Did you know that smoke detectors have a useful life of only ten years? The smoke detector that was there when you bought your home might not even work anymore, even if you have diligently been changing the batteries every six months.
Representatives from the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) joined with New York State Senator Jack Martins and Long Island volunteer firefighters on Friday, June 5, to announce new smoke alarm legislation (S2696), which aims to reduce house fire-related deaths by requiring battery operated smoke alarms sold in New York State have batteries that are nonreplaceable, nonremovable and will power the device for a minimum of ten years.
“A working smoke alarm is the single most important appliance a person can have in their home to help protect themselves and their family in the event of a fire,” said FASNY President Robert McConville. “In addition, a working smoke alarm will alert residents to a dangerous condition and allow them time to self-evacuate. This in turn allows firefighters to operate without facilitating dangerous rescue attempts.”
The press conference took place at the The Nassau County Firefighters Museum & Education Center in Garden City. John Murray, the museum’s chief instructor said, “If you ask the worst feeling a firefighter has, they’re going tell you that it’s crawling into a house that you know somebody is in and you don’t hear any smoke detectors. It’s an awful feeling.”
Murray continued, “And your chance of rescuing the people at that point are very, very slim. So the bill the senator is pushing through is going to help everybody. And we deeply appreciate it.”
Senator Jack Martins from Mineola has been working to get the legislation passed in Albany and is hopeful that it will be within the next couple of weeks. “It’s about saving lives,” he said. “We’ve seen too many tragedies.”
This legislation is dedicated to the memory of Tyler Doohan, a 9-year-old boy who died in a house fire in 2014 in Rochester after trying to help save members of his family. The home was not equipped with working smoke alarms.
“It is important that we take the initiative to force their replacement every ten years because it is a fact that smoke detectors do not last beyond ten years,” said Martins.
“The current rule on smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms is when you change the clocks, you change the batteries,” explained Frank Color, Jr., Rockville Centre volunteer firefighter. These new alarms eliminate the need to replace the batteries, ultimately making them more cost-effective.
Port Washington Fire Chief and Vice Chairman of FASNY Thomas McDonough said, “I’ve seen batteries removed from smoke detectors in the richest and the poorest neighborhoods. It’s a danger.”
“We’ve all done it,” he continued. McDonough spoke about climbing up on chairs as a child to retrieve batteries for his walkie talkies from the smoke alarm. “Kids nowadays are no different…They find out there’s AA batteries in a smoke detector, and in a lot of them there’s three, they go up and take the batteries out and put them in their electronics.”
In addition, adults often remove the batteries to silence the alarm while they are cooking and fail to replace them.
“While consumer education and awareness are still paramount to fire safety and prevention,” McConville said, “this legislation is the biggest step we can take as a state to combat preventable fire deaths and injuries in New York.”
Bill S2696A-2015 passed the senate on June 24, 2015. The act shall take effect January 1, 2017.