

Every ten years - Replace your smoke alarm with a new unit every ten years. Smoke alarms do not last forever, the sensitivity in all smoke alarms will decline over time. All types of smoke alarms should be removed, replaced and disposed of every ten years. To assist in identifying the age of smoke alarms the AS3786 standard requires a serial number or batch number (Clause4.1(c)). This is usually done as a batch number i.e. 2406 may mean that the product was manufactured in the 24th week of 2006. Some manufacturers place the date of manufacture on the smoke alarm and some now use the expiry date. The batch numbers or dates are usually on the base of the smoke alarm near the battery compartment.

It is good practice to make sure that the batteries are changed and tested on smoke alarms at the beginning of each tenancy and also when renewing a lease.

Remember, smoke alarms can help save the lives of your Tenants and the Landlord Client’s investment property. Can you afford not to have a system in place?

Source: NSW Fire Brigade


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