Page 2456 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 29 June 2005

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to highlight the importance of having smoke alarms installed in all homes across the ACT.

As Ms MacDonald said, since 1994 it has been compulsory, through the Building Code of Australia, to have smoke alarms installed in all new buildings. Therefore, every house in Canberra approved since 1994 has smoke alarms installed. Under the code it is also compulsory to install alarms if extensions are done to more than 50 per cent of a home.

Where the ACT government is a landlord, that is, in all public housing properties, we take fire safety and awareness very seriously. We are currently undertaking comprehensive fire upgrade of all our major multi-unit complexes, at a cost of around $22 million. Currently 95 per cent of our properties have had hardwired smoke detectors installed.

In December last year, I joined with Housing ACT and the fire brigade to launch a new booklet that was given to all Housing ACT tenants, “Fire safety in your home—a guide for public housing tenants”. This comprehensive, 11-page booklet outlines what to do in an emergency situation and, perhaps even more importantly, provides fire prevention tips around such things as cooking, electricity and smoke alarms. At the time, the chief officer of ACT Fire Brigade congratulated Housing ACT for their commitment to upgrade fire safety in their buildings. He also challenged other ACT landlords to follow the Housing ACT example and improve fire safety infrastructure within their buildings.

Housing ACT has progressively changed smoke detectors in its properties to hardwired smoke detectors, avoiding the necessity for tenants to change batteries. Tenants are encouraged to test their smoke detectors regularly and report any faults to the maintenance call centre for urgent repair or replacement.

As stated by Ms MacDonald, the fire brigade offers a service of installing battery-operated smoke alarms free to anyone in the territory. This can be organised by purchasing an alarm for $10 to $30, then contacting your local fire station. The dedicated men and women of our fire brigade are the ones that all too often see the consequences of houses not having alarms installed. I know they take every opportunity to keep pressing the point to our residents of the importance of smoke alarms through a range of public education initiatives. This includes school visits, community gatherings and events like the Royal Canberra Show, emergency services week, which is next week by the way, and through partnerships with various community groups such as the Council on the Ageing.

It is also something they highlight through the media after attending house fires, pleading with people to be sensible and install alarms to prevent unnecessary damage and death. We all saw the media coverage last week of the fire brigade congratulating a Macgregor resident for keeping her alarm batteries checked and charged; it saved her life.

The ACT Fire Brigade also continually encourages householders to prepare and practise a fire safety plan. Further advice on how to do this can be found on the brigade’s website This includes advice such as: in the case of your house catching fire you are likely to have only one or two minutes from the smoke alarm sounding before your life is seriously threatened; if you had been asleep you would be less likely to respond quickly and effectively.

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