Victoria’s firefighters recommend that smoke alarms should be located in every bedroom and living area, and should be interconnected, to give people the greatest chance of surviving a home fire.
The latest research from the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) shows that just 11 per cent of Victorians surveyed think fires commonly start in the bedroom, but fire data tells a different story.
In regional Victoria, 22 people have died due to fires in their bedrooms in the past 10 years, while 121 people have been left with serious injuries. Across the metropolitan area, 36 people have died in preventable house fires in the last 10 years.
CFA’s Acting Chief Officer Garry Cook said the figures were a wake-up call for Victorians to install smoke alarms in their bedrooms.
“More than 90 per cent of people recently surveyed agreed that having a working smoke alarm at home made them feel safe,” he said.
“But a similar number of people don’t have them installed in their bedrooms, where they’ll actually save lives. That means just one in 10 people have their smoke alarms installed in the correct place, with many just having one installed in a hallway.
“This practice is based on the previous advice, which was updated last year to encourage people to have them in every living area and bedroom, where possible, and to have them interconnected, which means that if an alarm is activated in one area, the other alarms will also activate, alerting residents sooner.
“We know for a fact a large portion of residential fires start in the living areas of the home – where you sleep, watch TV and spend time with loved ones. Yet these areas are typically the ones where people don’t have smoke alarms installed.
Most common fire causes in sleeping and lounge areas are fixed and portable heating units, open fireplaces and electrical faults. So winter is a critical time for people to be aware of the dangers that may be present in their homes.
“Smoke alarms really do save lives,” CO Cook said. “The smell of smoke will not wake you up. It is recommended you install smoke alarms in your bedrooms and living areas, or better yet install an interconnected system, where one alarm will trigger off alarms across the house. You cannot put a price on your family’s safety.”
Fire Rescue Victoria’s Deputy Commissioner of Fire Safety Michelle Young said that most of the fires crews attend are preventable, and has called on Victorians to ensure their alarm was working, and in the right location.
“In a fire, the location of a smoke alarm can be the difference between life and death,” said Deputy Commissioner Young.
“When you are asleep, your sense of smell lessens and you may not wake up if there is a fire – but a loud, repetitive warning from a smoke alarm will increase your chances of survival.
“Only properly located, working smoke alarms save lives,” said Deputy Commissioner Young.
CFA data for the past 10 years shows 25 per cent of all fires that resulted in death or serious injury started in bedrooms.
In the last 10 years:
- CFA has attended more than 17,000 residential fires.
- Of these residential fires, more than 400 resulted in a causality (fatality or serious injury).
- For residential fires that resulted in a casualty (fatality or serious injury), 25% started in sleeping areas, 23% in lounge areas and 15% in kitchens. So, almost half of all fatal or serious injury fires that CFA has responded to have started in sleeping and living areas.
- For residential fires where the ignition started in sleeping areas, there were 22 fatalities and 121 serious injuries.
- For residential fires where the ignition started in lounge areas, there were 26 fatalities and 105 serious injuries.
- For residential fires where the ignition started in kitchens, there were 10 fatalities and 77 serious injuries.
Reviewed 23 June 2021