Council voting to tighten smoke detector rules, Mayor has concerns

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis City County Council is deciding Monday night if it wants to tighten smoke detector rules in Marion County.

All residences must already have smoke detectors installed near bedrooms. The proposed amendment would require batteries that last 10 years. It could go into effect July 1.

The goal is to make it harder for people to disable smoke alarms.

People might disable a smoke alarm on purpose because of the annoying low-battery chirp, or on accident by forgetting to change the batteries.

If approved, Mayor Greg Ballard has ten days to sign it or veto it after it arrives on his desk. The Mayor has concerns about what the new rules would cost residents and landlords. Ten-year batteries cost around $25. The Mayor has asked his staff to reach out to fire officials and council members for input.

“Unfortunately so many people neglect smoke detectors,” said Wayne Township Fire Department Captain Michael Pruitt. “When we talk about smoke detectors and putting them in our homes, it’s probably one of the best investments we can ever make.”

Last week, a man and a woman escaped a house fire on Norfolk Street. Capt. Pruitt says the smoke detectors were so old, they never went off.

Last month, a 57-year-old man was rescued from his home on Taft Avenue by firefighters, but he succumbed to his injuries three weeks later. Firefighters say there was not a working smoke detector in the house.

The proposal before the full council doesn’t require a specific type of smoke detector, but Capt. Pruitt reminds you not all smoke alarms are created equal.

There is the cheaper and more common ionization type, which is better at detecting a free burning fire. There is also a photoelectric alarm, which is better at detecting a smoldering fire. Capt. Pruitt recommends a dual-sensor alarm. They cost between $18-30.

“It’s a little more expensive, but well worth the investment,” said Capt. Pruitt.

But Capt. Pruitt says the suggestions, and even the possible new law, can only go so far.

“Whatever we do as a fire department or as a city council, it still comes down to the individual that lives in that home that’s maintaining the smoke detector,” said Capt. Pruitt.  “No matter what type of smoke detector, how powerful, whether it’s a 10-year battery or a single 9-volt battery, we’re still at the mercy of that person taking care of it.”