Understanding the New Massacusetts Smoke Alarm Regulation

Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Prestige

Effective January 1, 2010, a new regulation relating to the installation and maintenance of smoke detectors will take effect in Massachusetts. While this information is intended to give you a basic understanding of the change, if you have any questions regarding this regulation please check with your local fire department.

There are currently two primary detection methods in use in modern smoke detectors: photoelectric and ionization. Ionization detectors typically have a constant current running between two electrodes and when smoke interrupts the current, the alarm sounds. Unfortunately, ionization detectors are prone to false alarms in areas near kitchens and bathrooms as they cannot differentiate between smoke and steam. Photoelectric detectors emit a beam of light, and smoke passing the path of the beam causes some light to scatter and directs the light at a sensor which triggers the alarm. Photoelectric detectors have been found to be less sensitive to false alarms caused by steam, but can take longer than ionization detectors to alert.  

The new regulations passed by the Board of Fire Prevention Regulation does not change the locations where smoke detectors are required, however, it does require the installation of both types of detectors in certain locations. A copy of the new regulation (527 CMR 32.00) can be found on this link: http://www.mass.gov/Eeops/docs/dfs/osfm/cmr/cmr_secured/527032.pdf


Under the new regulation, a smoke detector utilizing both technologies is required in all previously required locations, except within 20 feet of a kitchen or a bathroom containing a bathtub or shower. Compliance can be achieved by installing two separate detectors using these technologies, or by installing one detector which uses both technologies. Within 20 feet of a kitchen or bathroom containing a bathtub or shower, only a photoelectric smoke detector is allowed and an ionization detector is prohibited due to their tendency to be set off by steam.



Determining whether a specific property is affected by the new regulation requires a case-by-case analysis and, therefore, property owners are encouraged to consult with legal counsel to determine the specific requirements for their property. That being said, the new regulations apply if: (a) the building is under 70 feet tall; AND (b) contains less than 6 residential units; AND (c) has not been substantially altered since January 1, 1975. If your building fits all three of these conditions, the new law likely applies to you. If your property does not fit all of these categories, then the new law does not apply to you since your property is already subject to the more strict state law. In other words, for buildings taller than 70 feet, larger than 6 apartments, or which have been substantially altered since January 1, 1975, your property was already subject to a higher standard in relation to fire safety equipment, and therefore these new regulations do not apply. Finally, for those properties which are affected by these new regulations, compliance is mandated by January 1, 2010.


For additional information on smoke alarm and home safety, please visit: http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=eopsterminal&L=8&L0=Home&L1=Public+Safety+Agencies&L2=Massachusetts+Department+of+Fire+Services&L3=Department+of+Fire+Services&L4=Office+of+the+State+Fire+Marshal&L5=Public+Education&L6=Fire+Safety+Topics&L7=FS+Topics&sid=Eeops&b=terminalcontent&f=dfs_osfm_pubed_firesafetytopics_smokealarm&csid=Eeops


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