Massachusetts New Carbon Detector Changes as of 12/1/16

New Smoke Detector Rules Go Into Effect On December 1, 2016

As discussed at the Annual Meeting, new smoke detector rules will go into effect on December 1, 2016.  We have experts scheduled to attend each of our December SOS meetings for a Q&A session.  [Thanks to Pittsfield Fire Inspector Stein who brought this to our attention:  He will be at the SOS Meeting in Pittsfield on December 8th, Great Barrington Fire Chief Charles Berger will be at the SOS Meeting in Great Barrington on December 9th and Adams Fire Chief Paul Goyette will be at the SOS Meeting in Adams on December 7th.] Here are the two changes:

On December 1, 2016 in Massachusetts, when homes built before 1975 are sold, the house must be equipped with smoke detectors with a 10-year life span (and if expired, replaced before permit will be issues)… and if battery powered, be equipped with sealed lithium batteries. 

The chief issued a letter that clarified that smoke alarms installed prior to December 1, 2016 that met requirements of existing regulations upon installation will continue to meet regulatory requirements of 527 CMR 1.00 and requirements for sale/transfer in accordance with M.G.L. c. 148, s. 26F until the devices are 10 years old or have exceeded the manufacturer’s recommended life.  Fire Chief Letter   They also completed a new consumer fact sheet for your use.

Lithium-ion battery operated smoke alarms are powered by a sealed, long-life lithium battery for ten years (the life of the alarm), meaning the alarm is always on for the best safety.  Locally, these detectors can be found in most home improvement stores.

When speaking to the Boston Globe, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said the 1975 cutoff date for single-, double-, and triple-family homes was chosen because homes built after that year were already required by the state building code to have hard-wired power supplies for smoke detectors. But even those hard-wired detectors need to have backup batteries replaced and the detectors should be replaced every 10 years, too, he noted.

The current rules require photoelectric detectors covering the area within 20 feet of a kitchen or bathroom containing a bathtub or shower.

As part of this year’s Fire Prevention Week in October, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey explained that “what we’ve seen in the past eight to 10 months across the state is that our fatal fires involve homes that have smoke alarms in them, but they are inoperative.” Ostroskey said that as investigators search charred wreckage of fatal fires, they have discovered that batteries have been removed or that the smoke alarms themselves have not been replaced even though they are no longer functioning properly because they are 10 years old or older.

Ostroskey said that smoke detectors themselves must be replaced every 10 years because they lose the life-saving sensitivity in their sensors.

“We believe that having a 10-year sealed battery. . . will improve the operating status of smoke alarms in residences,’’ he said, adding that packaging of detectors makes it clear what the life cycle of the batteries included in the equipment.

Note from MAR Legal:  Because specific requirements on smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors vary among homes based on when the home was built or permitted, it is important to check with your local building or fire department for detailed guidance. More information can also be found on the Department of Public Safety’ Smoke Alarm Regulations website: