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Changes to the Massachusetts Fire Code Effective Today-December 1st, 2016

To sell a home in the state of Massachusetts you must obtain a Fire Certificate prior to closing.  We outlined this process in our recent blog Don’t Let Your Home Sale Go Up in Smoke!   As of Fire Code ChangesDecember 1, 2016, the Board of Fire Prevention Regulations instituted changes to the Fire Code which directly effects current home sellers.  Below are the five most important things you need to know.

1. Homes constructed prior to 1975 must have sealed lithium ion 10-year non-replaceable battery photoelectric detectors unless the current detectors are under 10 years old.

Detectors may be kept until they reach ten years of age at which point they need to replaced with sealed-battery detectors.  In a house built after 1975 detectors will need to be replaced with new, hard-wired detectors, not sealed battery detectors.  Alarms are required on every habitable level, at the base of each set of stairs, and outside of each sleeping area.  For homes built between 1975 and August 1997, the alarms must be hardwired and interconnected and there must be one per ever 1,200 square feet of living space per level.

2. Any detector that is older than 10 years old or exceeds the manufacturer’s recommended life (whichever comes first) in any house regardless of construction date needs to be replaced.

A detector’s sensing technology deteriorates over time- typically ten years.  The manufacture date should be located on the back of the alarm.  If the date isn’t there, it’s older than 10-years old and needs to be replaced with the appropriate detector determined by your home’s construction date.

3. Ionization detector requirements have been removed.

Prior to the changes, you needed photoelectric and ionization detectors outside of 20 feet from kitchen or bath in homes built before 1975. Now, you may have ionization detectors for added coverage but they can not be used to fulfill the code requirements.

4. The photoelectric detectors must be equipped with a hush button option to silence nuisance alarms. 

They have a built-in mechanism to override the hush feature if an increasing amount of smoke is detected.  The hush feature will make it less likely that homeowners will pull their detectors down and fail to re-install them.

5. The sealed detectors can be photoelectric/carbon monoxide or photoelectric/ionization combination alarms if located correctly.

They must be on every habitable level of the residence, in the basement, on the ceiling at the base of each stairway and outside each separate sleeping area.  Combination alarms must have a tone and a simulated voice alarm to distinguish the type of emergency.

How will these changes protect my home?

From December 2015 to March 2016, there were 31 fire deaths in homes MA and 55% of them were a result of non-working smoke alarms in the homes.  It stands to reason that most people tend to disable a non-functioning alarm and fail to replace it immediately.  The new code is set in place to circumvent this hazard by requiring sealed battery or hard-wired detectors.

Realtors and Homeowners can reference the updated version of the Department of Fire Services guide for selling 1- and 2-Family Homes here for specific placement and detector requirements as determined by the home’s age.  Consulting with your local fire department with questions is highly recommended prior to the home selling process.

This is our interpretation of the state requirements outlined in the Consumer’s Guide released by the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services on November 16th 2016 These requirements may vary by city or town within the commonwealth.