The City of Madison has tightened its smoke alarm regulations yet again, which became effective on August 15th.  Homeowners are required to replace old smoke alarms with units that meet new standards.

All smoke alarms must have a 10-year lithium battery in a tamper-resistant alarm.  9-volt batteries will no longer be used UNLESS they are being used as a battery back-up to a hard-wired alarm.  The ordinance also requires additional alarms in the residence:

  • In each bedroom
  • In each sleeping area
  • Within six feet of each door leading to a bedroom or sleeping area of each unit
  • On each floor of the building

The ordinance went into effect August 15 for owner-occupied, single-family homes.  Last August was the deadline for rental property and multi-family housing.  Any person who violates any of the smoke alarm requirements can be subject to a maximum fine of $172 for the first violation. 

Choosing a smoke alarm

  • Smoke alarms can be purchased at the majority of hardware and variety department stores. Be sure that the alarms you buy carry the label of an independent testing laboratory.
  • Smoke alarms in the City of Madison must have a ten year lithium battery with a tamper resistant battery compartment or be hardwired directly to your homes electrical system with a battery backup. Either type is effective as long as they are installed and maintained properly (follow the manufacturer’s directions).
  • Some smoke alarms detect smoke using an ionization sensor while others use a photoelectric sensor. Again, both types are effective as long as they are installed and maintained properly (follow the manufacturer’s directions).
  • Specialty alarms with emergency lights also exist for the hearing impaired.

How many and where to install?

  • Smoke alarms are not recommended for kitchens, bathrooms, or garages where cooking fumes, steam, or exhaust fumes could result in false alarms.
  • Do not install an alarm in an attic or other unheated spaces where humidity and temperature changes could affect the alarm’s operation.
  • If your alarm regularly goes off due to normal cooking in the kitchen, do not attempt to remove the battery. Physically move and reinstall the smoke alarm in a location where the alarm will not continually go off while you are cooking.
  • Install smoke alarms following the manufacturer’s directions. Most battery operated smoke alarms can be easily installed using a drill, screws, and screwdriver. Alarms hard-wired to the homes electrical system should be installed by a professional. Never install an alarm to a circuit that can be turned off from a wall switch.
  • Mount alarms high on a wall or on the ceiling. Avoid dead air spaces. Wall-mounted alarms should be installed so that they are 4 to 12 inches from the ceiling. A ceiling-mounted alarm should be attached at least 4 inches from the nearest wall.

Maintenance & Batteries

  • Only a functioning smoke alarm can protect you and your family.
  • Never disable an alarm by “borrowing” its battery for another use.
  • Test your smoke alarms monthly
  • Following the manufacturer´s instructions
  • Clean your smoke alarms using a dust brush or rag.
  • Never paint a smoke alarm.
  • Replace smoke alarms that are more than 10 years old.

Information on the ordinance, placement of the alarms, and safety education materials are available on the City of Madison website

The Madison Fire Department is working with community organizations to identify the homes needing smoke alarms.  Members of Madison Fire Fighters Local 311 are helping to install the alarms in residents’ homes.  Besides the alarms, residents will also receive fire safety information and materials.
To determine if you qualify, please contact the City of Madison Fire Department Community Education Unit at (608) 266-4709.