Smoke alarms in the home


NSW legislation stipulates that residents must have at least one working smoke alarm (sometimes mistakenly referred to as “smoke detectors”) installed on each level of their home. This includes owner- occupied, rental properties, relocatable homes or any other residential building where people sleep.

Smoke alarms are life-saving devices that provide benefits for occupants. They detect smoke well before any sleeping occupant would and provide critical seconds to implement actions to save life and property.

Smoke alarms are designed to detect fire smoke and emit a loud and distinctive sound to alert occupants of potential danger.

The Building Legislation Amendment (Smoke Alarms) Act 2005 and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Smoke Alarms) Regulation 2006 commenced in NSW on 1 May, 2006.

The legislation refers to residential accommodation across NSW and requires the installation of one or more smoke alarms in buildings in which people sleep, smoke alarms installed in such buildings must be operational, and people must not remove or interfere with the operation of smoke alarms installed in such buildings. A person who does not comply with the legislation is guilty of an offence (maximum penalty $550).

These types of Residential accommodation require smoke alarms; detached houses, terrace houses, town houses, villa units (Class 1a buildings), apartments, home units, flats (Class 2 buildings) caretakers flats, single residences above shops (Class 4 parts of buildings), relocatable homes, eg manufactured homes and moveable dwellings, campervans, caravans but not tents or soft sided camper trailers.

Shared accommodation installation is also mandatory in small boarding houses, guest houses, hostels; backpackers accommodation; bed and breakfast accommodation (Class 1b buildings), large boarding houses, guest houses, hostels, backpacker accommodation; residential parts of hotels, motels, schools, health care buildings, detention centres; certain residential accommodation for the aged, children and people with disabilities (Class 3 buildings) and hospitals and nursing homes (Class 9a health care buildings).

Any alarms installed after 1 May 2006 must comply with AS3786.


On average, 21 deaths occur in residential fires across NSW every year. Based on FRNSW Fire Investigation and Research Unit case study research, one third to a half of those fatalities may have been prevented if the homes had working smoke alarms and had a practised home escape plan.

Fire and Rescue NSW is encouraging residents to aim for a higher level of protection by installing interconnected smoke alarms in every bedroom, living space (including hallways and stairways) and even the garage in their home.