How To Test Your Smoke Alarm

Don’t become a victim - change your smoke alarm battery this April

The Australian fire services, together with Duracell, are urging all Australians to change their smoke alarm batteries when they change their clock back for Daylight Saving this weekend, or on April Fools’ Day for states that don’t change their clocks.

Each year more than 50 families across Australia lose a loved one as a direct result of a house fire, with the majority of deaths occurring between 9pm and 6am when the household is asleep. During sleep the vast majority of people do not register the smell of smoke – in fact during the deeper cycles of sleep they don’t register smells at all.

Smoke alarms are essential to wake people if a fire breaks out; they give household members an early warning and time to evacuate safely – but only if they work.

“When asleep our sense of smell is greatly diminished. When we enter the deeper stages of the REM sleep cycle, our brain dramatically slows in receiving input from the olfactory nerves (our sense of smell) which is why people don’t wake to the smell of a burning fire,” said sleep scientist Chris Bunney of Home Sleep Studies Australia.

“When asleep, we may not smell smoke but we will hear a smoke alarm. A working smoke alarm can literally mean the difference between life and death,” added Bunney.

Fire authorities recommend the use of photo electric smoke alarms and say that not changing your battery and failing to maintain your smoke alarm can be just as deadly as not having one at all.

Superintendent David Lewis says: “I see devastating house fires every year. In fact, one in five Australians experience a house fire. Sadly, not everyone gets out safely. In some cases this is due to smoke alarms not working properly as they have been disconnected or have a flat battery. Worse still, some homes don’t have a smoke alarm installed at all.

“Only working smoke alarms help to save lives, so we strongly encourage all Australian households to use the end of Daylight Saving as a reminder to change their clock and change their smoke alarm batteries.

“We recommend using long-lasting 9V alkaline batteries to ensure year-round protection.

“Together with Duracell, our long-term campaign sponsors, our message is simple: only working smoke alarms save lives.”

"All homes, whether permanent or holiday, need to be equipped with fully functioning smoke alarms – this includes caravans and cabins. Maintaining alarms and replacing batteries is also essential, particularly at properties that are not primary residences,” he added.

It is especially important to replace batteries now as we move into the winter months due to the increased use of heaters and other electrical equipment leading to more house fires.


• Test your smoke alarm once per month to ensure the battery and the alarm sounder are operating and clean with a vacuum cleaner annually to remove particles that will affect smoke alarm performance

• Replace the battery annually with a long-lasting alkaline battery

• Install smoke alarms in positions that will wake all occupants in the home and give them time to evacuate. For example, installing the alarms outside each sleeping area, with additional smoke alarms installed inside bedrooms where doors are closed at night and along evacuation routes if bedrooms are located upstairs.
Smoke alarms are designed to protect you while you are sleeping. Visit or your local fire service authority for more information on where to place smoke alarms in your home.

In 2010, Australian Fire Service attended nearly 14,000 household fires around Australia. There were 65 fatalities which could have been prevented.

2010 State Breakdown

Residential/Structural Fires and Preventable deaths/fatalities

Tasmania 292 0
NSW Rural 453 5
NSW 4,387 25
Vic (CFA) 2,686 7
Vic (MFB) 2,040 5
SA (MFS) 829 4
SA (CFS) 214 -
QLD 1,737 11
NT 134 2
WA 747 6
ACT 164 0

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