Why are smoke alarms required?

Fire deaths occur in residential buildings more than in any other building type. More than half of all fire deaths in residential buildings occur while the occupants are asleep and are unaware. Death usually results from asphyxiation, long before the fire reaches the occupants. Smoke alarms installed in a home give an early warning of smoke and give the occupants the critical few moments needed to escape.

To address the loss of life in residential buildings, the Minnesota State Building Code (MSBC) has requirements for the installation of smoke alarms in a home. The 2007 MSBC adopts the 2006 International Residential Code (2006 IRC). All “R” code references provided in this brochure pertain to the 2006 IRC.

In general, the code requires that smoke alarms be provided on each floor of a dwelling and in the corridor giving access to bedrooms and in bedrooms. Alarms in new construction must receive their power from the building wiring and have a battery backup in the event of electrical power loss. During remodeling, where connection to the building wiring is difficult to achieve, battery- operated alarms may be used (R313.1.1).

An important feature of the requirement for alarms being connected into the building’s electrical wiring is there must be no disconnecting means other than the primary over current protection (fuse or circuit breaker). Alarms must be wired directly into the building’s wiring system and no switches, plugs or mechanical disconnects are permitted between the electric service panel and the alarm.

 

Specific code requirements

Smoke alarms shall be installed in the following locations:

1.  In each sleeping room.
2.  Outside each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms.
3.  On each additional story of the dwelling, including basements but not including crawl spaces and uninhabitable attics.

In dwellings or dwelling units with split levels, a smoke alarm installed on the upper level shall suffice for the adjacent lower level provided that the lower level is less than one full story below the upper level.

When more than one smoke alarm is required to be installed within an individual dwelling unit, the alarm devices shall be interconnected in such a manner that the actuation of one alarm will activate all of the alarms in the individual unit.
All smoke alarms shall be listed and installed in accordance with the provisions of this code and the household fire warning equipment provisions of NFPA 72 (R313.2).

Alterations, repairs and additions:

When alterations, repairs or additions requiring a permit occur, or when one or more sleeping rooms are added or created in existing dwellings, the individual dwelling unit shall be equipped with smoke alarms located as required for new dwellings, the smoke alarms shall be interconnected and hard wired.

Exceptions:

1. Interconnection and hardwiring of smoke alarms in existing areas shall not be required to be hardwired where the alterations or repairs do not result in the removal of interior wall or ceiling finishes exposing the structure.
2. Work on the exterior surfaces of dwellings, such as the replacement of roofing or siding are exempt from the requirements of this section.
3. Permits involving alterations or repairs to plumbing, electrical and mechanical are exempt from the requirements of this section (R313.2.1).

 

Additional Smoke Alarm Resources:

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http://www.fire.state.mn.us/PublicEducation/SmokeAlarmRequirements.pdf

http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/inspections/docs/smokedetect.pdf – (Minneapolis Housing Inspection Services)

 

Carbon monoxide alarms alert residents of a toxic, odorless gas

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a toxic, colorless, odorless gas that is formed as a product of the incomplete combustion of carbon or a carbon compound. Poisoning is caused by inhalation of CO. There are many symptoms for CO poisoning including headache, nausea, confusion and shortness of breath. These can lead to convulsion, unconsciousness, coma and death.

CO is produced by combustion engine exhaust, portable propane heaters, barbecues burning charcoal and portable or non-vented natural gas appliances.
State law requires CO detectors be placed in new and existing residential structures in Minnesota where building permits are obtained. The
requirement is found at Minnesota Statutes, § 299F.50.

The CO detector effective dates are:

• Jan. 1, 2007: All new residential buildings • Aug. 1, 2008: Existing single-family homes
• Aug. 1, 2009: Multi-family dwellings
The Department of Public Safety, State Fire Marshal Division lists the code requirements online at www.fire.state.mn.us or call (651) 201-7200 for more information.