Smoke alarm requirements for existing buildings

To enhance safety and minimise loss-of-life in building fires, the NSW Parliament, in July 2005, enacted the Building Legislation Amendment (Smoke Alarms) Act 2005. The Regulation specifies which types of buildings will need smoke alarms installed, the types of alarms, where they are to be located, and other matters.

No action is needed if a building already has fully functioning smoke alarms or a smoke detection and alarm system installed that complies with a previous or current requirement (such as an approval or Fire Safety Order). Similarly if a person has installed alarms in a private dwelling (as specified below) before the commencement of the Regulation, if they are working properly and correctly located, no action is required.

The Regulation does not override any other legal requirements regarding the installation of smoke alarms and systems. For example, it does not override any Fire Safety Order (current or future) that may require higher standards to be met.

Similarly, as the Regulation concerns existing buildings only, it does not override the Building Code of Australia (BCA), which regulates the design and construction of new buildings and building work (alterations and additions). The BCA sets out the requirements for smoke alarms or smoke detection and alarms systems for new construction.

Types of buildings and types of smoke alarms
The type of smoke alarm to be installed depends on the type of building.
Evironmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Smoke Alarms) Regulation 2006

The regulations require smoke alarms be installed in existing buildings in which people sleep. Smoke alarms are already mandatory for all new buildings and in some instances when buildings are altered or their use changed.

Owners affected by this law are responsible for ensuring smoke alarms are installed.

Most building fire fatalities occur while people are asleep. A smoke alarm is an effective early warning device designed to detect smoke and alert building occupants to the presence of a fire. Installed in the correct location, it increases the time available for safe escape.

In setting minimum standards for existing buildings, the Government has looked at balancing the need for safety with affordability, easy compliance and quick uptake. Owners can if they so choose install more sophisticated systems.