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New smoke detector regulations go into effect Dec. 1

Change is coming — and homes across Massachusetts will be safer because of it.

As part of this year’s Fire Prevention Week in October, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey is speaking up about a new change in fire safety regulations that will take effect Dec. 1. On that date, when homes built before 1975 are sold, the house must be equipped with smoke detectors with a 10-year life span.

“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 in a telephone interview Friday.


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.

Information on the proper equipment to buy can be found here.

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.

As part of the fire prevention effort by his office, Ostroskey also stressed that the arrival of the heating season is the right time of the year to have professionals examine furnaces and chimneys to assure they operate safely and are not a potential fire source.


“Fire can strike anybody at any time,’’ he said.

John R. Ellement can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.