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Smoke Alarm Maintenance in an Australian Community Sample

Barnett, M., Bruck, D. and Ball, M., 2011. Smoke Alarm Maintenance in an Australian Community Sample. Fire Safety Science 10: 837-846. 10.3801/IAFSS.FSS.10-837


Australia has a high rate of smoke alarm ownership, with compulsory installation requirements across all states. Although this is pleasing, it is not correct to assume that a smoke alarm will be in functional order without appropriate maintenance. Procedures to optimize smoke alarm performance include yearly replacement of the battery, and monthly testing of the alarm sounder and cleaning of the unit with a vacuum cleaner. The current study interviewed 500 people randomly selected from shopping centres in Melbourne, Australia, about the maintenance of their smoke alarm. Overall it was found that 17% of people reported never changing the battery. Most people who reported never changing their smoke alarm battery owned hardwired alarms. Only 57% reported cleaning their alarms, and of these, 75% did so less often than recommended. Lower numbers still reported cleaning their smoke alarm (21%), and only 15% of these people reported following the correct cleaning procedure. Implications are discussed in relation to targeting community information campaigns.

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