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The January 1st implementation of the Maryland smoke alarm law has generated many citizen phone calls to the stations inquiring about the new law. The following information regarding Maryland law is provided to assist with answering questions. Fire department personnel are frequently the only smoke alarm “experts” the general public will meet and speak with:

The intent of the new Smoke Alarm Law was to transition away from smoke alarms with 9v batteries and to achieve as much reliable smoke alarm coverage as possible in older dwellings. Smoke alarm technology has advanced over the years, and the updates to Maryland’s Smoke Alarm Law are part of a nationwide trend to ensure new and replacement smoke alarms have the most effective technology available.

The new law heavily emphasizes the use of sealed smoke alarms with long-life batteries and silence/hush buttons. However, it is critical to understand that these devices are appropriate only where battery-operated smoke alarms presently exist as permitted by Code or in locations where no smoke alarms are present. It is never acceptable to remove required hard-wired smoke alarms and replace them with any battery-only operated device.

The Maryland law requires:                               

  • Replace battery-only operated smoke alarms with units powered by sealed in, ten-year/long-life batteries with a “silence/hush” feature.
  • Upgrade smoke alarm placement in existing residential occupancies to comply with minimum specified standards. These standards vary according to when the building was constructed.
  • Replacement of all smoke alarms when they are 10 years old. This applies to both hard-wired and battery-operated smoke alarms.

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Every day in the United States 1,500 homes catch on fire. Each year 4,500 people die and 280, 000 are injured in residential fires. The majority of fire deaths occur at night, while everyone is asleep.

The Fire Department, through a partnership with the Anne Arundel Fire Safety Foundation, can provide assistance to any citizen that cannot afford to purchase a fire alarm or needs help installing one.

If you have questions about smoke alarms or need alarms and can't afford please contact your closest fire station for assistance.

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Smoke alarms can be provided for free and will be installed by Fire Department personnel. When available, State and federal grants are used to provide visual smoke alarms for the hearing impaired.

More Information

How do they operate?
There are two types of alarms:
  • Ionization - A radioactive material is used to ionize the air in the sensing chamber. Smoke entering the chamber activates the alarm.
  • Photo Electric - Works much like an electric eye on an automatic door. When smoke enters the chamber, the electric eye sees it, which activates the alarm.
How are they powered?
  • Battery – The easiest to install because they do not require any connection to the home’s electrical system. The challenge with these alarms is they require the battery to be replaced periodically for the unit to work.
  • A/C Hard Wired without battery – These alarms are wired directly to the homes electrical system. These alarms do not operate if there is a power outage.
  • AC hard Wired with battery backup – this is the best way an alarm can be powered. If the battery dies, it will still be powered by the home’s electrical system. And if there is a power failure, the battery will continue to operate the alarm.
How should they be installed?
Follow the manufacturers recommendations on proper placement. Avoid areas within 6 inches of where the ceiling meets the wall. The smoke will rise along the wall and curve to the ceiling delaying or never activating the alarm.
Proper Maintenance:
  • Check the power supply once a month by pressing the test button
  • Change the batter at least once a year
  • Remove cobwebs, insect, or dust by vacuuming at least every six months
What is the life span of a smoke alarm?
Smoke alarms should be replaced every ten years. Smoke alarms should also be replaced when they beep periodically and cannot be corrected by replacing the battery or vacuuming to remove the dust and cobwebs.