Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ April 2016

State Updates Smoke Alarm Law

By Jacquie Bokow

Homeowners in the State of Maryland are now required to replace battery-only operated smoke alarms with units powered by sealed-in, long-life batteries.  (The law does not apply to hard-wired units.)  The existing 38-year-old Maryland Smoke Alarm Law was amended by the Maryland General Assembly and signed into law by Governor O’Malley in 2013.

Para más información sobre la nueva ley de Maryland de los detectores de humo en Español, visite

The updated law also requires that residential battery-operated smoke alarms be equipped with a “hush-button” feature that will temporarily silence the alarm if activated by a non-emergency condition (see more below).

Residents have until 1 January 2018 to comply with the new law.

The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service (MCFRS) recommends you install at least one smoke alarm in each sleeping room, in the hallway or common area outside of sleeping rooms, and in the hallway or common area on each level within a home, including basements but excluding unoccupied spaces such as attics.

Just like any electrical appliance, the circuitry and components of smoke alarms wear out over time.  Units that are 10 years old are near the end of their service life and should be replaced.  Both hard-wired and battery-operated alarms are equally affected by age.  If you haven’t changed a smoke alarm since 2006, then it’s time to replace it.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that working smoke alarms double the chance of surviving a fire.

The ‘Hush’ Feature

Smoke alarms are now available with a “hush” button that can be used to temporarily silence the alarm.  This lets you deal with nuisance alarms — such as those caused by burning toast or opening smoky ovens — without disabling the alarm.  The hush button will silence the alarm for several minutes and then automatically reset itself.

Smoke alarms with this feature discourage the dangerous practice of removing the battery or disconnecting the power source as a method of dealing with frequent nuisance alarms.  If smoke continues to build from an actual fire while the alarm is in hush mode, the smoke will override the silence feature and the smoke alarm will reactivate.

Every smoke alarm comes with a test button as well.  MCFRS recommends that people test their alarms at least once a month.

If you sell your house, the residential property disclosure form provided to the purchaser must include whether the smoke alarms (1) are over 10 years old and (2), if battery-operated, are sealed, tamper-resistant units incorporating a silence/hush button and using long-life batteries.

Montgomery County residents can call 3-1-1 to schedule a free in-home smoke alarm check by County firefighters.   ■

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