Leonardtown, MD – With Tuesday’s tragic incident in Loveville serving as backdrop, the St. Mary’s County Department of Emergency Services asks citizens to test their smoke detectors.
Three out of five home fire deaths result from fires in properties without working smoke alarms.

Some things citizens should do include:

  • Install smoke alarms inside and outside each bedroom and sleeping area. Place alarms on
    every level of the home.
  • Make sure your smoke alarms work. Your family is not safe if they can’t hear the smoke
  • Test all smoke alarms monthly.
  • Smoke alarms do not last forever. Purchase new smoke alarms every 10 years.
  • When you hear a smoke alarm, you may have less than 2 minutes to get everyone outside and safe.

The Maryland Smoke Detector Law, which went into effect on July 1, 2013, requires the replacement of any battery-only operated smoke alarm that is more than 10 years old.

Homeowners are required to install an alarm with a sealed-in battery, which has a 10 year life, by January 1, 2018.

Understanding MD’s New smoke alarm law- From Mark Brady PGFD Chief Spokesperson:

Why has the Law changed?? 

3 out of 5 fire fatalities occur in homes that are not protected by working smoke alarms. Many of these unprotected homes did not have a smoke alarm or a smoke alarm was found to be nonworking due to a lack of batteries or a dead battery. The use of 10- year smoke alarms will save lives. It’s a law we can live with.

The County Law states that I need just 1 smoke alarm. Why do I need to follow the Maryland Law??

The State Law supersedes the County Law. We will work towards changing the language in the County Law to match the State Law; however, we must follow the State Law.

What type of smoke alarm should I purchase and install?? 

10-year, long life, sealed battery, alarm with hush feature.
The hush feature will allow you to silence an accidental alarm for up to 10 minutes before turning itself back on. The hush feature will eliminate the need to remove the smoke alarm and its battery.

Where can I purchase the 10-year alarm?? 

All home improvement stores in Prince George’s County sell the 10-year alarm. All 9-volt battery smoke alarms have been removed for purchase from these stores.
If you choose to order on-line; ensure you are purchasing a 10-year, sealed battery, with hush features smoke alarm. A 10-year guarantee does not always mean it’s a 10-year alarm.

How can I tell the manufacture date of my smoke alarm?? 

You will need to remove the smoke alarm off of its base and examine the writing on the back of the alarm. The expiration date should be in clear view. If you cannot find the expiration date consider it at least 10 years old and replace it with a new 10-year, tamper proof battery, with hush feature.

I just installed a 9-volt battery smoke alarm in my house 2 years ago. The manufacture date is April 2015. Do I need to replace this alarm?? 

No, you are in compliance. Remember to replace your alarm when the 10 year life of your smoke alarm is set to expire.

I live in a 2-story single family home with a basement. How many smoke alarms do I need?? 

If your home is currently protected by a 9-volt battery powered smoke alarm you will need to have a new 10-year smoke alarm installed on every level of your home so you will need a total of three.

The Fire/EMS Department highly recommends you install a 10-year smoke alarm in every bedroom as well and sleep with your door closed.

I currently have one 9-volt battery powered smoke alarm in my house. I don’t recall when the smoke alarm was installed?? 

If you cannot determine the manufacture date of your current smoke alarm it is best to replace it with a new 10-year smoke alarm. Remember, you must install a new 10-year alarm on every level of your home.

I have hardwired smoke alarms in my house. Does the new law affect me?? 

Yes, even the hardwired smoke alarms have an expiration date. Check the back of your alarms for an expiration date. If they are close to 10 years old or older you need to replace them with a new hardwired alarm with a 10-year battery backup.

It is important to remember to replace your hardwired alarms with a new one with similar features. For example; if your hardwired alarms are interconnected, when one sounds an alarm, all of your alarms will also sound an alarm.

Will the Fire Department issue a fine if I don’t have the proper smoke alarms?? 

The Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department will not issue a fine or penalty if homeowners are found to be in non-compliance. We will have a passive enforcement policy on residences whereas we will install a new smoke alarm for you instead of issuing you a citation.

The Department will continue to closely monitor apartment buildings, commercial buildings and home builders to ensure they are installing the appropriate alarms and are in compliance with all applicable fire safety laws. Any violations of the Law will be handled through management and our Fire Prevention office.

