In Australia, the proper installation and maintenance of smoke and heat detection systems play a pivotal role in ensuring the safety of residential and commercial properties. They are crucial elements of a building's fire protection strategy and are commonly included in Annual Fire Safety Statements (AFSS).
Smoke detectors are essential to provide early warnings in the event of a fire, giving occupants the time needed to evacuate safely. The Building Code of Australia (BCA) requires smoke alarms to be installed in all buildings where people sleep.
Heat detectors, on the other hand, are generally used in environments where smoke detectors may provide false alarms due to dust, steam, or other factors. They detect changes in temperature and are more suitable for areas such as kitchens, laundries, and garages. Australian Standard AS 1670.1 outlines the requirements for heat detection systems.
Smoke and heat detectors should not be confused with smoke and heat alarms. Detectors are connected to an automatic fire detection and alarm system, the sort you might be familiar with seeing in a workplace, supermarkets, high rises and warehouses. They detect the presence of a fire condition and then pass along that information to a fire panel, which reacts according to its programming to initiate various actions such as shutting down ventilation, sounding alarms and calling the fire brigade.
Smoke and heat alarms on the other hand detect smoke or heat and then trigger a local alarm, while some alarms may be connected to each other to sound throughout the building or control certain simple interactions they are generally not as interactive as detectors. You would normally see these in a residential setting.
An easy way to remember it is that detectors are designed to detect smoke or heat to allow another system to handle that information, while alarms are designed to alarm the occupants nearby of the fire themselves.