Smoke alarm laws taking effect
by Glenn Moore Tracy Press
State Senate Bills 1394 and 745 are phasing in rules for installation and types of smoke alarms during the next two years.
Division Chief Steve Hanlon of the Tracy fire department said the laws acknowledged a growing — and dangerous — trend observed by fire crews statewide and locally.
“We were noticing people were pulling batteries out of them, they weren’t interconnected and they weren’t in bedrooms,” Hanlon said.
Tracy’s building code for new homes requires a smoke detector in each bedroom, in the hallway outside each separate sleeping area and on every floor, including basements and inhabitable attics. Smoke alarms need to be wired into the home’s electrical system and have a battery backup. They also have to be interconnected, so that when one alarm sounds, they all sound.
Home owners who do not have hard-wired or interconnected smoke detectors are not required to add them unless they make a repair or addition to the building that requires a building permit or costs more than $1,000.
The biggest change, which took effect July 1, requires all new battery-operated smoke alarms sold in California to be built with a nonremovable 10-year battery. Existing smoke detectors don’t have to be replaced until they reach the end of their 10-year lifespan or start malfunctioning.
Hanlon said that Tracy fire crews have found disconnected batteries in smoke detectors at the scene of small house fires.
“It is really easy for people to remove batteries when there is a false alarm, and then they forget to replace it,” he said. “A nonremovable battery prevents this.”
A 2011 study by the National Fire Protection Association noted that 38 percent of deaths involving fires occurred in a dwelling without a working smoke detector.
Hanlon said a properly installed smoke detector still provides the best chance to detect a home fire, especially at night.
“Your nose doesn’t work when you’re sleeping,” Hanlon said.
As of Jan. 1, all new smoke alarms will have to be imprinted with their date of manufacture and have a space to mark the date of installation. They will also be required to have a hush feature — a way to momentarily disable the alarm for a short period.
After Jan. 1, 2016, every rental home must have smoke detectors installed according to Tracy’s current code for the number of smoke detectors, power supply and interconnectivity. Also, any hotel or motel with a fossil-fuel-burning heater, appliance or fireplace or with an attached garage will be required to have carbon monoxide alarms at that time.
Hanlon said that people who have questions about which smoke alarms to use or who need help installing one can call the Tracy fire administration office at 831-6700 to schedule a time for someone to visit through the Smoke Alarms For Every Home program.
The goal of SAFE Home, which started in the 1980s, is to have a properly installed and operating smoke detector in every dwelling in Tracy. Hanlon said that fire crews still carry 9-volt batteries to help residents who have older detectors.
• Contact Glenn Moore at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4252
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