Smoke alarm laws taking effect
by Glenn Moore
Jul 12, 2014 | 6347 views | 4 4 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New smoke detector laws, including a change that took effect July 1, are intended to keep working alarms in rental properties and homes in Tracy and throughout California.

State Senate Bills 1394 and 745 are phasing in rules for installation and types of smoke alarms during the next two years.

Division Chief Steve Hanlon of the Tracy fire department said the laws acknowledged a growing — and dangerous — trend observed by fire crews statewide and locally.

“We were noticing people were pulling batteries out of them, they weren’t interconnected and they weren’t in bedrooms,” Hanlon said.

Tracy’s building code for new homes requires a smoke detector in each bedroom, in the hallway outside each separate sleeping area and on every floor, including basements and inhabitable attics. Smoke alarms need to be wired into the home’s electrical system and have a battery backup. They also have to be interconnected, so that when one alarm sounds, they all sound.

Home owners who do not have hard-wired or interconnected smoke detectors are not required to add them unless they make a repair or addition to the building that requires a building permit or costs more than $1,000.

The biggest change, which took effect July 1, requires all new battery-operated smoke alarms sold in California to be built with a nonremovable 10-year battery. Existing smoke detectors don’t have to be replaced until they reach the end of their 10-year lifespan or start malfunctioning.

Hanlon said that Tracy fire crews have found disconnected batteries in smoke detectors at the scene of small house fires.

“It is really easy for people to remove batteries when there is a false alarm, and then they forget to replace it,” he said. “A nonremovable battery prevents this.”

A 2011 study by the National Fire Protection Association noted that 38 percent of deaths involving fires occurred in a dwelling without a working smoke detector.

Hanlon said a properly installed smoke detector still provides the best chance to detect a home fire, especially at night.

“Your nose doesn’t work when you’re sleeping,” Hanlon said.

As of Jan. 1, all new smoke alarms will have to be imprinted with their date of manufacture and have a space to mark the date of installation. They will also be required to have a hush feature — a way to momentarily disable the alarm for a short period.

After Jan. 1, 2016, every rental home must have smoke detectors installed according to Tracy’s current code for the number of smoke detectors, power supply and interconnectivity. Also, any hotel or motel with a fossil-fuel-burning heater, appliance or fireplace or with an attached garage will be required to have carbon monoxide alarms at that time.

Hanlon said that people who have questions about which smoke alarms to use or who need help installing one can call the Tracy fire administration office at 831-6700 to schedule a time for someone to visit through the Smoke Alarms For Every Home program.

The goal of SAFE Home, which started in the 1980s, is to have a properly installed and operating smoke detector in every dwelling in Tracy. Hanlon said that fire crews still carry 9-volt batteries to help residents who have older detectors.

• Contact Glenn Moore at or 830-4252.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
July 18, 2014
10-year permanent battery - really? That's like the LED bulbs that last for 5 years and save your hundreds of dollars! I agree that smoke alarms should be installed for safety, but again the responsible homeowner gets another law because some idiot doesn't put back the battery! Those same people will find a way to remove the complete smoke alarm when it won't stop beeping.
July 12, 2014
"Home owners who do not have hard-wired or interconnected smoke detectors are not required to add them unless they make a repair or addition to the building that requires a building permit or costs more than $1,000."

So a person goes into get a permit to replace his $400 water heater, (I know, who really does?), then has to spend, lets say another $2500 (arbitrary figure) for an electrician to wire up and install smoke alarms all through the house? Then you get to pay for another permit to have the electrician do the electrical work.

Yes, I agree smoke detectors help save lives, but this seems to me like another way for the bureaucracy to make a buck off the working man, or some fixed income retiree, in fees and fines if you don't comply.

Our ridiculous legislature in Sacramento has nothing better to do with their time than to create useless legislation to protect their phony baloney jobs, and the local governments go right along with it for the windfall in "revenue" from permits.

July 13, 2014
Yes, that was my first thought.
July 12, 2014
Wonderful Law

God Save The Children~!

We encourage readers to share online comments in this forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a space for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Comments that stray from the topic of the story or are found to contain abusive language are subject to removal at the Press’ discretion, and the writer responsible will be subject to being blocked from making further comments and have their past comments deleted. Readers may report inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at