AASEW Board member Tim Ballering wrote the City of Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS) back in June to ask for clarification about the proper placement of smoke detectors in his residential rental units in the city of Milwaukee.
Ballering was prompted to write to DNS becasue he felt there was some confusion among DNS inspectors as to where smoke detectors should be installed.
Below is the entire text of Ballering’s email to DNS:
> Subject: Smoke Detectors
> There is some confusion among DNS inspectors as to where smoke detectors belong.
> Most code enforcement inspectors are of the opinion the detectors should be outside the bedroom, within 6′ of the door. Some are of the opinion that having the detector only on the inside of the bedroom does not meet code.
> Your code seems to be worded in a way that supports installing detectors outside the door at 214-27: “For floor levels containing a sleeping area, the required detector or alarm shall be installed within 6 feet of the sleeping area.”
> However construction inspectors believe the smoke detectors are required to be inside the bedrooms and units installed outside the bedroom door do not meet the code.
> The DNS Smoke Alarm brochure seems to say either is okay:
> “Either in each sleeping area of each unit or elsewhere in the unit within 6 feet of each sleeping area. If the unit contains 2 or more separate sleeping areas, each sleeping area shall be provided with a smoke alarm.”
> It obviously doesn’t matter to the property owner where the detectors are put as long as a second inspector doesn’t come along afterwards demanding they be relocated.
> So which does the code require, inside the bedroom or outside?
> And if the code doesn’t care, then which is most effective in saving lives?
> I will have the Association publish the response so more owners are knowledgable as to what you require.
> Tim Ballering
The City of Milwaukee emailed its 8 PAGE response to Ballering on October 21, 2011. Here is the letter response from DNS.
While I know your time is valuable — I beg you to read the entire 8 page answer. I want to see if you can finish reading it all the way through. Afterwards, I would like to know if you are able to tell me where you should place the smoke detectors in your City of Milwaukee rentals. I like to think that I am moderately intelligent person —- and I read and review statutes, case law, and ordinances several times a week as a lawyer —- but after reading this 8 page response my eyes glazed over and my brain went to mush.
The drafter’s of these codes, ordinances, statutes, regulations etc. need to realize that if they want landlords — or anyone, for that matter — to understand them and be in compliance, they need to make it a bit more simple to understand and follow. One should not be required to be a brain surgeon to know where to install a smoke detector and you shouldn’t have to synthesize 4 different laws in order to arrive at an answer — thank you Todd Weiler for doing that for us. It is a relatively simple question: where should I install a smoke detector in my rental property to best protect my tenants. It shouldn’t take 8 pages and many hours — which I am sure Weiler had to spend compiling the answer — to answer.
But don’t fret, you probably will never have to re-read that 8 page answer again. Instead just turn to the city’s recently revised brochure on smoke detectors. Sometime during my reading of the brochure, my eyes regained focus, my grey matter firmed up a bit, and I felt as if I actually knew where to install smoke detectors in my rentals again. Thank God for brochures : ).