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Illinois law requires sealed battery smoke alarms starting in 2023

Washington Fire Department Smoke Alarm.jpg
Collin Schopp
Illinois Fire Safety Alliance's Margaret Vaughn, middle, Washington Firefighters and other state and regional fire officials display sealed 10-year battery model smoke detectors.

A new law in effect on Jan. 1 means you might need to update your home smoke alarms.

Public Act 100-0200, passed in 2017, requires all Illinois homes to have a smoke alarm with a sealed 10-year battery by Jan. 1, 2023. According to the bill, homeowners without an updated alarm will get a 90-day notice to get a sealed battery model; after those 90 days they can be fined up to $100.

Margaret Vaughn, government affairs director for the Illinois Firefighters’ Association and the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance, said there were 97 house fire deaths in Illinois in 2021 — and that nearly 70% of those deaths were in homes without working smoke alarms.

“If they're not working, they’re not doing any good,” said Vaughn. “And it's really not so much the burns that are killing people. It's smoke inhalation and the content of the modern homes is all synthetic materials, a lot of plastics.”

Decades ago it could take 30 minutes for smoke to become dangerous, but with petroleum and plastics burning, it can take only minutes and just a few deep breaths for inhalation to be fatal, she said.

Smoke Alarm Photo.jpg
Collin Schopp
The 10 year sealed battery smoke alarms eliminate the possibility of removing a battery and forgetting to put it back.

“Thirty, 40 years ago, the fire department at least had time to get there,” she said. “Now, you need to get out of the house as quickly as possible.”

Sealed batteries mean that mistakes like removing the battery while cooking and forgetting aren’t threats to the fire alarm working properly.

Fire alarms with sealed batteries cost about $5 to $10 more on average than the old removable battery alarms. Vaughn said that if your home was built after 1988, pre-existing legal requirements mean you probably already have the right kind of smoke alarm.

However, if you’re in an older home and need the new units, there are some programs that can help with the cost. The Washington Fire Department’s “Be Alarmed!” program is one of these services.

“We come out and gather some data from the home, like how many smoke detectors are working, whether the batteries are expired, whether detectors are expired, how many people live in the residence,” said Washington firefighter Brian Barron. “And then we go around, and we're putting a smoke detector outside of every bedroom and inside of every bedroom on every floor.”

The program is also free. Barron said the department already has installed more than 1,000 new alarms through “Be Alarmed!” If you’re interested in the program, you can contact the Washington Fire Department through their Facebook page here or their website here.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.
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