Smoke Alarms

What's New
Maryland's new smoke alarm law became effective July 1, 2013.

View the Smoke Alarm Matrix for more information.

A new Maryland law, effective July 1, 2013, requires homeowners to upgrade their smoke alarms to the latest technology when replacing their older units. Smoke alarms have a life expectancy of not more than 10 years. When replacing your outdated smoke alarms, a new smoke alarm with a sealed10-year battery will be required. In addition, there are new requirements on where smoke alarms are to placed and the number of smoke alarms per level of your home.

Note:  The most important piece of equipment in your home is your smoke alarm. It is also probably the cheapest to maintain!

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Vital Role
Properly functioning smoke alarms play a vital role in reducing deaths and injuries from fire. Nearly 65% of reported home fire deaths occurred in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Recommended Locations
Although new homes must conform to current building, fire, and life safety codes, it is recommended that all homes have smoke alarms installed in the following locations:
  1. In each sleeping area
  2. Outside each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms
  3. On each additional story of the home, including the basement
Remember, you are more than twice as likely to die in a fire in a home that does not have properly installed and working smoke alarms.

What Types of Smoke Alarms Are Available?
There are 2 types of smoke alarm technologies - ionization and photoelectric. An ionization smoke alarm is generally more responsive to flaming fires - like a pan fire or the smoke from cooking. A photoelectric alarm is generally more responsive to smoldering fires - like a cigarette, overheated wiring or something hot like a space heater. Install both types of alarms in your home or combination ionization and photoelectric alarms that take advantage of both technologies.

Where Do I Get Smoke Alarms?

Most hardware, home supply, or general merchandise stores carry smoke alarms. If you are unsure where to buy one in your community, call your local Fire Department and fire / rescue personnel will provide you with some suggestions.

If you can not afford smoke alarms, the local Fire Department will be able to provide and install them for you at no cost.

If you are hearing impaired, we now have strobe smoke alarms available on a first come / first serve basis that will be provided free of charge to those in need.

Where Do I Install Smoke Alarms?
  • Note: Smoke alarms must be installed on every level of your home, including the basement.
  • Smoke alarms should be installed both inside and outside of your sleeping areas.
  • Since smoke and many deadly gases rise, installing your smoke alarms at the proper level will provide you with the earliest warning possible. Always follow the manufacturer's installation instructions.
  • Interconnection of smoke alarms is highly recommended; when 1 smoke alarm sounds, they all do. This is particularly important in larger or multistory homes, where the sound from distant smoke alarms may be reduced to the point that it may not be loud enough to provide proper warning, especially for sleeping individuals. A licensed electrician can install hard wired multiple-station alarms. Wireless smoke alarms can be installed by the homeowner.
How Do I Keep My Smoke Alarm Working?
Test smoke alarms at least monthly by pushing the test button.

Smoke alarms equipped with replaceable alkaline batteries should be replaced twice a year. The simplest way to remember to replace your batteries is to replace them when you change the time on your clocks.

Note: If an alarm "chirps", warning the battery is low, replace the battery right away.

All smoke alarms, including alarms that use 10-year batteries and those that are hard-wired alarms, should be replaced when they're 10 years-old (or sooner) if they do not respond properly when tested.

What if the Alarm Goes Off While I'm Cooking?
Note: Do not remove or disable the alarm. The alarm is working properly and you may not remember to reconnect the smoke alarm. Instead, clear the air by waving a towel or other item near the alarm, leaving the batteries in place and wires connected.