Tomorrow, Jan. 1, a new Florida law aimed at preventing fire deaths goes into effect. Smoke alarms installed in homes must be powered by either electricity or so-called “permanent" batteries.
Before the change, fire alarms in new or remodeled homes had to be connected to the house’s electricity. Now, builders and residents replacing old smoke alarms have another option: a device with a tamper-proof battery that lasts 10 years.
The state fire marshals' association supports the technology as a way to reduce the chance of people’s removing traditional batteries and dying in fires. Florida Fire Marshals and Inspectors Association Director Jon Pasqualone says, “We have people dying in fires where there are smoke alarms present but no batteries or inoperable batteries, so we want to reduce the number of fire fatalities by having a product that is more reliable and more dependable.”
But Jacksonville Chief of Building Inspection Tom Goldsbury says smoke detector regulations are hard to enforce because inspectors are rarely in houses.
"If that house is just built and you’ve been in there a few years, when would you ever have an inspector in there again? Most people, probably never," he says.
A quick scan of Amazon.com shows a new smoke alarm with a 10-year battery runs about $20. Proponents of the law say that’s a big savings over most electrically wired, or "interconnected," models.
Meanwhile, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department spokesman Tom Francis says any working alarm is better than none. The department distributes smoke alarms to any single-family home resident who requests one.