Under a new law taking effect Jan. 1, all Illinois residents will be required to swap out smoke detectors requiring twice-annual battery replacement with models that operate for 10 years on a lithium battery, Elgin Fire Chief Robb Cagann said.
He and other fire officials are trying to get the word out about the required upgrade, which will add a level of safety insurance over the older models that depend on residents remembering to install new batteries, Cagann said.
While the fire department won’t be checking residences to make sure the alarms are replaced, it’s important for homeowners and landlords to know the law is changing, he said.
“(Checking houses for compliance) isn’t happening,” he said “We’re looking to raise awareness (that there’s) a new technology out there and it’s in your best interest to have it.
“It provides a greater level of protection. It prevents people from tampering and disabling them,” Cagann said.
And it eliminates the need to change batteries every six months, which can be easy to forget if you don’t do it with the spring and fall time change, he said. With a dead battery, “the smoke detector is rendered useless,” he said.
The 10-year detectors are sealed and need to be replaced once their lifespan has been exhausted. Retailers will stop selling the battery-operated versions at some point in the near future, Cagann said.
The Illinois Smoke Detector Act was passed in 1988, requiring all residences to have smoke detectors. In 2017, the law was updated at the instigation of the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance to require the 10-year devices be mandatory starting Jan. 1, 2023.
Once the amended law was passed, fire officials around the state started putting the word out, Cagann said. Now that the date is actually nearing, public education is stepping up, he said.
“In the fire service circle, it’s been talked about for a long time,” Cagann said.
Houses built after 1988 that already have hardwired smoke alarms or anyone with wireless integrated alarms using Wi-Fi are not affected by the new law, Cagann said.
If a homeowner or landlord has already installed a 10-year alarm, it does not need to be replaced until a decade after the manufactured date or if it malfunctions, Cagann said.
“If you just put in brand new smoke detectors in the last few years, you don’t have to go change those out. They still work,” said Cagann, who added the devices should be checked once a month.
“I would encourage people, if you have the capability, to swap out your smoke detector for one with a 10-year sealed battery,” Cagann said. “I understand that realistically that’s not going to happen community wide. There are certainly benefits for swapping them out.”
The Elgin Fire Department has a smoke detector installation program that provides residents with a free 10-year sealed battery alarm provided by the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance. But there’s a limited supply and sometimes they don’t have them available, Cagann said.
Gloria Casas is a freelance reporter for The Courier-News.
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December 23, 2022 at 09:26AM