Maryland Law Requires New Smoke Alarms

On July 1, the Maryland Smoke Alarm Law was updated to require the use of sealed-in, long-life batteries. This law requires homeowners to replace older battery-only operated smoke alarms with units powered by sealed-in, long-life batteries. The law also requires residential battery-operated smoke alarms be equipped with a “hush-button” feature that will temporarily silence the alarm if activated by a non-emergency condition. Residents have until January 1, 2018 to comply with the new law, but are being urged to upgrade their alarms now.

During the 2013 session of the Maryland General Assembly, the existing thirty-eight year old Maryland Smoke Alarm Law was amended and updated to take advantage of new technology. Senate Bill 969 and House Bill 1413 passed unanimously and were signed into law by Governor O’Malley effective July 1, 2013.

“The technological advances of battery-operated residential smoke alarms combined with 10-year, long-life batteries offer a decade of protection,” said Fire Chief Steve Lohr. “Smoke alarms are one of the most important safety features to have in your home and while residents will have until January 1, 2018 to comply with the new law, we’re urging residents to upgrade their alarms now.”

Under the provisions of the law for all new residential units constructed after July 1, 2013, at least one smoke alarm must be installed in each sleeping room, in the hallway or common area outside of sleeping rooms, and in the hallway or common area on each level within a residential dwelling unit, including basements and excluding specified unoccupied spaces such as attics. Additionally, the residential property disclosure form provided to the purchaser of specified single-family residential real property must include whether the smoke alarms (1) are over 10 years old and (2) if battery-operated, are sealed, tamper-resistant units incorporating a silence/hush button and use long-life batteries as required in all Maryland homes by 2018.

Maryland’s new law is part of a nationwide trend to ensure new and replacement smoke alarms have this new technology. It is anticipated that smoke alarms equipped with long-life batteries will have a significant impact on reducing the number of residential fire deaths. Montgomery County residents can call “311” to schedule a free in-home smoke alarm check by County firefighters and additional information is included on page 2 of this release.

For detailed information about Senate Bill 969: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2013RS/fnotes/bil_0009/sb0969.pdf

Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services (MCFRS) provided the following Smoke Alarm Facts

How effective are smoke alarms?
Residential fire deaths have decreased steadily as the number of homes with smoke alarms increased. Reports from the National Fire Protection Association indicate that working smoke alarms double the chance of surviving a fire in homes equipped with the recommended number of smoke alarms.

When do I need to replace my smoke alarm?
Smoke alarms do not last forever and units that are 10 years old are near the end of their service life and should be replaced. Just like any electrical appliance, the circuitry and components of smoke alarms wear out over time. When a smoke alarm reaches 10 years of use, the potential of failing to detect a fire increases substantially and replacing units after 10 years reduces the likelihood of failure.

My smoke alarm units are wired into my electrical system. Do I need to replace them as often as battery-operated alarms?
Yes. Both hard-wired and battery-operated alarms are equally affected by age.
Note: the legislation signed into law on July 1, 2013 applies to battery-only powered alarms.

How many smoke alarms should I have?
Under the provisions of the law for all new residential units constructed after July 1, 2013, at least one smoke alarm must be installed in each sleeping room, in the hallway or common area outside of sleeping rooms, and in the hallway or common area on each level within a residential dwelling unit, including basements and excluding specified unoccupied spaces such as attics.

Various requirements for smoke alarm type and placement exist for different time periods in Montgomery County. For specific requirements: http://www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/frs-safe/resources/laws/alarms.asp

Is there anything new I need to know if I am selling my house?
The residential property disclosure form provided to the purchaser of specified single-family residential real property must include whether the smoke alarms (1) are over 10 years old and (2) if battery-operated, are sealed, tamper-resistant units incorporating a silence/hush button and use long-life batteries as required in all Maryland homes by 2018.

Why is the “hush” feature important?
Smoke alarms are available with a “hush” button that can be used to temporarily silence the alarm. This is a convenient way to deal with nuisance alarms, such as those caused by burning toast or opening smoky ovens, without disabling the alarm. The hush button will silence the alarm for several minutes and then automatically reset itself. Smoke alarms with this feature discourage the dangerous practice of removing the battery or disconnecting the power source as a method of dealing with frequent nuisance alarms. If smoke continues to build from an actual fire while the alarm is in hush mode, the smoke will override the silence feature and the smoke alarm will reactivate.

How can I test my alarm?
Every smoke alarm comes with a test button. MCFRS recommends that people test their alarms at least once a month.

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