Kamis, 16 September 2010

Smoke alarms

You've probably heard already of the terrible story from earlier this week of the four-year old boy who died following a house fire in Kelso, near Bathurst.

Some media report that a smoke alarm in the house was broken and awaiting repair by the family's landlord, Housing NSW.

We make no comment on the accuracy of those reports, or on the actions of the parties involved. For the rest of us, it may be an opportune time to be reminded of the rules about smoke alarms.

1. Smoke alarms - you've got to have them. All residential premises (indeed, all buildings in which persons sleep) must have smoke alarms installed. It's the law. If you're a tenant, it's also a term of your tenancy agreement: ie the landlord will have smoke alarms installed and maintained. You need smoke alarms on each storey of the premises, and they need to be near the bedrooms.

2. If a smoke alarm is broken, get it fixed. If you're a tenant, tell the landlord to fix it. If they won't, or won't do it urgently, get a tradesperson yourself to fix it (as an urgent repair) and tell the landlord to reimburse you. Or apply to the Tribunal for an order directing the landlord to fix it.

If a smoke alarm has a flat battery, it's your responsibility to replace it. If you physically cannot replace it, it's then the landlord's responsibility to replace it - tell them to do so.

3. If a smoke alarm is not broken, don't break it. Disabling a smoke alarm (eg taking out the battery), except in the course of doing repairs to it, is an offence. It is also very stupid.

For more details, go to NSW Fire Brigades' web pages, or the TU's factsheet.