Law regarding smoke alarms about to change

Ontario residents are being asked to comply with a new law regarding smoke alarms.
An amendment to the Ontario Fire Code requires working smoke alarms on every level of the home. This is in addition to the existing requirement to have smoke alarms outside all sleeping areas.
For homeowners and landlords, this may mean purchasing additional smoke alarms and installing them on each level of their homes or buildings.
Fort Frances Fire Chief Steve Richardson noted the Ontario Building Code already requires that new homes and rental properties being built have working smoke alarms on each level.
The most recent announcement simply brings existing buildings up to the same standard.
“We have taken it one step further,” he said.
The local fire department occasionally performs routine checks of local homes to ensure the smoke alarms are installed and working.
But as of March 1, when the new law comes into effect, fire department officials also will be checking to be sure there is a working smoke detector on each level of the home—and will issue fines to those who are not compliant.
“We’re certainly going to be stepping up our enforcement program,” Chief Richardson said.
Homeowners who are not compliant can be subject to a minimum fine of $235. Tenants whose apartments do not meet the standard are encouraged to contact their landlord to have their residence brought up to code.
“Landlords are responsible for ensuring their rental properties do have working smoke alarms,” Chief Richardson stressed.
“Tenants of those rental properties are responsible—once the smoke alarm is installed—that they leave the batteries in it or don’t tamper with it,” he added.
While tenants who tamper with a smoke detector also can be subject to the $235 fine, landlords can be fined up to $25,000 or, in extreme cases, face jail time of up to one year.
“This may be a different approach than you are used to from your fire department,” Ontario Fire Marshal Bernard Moyle noted in a press release.
“That’s because they know how important it is to have working smoke alarms,” he said. “If a fire were to occur in your home, smoke alarms could mean the difference between life and death.”
Ontario fire statistics reveal that in about 50 percent of fatal home fires, the victims had no smoke alarm warning.
“Think of smoke alarms as seatbelts for your home,” Moyle said. “You wish you didn’t have to use them, but when they are needed and they protect you and your family from harm, you are forever grateful that they were there and that they were working.”
Fire departments across the province will be launching a public awareness campaign—“Working Smoke Alarms: It’s the Law!”—to inform homeowners, tenants, and landlords of their new responsibilities.
The law applies to all single family, semi-detached, and town homes, whether owner-occupied or rented.
Smoke alarms should be tested monthly, and the batteries replaced or recharged once a year. Alarms should be replaced altogether if they are more than 10 years old.
Batteries should never be removed from a smoke alarm.
If nuisance alarms are a problem, Moyle recommends moving the alarm to another location or purchasing one with a hush feature that temporarily silences it.
Families also are encouraged to develop a home fire escape plan so that everyone in the household knows what to do if the smoke alarm sounds.
Chief Richardson said families should have two ways out of every room, and should establish a place where everyone should meet after they get out.