Clean your smoke alarms as part of dust storm mop-up

Published: 30th September 2009

Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan today urged people to include their home’s smoke alarms in their clean-up following last week’s dust storms.
Mr Whan said dust build-up in smoke alarms could cause false alarms or prevent the devices from working properly.

"During last week's dust storms, firefighters attended more than 600 fire alarm calls, many of which were triggered by dust particles, Mr Whan said.

"While these calls were mostly to high rise and industrial fire alarm systems, household smoke alarms were just as likely to be affected.

"Now that the dust has settled, you should take a few minutes over the long weekend to use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust which may have built up in your smoke alarm. Then just press the 'test' button to make sure it is working.

"A dust clogged smoke alarm can't do its job properly - only a working smoke alarm will help save your life. If you live near an elderly or less mobile person, you may like to do the neighbourly thing and offer to clean their smoke alarm for them as well, Mr Whan said.

All residential accommodation in NSW is required by law to have at least one working smoke alarm per floor.

NSW Fire Brigades Acting Commissioner John Benson said smoke alarms provided an early warning in case of fire.

"If you're asleep at the time of a fire, the smoke may numb your senses and put you into a deeper sleep. The sound of a smoke alarm is designed to wake you so you can put your fire escape plan into action before you are overcome by smoke.

"Time is everything in a fire. It can take only a few minutes for a flame to spread and engulf your home so an early warning can be the difference between life and death."

The Fire Brigades recommends three steps to maintain a working smoke alarm:
  • clean your smoke alarms regularly with a vacuum cleaner to keep them free from dust;
  • test them every month by pressing the button with a broom handle to ensure they are working, and;
  • once a year, replace the batteries.