Do I need to install new smoke alarms in my bedrooms?? 

If you are residing in a home you own, the Fire/EMS Department highly recommends you install 10-year smoke alarms in every bedroom and sleep with your bedroom doors closed.
Rental properties are required to maintain smoke alarms in all bedrooms.
Newly constructed homes are sold with hardwired smoke alarms that are interconnected.
Never disconnect hardwired alarms as they are required by building code.

Where should I install the new 10-year smoke alarms?? 

Same area as your previous smoke alarms. Primarily just outside of sleeping areas on ceilings or high on the wall.

What are insurance company consequences if I have a fire in my house and I’m not in compliance with new smoke alarm law??

This unfortunate circumstance is out of our area of responsibility and is between you and your insurance company. It is best to avoid this situation by complying with the law and maintain 10-year, tamper proof, with hush feature smoke alarm’s on every level of your home.

I purchased new 10-year smoke alarms but I am having difficulty installing the alarms. Who can help me?? 

If you call 311 and explain the situation, a firefighter will call you to set up a convenient time for them to come by your house. They will install your smoke alarms for you at no charge.

Does the Fire/EMS Department provide free 10-year smoke alarms?? 

Yes, the Fire/EMS Department has been providing free smoke alarms to residents for nearly 40 years. Through generous donations from private entities like PEPCO and the American Red Cross we can provide and install one free smoke alarm per residence. In most cases this will not bring you into compliance with having a smoke alarm on every level of your home. The firefighters installing your free alarm will advise you of your responsibility to install additional alarms.

To take advantage of this opportunity simply call 311 and ask about the Fire/EMS Department smoke alarm program.

I live in an apartment, condo or rental property and there are still 9-volt battery smoke alarms. What should I do?? 

You should contact our Fire Prevention office and register a complaint. This is a serious violation of the law and our fire inspectors will inspect and follow-up with complex management.

Our Fire Prevention can be contacted at 301-583-1830

The following responses come directly from the State Law.

The new law is very confusing. What part of the law affects me?? 

The Maryland State Law is broken down by the year your residence was built. As a general rule you will need to replace alarms that are currently installed in your home. Most older homes, an increase in the number of alarms you have is likely.

The requirements for smoke alarms vary depending on when the residence was constructed. Refer to the attached Matrix for specific statutory requirements.

KEY DATES: July 1, 1975
January 1, 1989
January 1, 1990

For New Construction 

Maryland’s Smoke Alarm Law has simply been updated to correspond with the International Residential Code and NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code. An AC powered, battery back-up smoke alarm is required in every bedroom, in the common area outside of the bedrooms and on every other level of the dwelling unit, with all of the required smoke alarms being interconnected.
Every local building official who is presently enforcing the 2009 or 2012 IRC should already be enforcing this requirement and there is essentially no change in requirements or increase in cost.

For homes constructed PRIOR to July 1, 1975: 

Under the old law, for homes constructed prior to July 1, 1975, a smoke alarm was required outside each sleeping area. The smoke alarm could be battery- operated or hardwired.
Under the new law, for smoke alarms that are battery-operated, the units need to be replaced/upgraded with new, sealed, long-life smoke alarms equipped with a hush feature.
For homes constructed between July 1, 1975 and June 30, 1990:

For homes constructed between July 1, 1975 and June 30, 1990, an AC-powered smoke alarm was required in each sleeping area. The requirement that the AC- powered smoke alarms have a battery back-up became effective July 1, 1990.

Smoke alarms installed during this time period should have been replaced after 10-years of service under the existing law and, after July 1, 1990, replacement alarms were equipped with a battery back-up.

Note: At the time the new law was signed, hard-wired smoke alarms are currently manufactured with a 9v battery back-up. It is anticipated that hard-wired smoke alarms will incorporate long-life, 10-year batteries in the near future.

For new homes constructed AFTER January 1, 1989: 

Any new home in Maryland constructed after January 1, 1989 required at least one hard-wired, AC-powered smoke alarm on every level of the home, including the basement and required that the units to be interconnected in order that activation of any one of the required smoke alarms resulted in the sounding of all the required smoke alarms. The requirement that the AC-powered smoke alarms have a battery back-up became effective July 1, 1990.