What Do Fire Alarms Detect?

July 20, 2021

Building fires, like any fire, are dangerous and potentially life threatening. Unfortunately, firefighters have to fight thousands of building fires every year. To safely escape a building fire, early warning is vital. That’s why fire alarms are incredibly important for every home and business across Australia.

However, with several different types of alarms out there, it can be confusing to know which one you need and what each alarm detects.

Different types of fire alarms work in different ways and detect certain things that prompt their alarm system. Importantly, technology has also evolved and improved over time, so there have been advancements in fire detection alarm systems and changes to the recommended use. You can find out more about fire alarm legislation on the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services website.

But what are some of different kinds of alarms that you may come across and what do these fire alarms detect? Let’s take a look:


Types of fire alarms


Photoelectric alarms

You may have seen photoelectric smoke alarms mentioned a lot lately. There has been new legislation to install photoelectric smoke alarms in homes, as it has been proven to be more effective in the domestic home. They are sometimes also known as optical or photo-optical smoke alarms.

These alarms work by detecting the visible particles of combustion. Some of their advantages include:

  • Not as prone to cooking nuisance alarms
  • Contain no radioactive material
  • Suitable for general use

Ionisation alarms

These types of alarms contain a very small amount of radioactive material, which reacts to particles emitted in a fire and sets off the alarm. However, they can be slow to react to smoky and smouldering fires. This is why they are falling out of use and you should seek the help of a professional in regards to installing or removing them from your building.

Other types of alarms

There are other types of fire alarms that you may come across, such as dual sensor alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and heat alarms. These are speciality alarms and you should seek the advice of a professional to see if and where you need these alarm systems in your building.

For all fire alarms, they must comply with the Australian Standard AS 3786-2014. You can look at labeling to indicate compliance. But if in doubt, ask a professional for advice.


How often should smoke alarms be tested?

These fire detectors are the most vital pieces of fire protection equipment you can have. They detect the first signs of a fire and alert you to the problem long before you may have noticed it otherwise. That’s why it’s essential that they work correctly and are maintained.

Fire detection systems are required to be tested on a regular monthly, 6 monthly & annual basis in accordance with Australian Standard 1851-2012. They can easily become affected by dust, insects, humidity and age, and their detection systems can become compromised. That’s why testing is incredibly important for safety and compliance.

Instead of wondering when your next testing should take place, our services ensure the regular maintenance and testing of your systems. As part of our trusted fire protection services, we provide monthly testing for all fire alarm panels to ensure that everything is functioning properly. That way you don’t have to worry about anything, we handle it all for you. It also ensures that you and your business are up to standard in Queensland.


How can Brisbane Fire Services help?

Brisbane Fire Services are experts in fire alarm system requirements and handling the maintenance of your fire alarm systems in Brisbane.

We are a small family owned and operated company providing services within the South East QLD region. We provide all of the fire safety services needed to help protect your business or your home, and the things that are most important to you.

All of our staff are QBCC accredited, friendly and experienced. We deliver the systems, products, inspections/testing and certification to ensure a safe workplace that meets applicable fire safety regulations, Australian Standards and work and health and safety regulations.

Our services also cover the supply, installation and maintenance of: Fire Extinguishers and Fire Blankets, Fire Hose Reels, Fire Hydrants Fire Alarm Systems, and Exit and Emergency Lights.

We also offer fire safety training courses for you and your business. These include: First Response (First Attack) Fire Training, General Occupant Training, Site Evacuation Exercises, Emergency Procedures, Manuals and Plans, and Fire Safety Adviser (FSA) Representation.

If you have questions about what fire alarms detect or anything to do with fire alarms for your business or building, we’re here to help. Contact us by calling 0499 198 427 or emailing us at


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