18 February 2017

National retailer embarrassed selling illegal smoke alarms in Townsville


Townsville residents are being warned about buying out of date smoke alarms from local retail and hardware outlets.

A local property owner reported purchasing non-complaint products from a local retailer this month, despite the fact new tougher smoke alarm laws were introduced in Queensland from the 1st January 2017.

Queensland's Minister for Fire and Emergency Services, the Hon. Bill Byrnes, said; "although residents would have up to 10 years to install the new alarms, everyone should take action to update their alarm system as soon as possible."

TREN can confirm that residents have been buying redundant smoke alarms from one of
Australia's largest hardware retailers as late as the first week in February 2017, over a month after the new laws were passed but at least 6 months since businesses had been warned of the impending changes.


One of the homeowners who contacted TREN about this public safety story presented one of the three alarms she purchased, and it clearly displays on the back side of the device, an expiry date of "12 July 2016". (see image below) The proof of purchase was also presented.

The smoke alarm was purchased from the retailer in February 2017 with "Quell Ionisation Smoke Alarm", "Manufactured in China for Chubb and Security Pty Ltd", who is based in New South Wales, clearly displayed on the back of the device.


Non-compliant ionisation smoke alarm
Image: TREN
When TREN alerted the retailer to the bungle a very pleasant and well-informed employee said: "this alarm is out of stock and non-compliant." When the employee was asked, "What about the other alarms that have already been installed?" The employee said: "they must be returned with your receipt and we'll give you a refund".

Many residents that have purchased the old ionisation alarms for their own homes reported that they feel confused, or completely not informed about what to look for when purchasing fire safety devices. This comes as the trend of online shopping is growing at a fast pace where cheap illegal products can be purchased very easily. No wonder consumers are confused and concerned about their safety and legal obligations.


Image: Queensland Fire and Emergency Services
Even when the labels on the ionisation smoke alarm in the above image are compared to the QFES website recommendations, it is understandable how residents could justify their confusion. The labelling of the smoke alarms is unclear and ambiguous based on the QFES recommendations on their website.

The yellow triangle hazard system on the homeowners' non-compliant alarm, which is not recommended, does not even appear on the QFES guidelines. Instead, a yellow square label is shown. And, even though the five tick Australia Standards symbol and Activefire Certified certification icon are shown on the QFES guidelines to be safe, the non-compliant ionisation alarm displays them.

Residents that are concerned and may not understand the new smoke alarm laws are advised to contact a smoke alarm installation professional, licensed electrical contractor or consult the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services website for further information. You can also contact the manufacturer with questions. For example, Quell has number to call 1800 654 435.

But with residents finding even the QFES website guidelines confusing, residents are encouraged to call a professional QFES "firefighter" to conduct a "Safehome" visit to receive advice about the best locations to place fire alarms and suggest other fire safety initiatives around the home.

To request a Safehome visit call 13QGOV or visit 

https://www.qfes.qld.gov.au/community-safety/freeprograms/Pages/safehome.aspx'