Posts Tagged Smoke detectors

New Milwaukee Smoke Alarm Ordinance To Require Sealed Lithium Battery Units In Residential Rental Housing

The City of Milwaukee has introduced a change to the residential smoke alarm ordinance.  If passed, the revised ordinance will require the use of sealed smoke alarm units with 10 year lithium batteries in all city residential rental housing.  The proposed ordinance would require landlords to install the sealed unit when replacing a current removable-battery unit or by October 1, 2022, whichever occurs sooner.

In is unknown what the impetus behind the revised ordinance was but most likely it was the fact that tenants still continue to remove the battery from their smoke detectors to use for other things . . . like their kids toys.  While the “hush button” requirement a few years ago partially alleviated tenants removing the battery when cooking, it still did not prevent tenants from removing the battery to power little Junior’s Talking Elmo.

The cost of the sealed unit will run approximately $13 more per unit than current smoke alarms.  Those landlords in an effort to reduce costs who decided to buy smoke alarms in bulk now find themselves facing a huge loss as they will have difficulty using up their stockpile before the new ordinance requires replacement with the new sealed units.

The current ordinance states:

214-23. Battery-Operated Smoke Alarms. 
Every battery-operated smoke alarm shall be 
tested by the owner not less than once every 
calendar year. The owner shall provide a copy of 
test results to the commissioner or the 
commissioner=s designee upon request. Test 
results shall include the date on which testing was 
performed and the name, telephone number and 
property relationship of the person who performed 
the test. Testing shall be performed in accordance 
with the manufacturer=s specifications for testing. 
By September 21, 2005, every owner shall take 
the actions necessary to ensure that any smoke 
alarm located within 20 feet of the primary cooking 
appliance within the unit has a silencing switch 
(hush button).

The proposed revised ordinance is below:

Part 1. Section 214-23 of the code is repealed and recreated to read:

214-23. Battery-Operated Smoke Alarms. 1. TYPE. Every battery-operated smoke alarm shall be powered by 10-year or more non-removable batteries. Compliance with this requirement shall be met when replacing an existing battery-operated unit according to the manufacturer’s recommended replacement date or by October 1, 2022, whichever is sooner.

2. SILENCING SWITCH. Any smoke alarm located within 20 feet of the primary cooking appliance within the unit shall have a silencing switch.

3. TESTING. Every battery-operated smoke alarm shall be tested by the owner not less than once every calendar year. The owner shall provide a copy of test results to the commissioner or the commissioner’s designee upon request. Test results shall include the date on which testing was performed and the name, telephone number and property relationship of the person who performed the test. Testing shall be performed in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications for testing.

Part 2. Section 214-27-3 of the code is amended to read:

214-27. Smoke Detectors and Smoke Alarms for Residential Dwellings Built Prior to January 1, 1983. 3. TYPE. Smoke detectors and alarms required under this section shall be single station devices, either battery operated >>as provided in s. 214-23<<, plug-in or directed wired A/C units unless otherwise required by the code.


UPDATE 10/9/12 — The hearing was held earlier today and it was referred to ZND committee for a hearing in November sometime.  The ordinance was amended to require that the sealed lithium battery units go into effect in 2017 (5 years) rather than 2022 (10 years).  A request was made by AASEW counsel Heiner Giese to delay the effective date of the ordinance to June 1, 2013 so that landlords could use up their current supply of non-sealed battery units – one alderman supported this request.  Several alderman expressed concern that this proposed modification to the current ordinance would be expensive for homeowners who do not have to deal with tenants that remove the batteries from smoke alarm units

– Thank you to Heiner for the updated information.

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For Those of You Who Thought The Installation of A Smoke Detector Was Simple . . . READ THIS.

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.

> Thanks

> 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 : ).

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