Smoke Alarms and Sprinkler Systems

Smoke Alarms

General Requirements

Each sleeping area in a residential dwelling must be provided with at least one approved smoke alarm.  The smoke alarm must be installed in accordance with the National Fire Alarm Code and must sense visible or invisible particles of combustion. It must sound an alarm suitable to warn the occupants. As discussed in greater detail below, there are more stringent requirements for recently constructed buildings.  Read the Law: MD Code, Public Safety § 9-102

Maintenance

The landlord, or owner of a non-rental property, is required to install smoke alarms as well as repair or replace a tenant’s smoke alarm upon tenant’s written notification.  The tenant or occupant is responsible for testing the smoke alarms and should notify the landlord in writing of the failure of a smoke alarm.  If the tenant personally hand delivers the written notice to the landlord of the failure of a smoke alarm, the landlord should provide a written receipt acknowledging the notification. A tenant may not remove a smoke alarm or render it inoperative.  Read the Law: MD Code, Public Safety § 9-102
 

Deaf or Hearing Impaired Tenant

On written request of a tenant who is deaf or hearing impaired, the landlord must provide a smoke detector that, when activated, provides a signal that is sufficient to warn the deaf or hearing impaired tenant. Read the Law: MD Code, Public Safety § 9-102

Special Requirements Based on Date of Building Construction

There are three tiers of requirements depending on the age of the building.  The more recent the building, the stricter the requirements. 

For all new buildings with construction permits issued on or after July 1, 2013, the owner must install a smoke alarm in every bedroom, every hallway or common area that is outside a bedroom, and on every floor of the house (including the basement but excluding the attic, garage and crawl spaces).  These alarms must be arranged so that activation of any one alarm activates all of the alarms within the residential unit.  The alarms must also run on alternating current and have a battery backup or other approved secondary power source. Read the Law: MD Code, Public Safety § 9-103

For all new buildings with construction permits issued on or after July 1, 1990, all smoke alarms required by this law must be the kind that operate both by battery and on the unit’s regular source of power.

For buildings constructed on or after January 1, 1989, there must be at least one smoke alarm on each level including the basement, but excluding an unoccupied attic, garage, and crawl space.  If two or more smoke alarms are required, they must be installed in a way that activation of one causes activation of all of the other alarms in the unit.

The smoke alarm systems in all one and two family dwellings must be updated to add a smoke alarm on each level of the home and to install alarms that run on alternating current with a battery backup.  These changes may need to be made prior to 2018 if the smoke alarms are more than 10 years old or there is a change in tenant.  Read the Law: MD Code, Public Safety § 9-104

Investigation after a Fire

Whenever a fire official investigates a fire and finds that the required smoke alarms have not been installed, he will issue an order requiring the responsible landlord, owner, or occupant to install alarms.  The responsible person must install the alarm within 5 days. Read the Law: MD Code, Public Safety § 9-108

Penalties

A person who is convicted of knowingly violating the laws or regulations regarding smoke alarms is guilty of a misdemeanor and will be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned for not more than 10 days, or both. Read the Law: MD Code, Public Safety § 9-109

Exceptions

The State Fire Marshal or the appropriate local authority may grant certain exceptions, including exceptions from state or local fire and building codes, if there is clear evidence that the exception will not adversely affect the fire safety of the building or its occupants.  However, no exception may be granted to a smoke alarm requirement. Read the Law: MD Code, Public Safety § 9-205

Fire Safety for Mobility Impaired Individuals in High Rises

The owner of a residential high-rise building with rental units must annually provide a written notice to all residents to inform residents, who are mobility impaired, of their right to request a rental unit on the first five floors of the building if one should become available. Read the Law: MD Code, Public Safety § 9-405

Sprinkler Systems

Required in New Construction

An automatic sprinkler system (approved by the State Fire Marshal or appropriate local authority) must be installed in accordance with prescribed national, local and state standards in each newly-constructed dormitory, hotel, rooming house, and multi-family dwelling if the initial building permit was issued (or construction began) after July 1, 1990, and in each newly constructed townhouse if the initial building permit was issued (or construction began) after July 1, 1992.  This requirement does not apply to dwelling units that are not served by a public water supply system. Read the Law: MD Code, Public Safety § 9-204

Exceptions

The State Fire Marshal or the appropriate local authority may grant certain exceptions, including exceptions from these sprinkler system requirements, if there is clear evidence that the exception will not adversely affect the fire safety of the building or its occupants. Read the Law: MD Code, Public Safety § 9-205

Penalties

Any person who knowingly violates these requirements is guilty of a misdemeanor and may be fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned for up to 10 days, or both. Read the Law: MD Code, Public Safety § 9-206

Source: 

Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. (BNI)

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