A new law in Maryland aims to increase the likelihood that people's lives will be saved by smoke alarms during a fire, officials said.
Legislation approved by Gov. Martin O'Malley on Thursday requires that battery-operated smoke alarms in homes have sealed-in batteries designed to last 10 years. The alarms also need to have a "hush" button that allows people to silence the alarms without removing the batteries.
The law goes into effect July 1. Homes must have the alarms with long-life batteries by Jan. 1, 2018.
Prince George's County Fire/EMS spokesman Mark Brady called the alarms with long-lasting batteries "the greatest advancement since the invention of smoke alarms themselves."
Deputy State Fire Marshal Bruce Bouch said that working alarms are important because they give people more time to escape from burning homes and avoid the effects of fire, such as smoke inhalation.
"The whole idea is to avoid injury entirely," he said.
As of May 8, 32 people had died in Maryland from fires in apartments and one- and two-family homes. Three of those deaths are known to have occurred in homes where alarms were present but not working, Bouch said.
The Capitol Heights Volunteer Fire Department has received a federal fire prevention and safety grant to buy smoke alarms with 10-year batteries and the hush feature, Brady said. The fire department plans to install alarms with long-lasting batteries in every home in its primary response area, and will kick off the effort at a press conference on Monday.
One of the country's largest manufacturers of smoke alarms with long-lasting batteries will attend Monday's event to explain the new technology. The manufacturer is going to give the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department a "significant" number of alarms, Brady said.