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UPDATE: New Fire Ordinance In Madison

UPDATED by Chris Papst: Friday, August 14 at 3:30 p.m.

Starting Saturday new ordinances take effect in Madison concerning smoke alarms.

"Beep. Beep. There's one." said Hill Electric's Butch Pullara as he tested the first smoke alarm he installed on Friday.

And now just five more to go.

Megan is getting new smoke alarms. But not because she wants to. She's getting them because she has to.

Added Pullara, "We are installing new smoke detectors to bring it to the new Madison code."

Starting August 15th, Madison's new smoke alarm code takes effect. The ordinance states that all rental properties have a smoke alarm in every bedroom and in the hallway at least six feet away from the bedroom door. One must also be on every floor. Also, battery powered smoke alarms must now contain a 10-year lithium battery and be tamper resistant.

"The long life 10-year battery will keep that alarm going for the life of the alarm and the tamper resistant features will prevent people from taking them down," stated Eric Dahl with the Madison Fire Department. "Which is typically a problem in rental properties."

But this is just half of the ordinance. Part two, which takes affect on August 15, 2010, required these same measures, but for single family residential homes.

Back to Megan, even though she doesn't think much about fire safety. It's comforting to know that someone is.

"It is nice to know that if he (9-year-old son) is upstairs sleeping and I'm downstairs," she said, "that if something were to happen I would know right away. I would have time to go get him rather than having this huge separation between us."

The Madison Fire Department has more information about this ordinance and any questions you may have about fire safety on their website, which we have linked to this webchannel under newslinks.

Fines for violating this ordiance are $172 on the first offense.

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UPDATED Thursday, August 13, 2009 --- 10:45 a.m.

Press release from Madison Fire Department:

As leases turn over this weekend, renters will find more information about fire safety as part of the move-in process. The first half of the City of Madison’s new smoke alarm will take effect Saturday, August 15.

The new ordinance passed by the City Council in March requires smoke alarms with 10-year lithium batteries designed to last the life of the smoke alarm.

Under the newly adopted ordinance, all smoke alarms must have a 10-year battery in a tamper-resistant alarm unit. 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

But the ordinance also includes targeted educational efforts and spells out the responsibilities for tenants and landlords, including maintenance of the alarms, fire safety information, and fines for tenants if alarms show signs of tampering. Fines of $172 may be assessed for a first offense.

1) The owner of any residential building shall:
a) Replace the battery for a secondary power supply in all smoke alarms each time the lease is renewed or once each year, whichever time period is shorter, or as recommended by the manufacturer.
b) Replace the batteries in any smoke alarm whenever the battery is insufficient or unable to power the smoke alarm.
c) Replace non-operational, damaged, or missing smoke alarms with smoke alarms meeting the requirements of MGO 34.42 (2)(a).
d) Provide all tenants with the manufacturer’s maintenance and testing instructions.
e) Upon each new lease and at least once every 12 months for every continuing tenant, provide tenants with fire safety educational materials as prescribed by the Fire Chief. Materials are available at www.madisonfire.org.
f) Upon each new lease and once every 12 months for every continuing tenant, complete and sign this document as prescribed in MGO 32.06(4).

2) The tenant shall be responsible for:
a) Maintaining and testing, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, smoke alarms that are within the dwelling unit during the term of the tenancy.
b) Notifying the owner in writing if a smoke alarm becomes inoperable. The owner shall have five days from receipt of such written notice to repair and replace the inoperable alarm(s). Any smoke alarms which are powered with standard batteries which are found to be inoperable shall be replaced by the owner with smoke alarms meeting the requirements of MGO 34.42 (2)(a).
c) Completing and signing this document as prescribed in MGO 32.06(4).

3) No person, including tenants or occupants, shall tamper with, remove, alter, damage or otherwise render any smoke alarm inoperable (MGO 34.26).

4) Where smoke alarms powered solely by commercial light and power have been installed and maintained in accordance with this chapter, such smoke alarms shall continue to be used and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

5) No smoke alarm may remain in service for more than ten years unless the manufacturer specifies a different service life.

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UPDATED Friday, March 6, 2009 --- 9:15 a.m.

From the City of Madison Fire Department:

After years of using the switch to Daylight Savings Time as a reminder to change smoke alarm batteries, the City of Madison Fire Department this year is encouraging residents to change their smoke alarms.

The difference is the smoke alarm ordinance passed by the Common Council earlier this week that will require smoke alarms with 10-year lithium batteries designed to last the life of the smoke alarm.

Under the newly adopted ordinance, all smoke alarms must have a 10-year battery in a tamper-resistant alarm unit. 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:

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

The ordinance goes into effect on August 15 of this year for all residential buildings in the City of Madison, except for owner-occupied, single-family homes; on August 15, 2010 it goes into effect for all residential structures, including owner-occupied, single-family housing.

Information on the ordinance, placement of the alarms, and safety education materials is being made available on the Department’s website at www.madisonfire.org .

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Posted Tuesday March 3, 2009 -- 10:10 p.m.

Tragedy brings change to Madison. The city council has approved changes to the city's fire code, almost a year-and-a-half after a college student lost his life in a fire downtown.

Tim and Patty Talen described Tuesday as being "bitter sweet."

They lost their son in a blaze in November of 2007.

But, they hope a new ordinance that bears their sons name will keep others in the city safe.

"If Peter were here...believe it or not he was such a charismatic guy. He would think this is the greatest."

But Tim and Patty Talen's son Peter isn't here.

In November of 2007 Peter was killed in a fire while in Madison visiting his brother.

"There isn't a day that goes by that we don't think about Peter."

Following the fire, investigators found smoke detectors in the home where Peter was killed that didn't work and in some cases weren't even mounted.

Those findings helped spur what some are calling Peter's Ordinance.

"Basically it prohibits the use of nine volt powered smoke alarms."

The city's Fire Marshall, Ed Ruckriegel, says the problem with the old nine volt powered smoke detectors is they are easy to disconnect which can lead to problems.

The new smoke detectors required under Peter's Ordinance have 10-year lithium batteries and are tamper resistant.

"If there is any good that can come out of this and if some family doesn't have to go through what we went through then it is a good thing, " says Tim Talen

A good thing indeed. That's according to Nancy Jensen and the Apartment Association of South Central Wisconsin.

Her group represents about a thousand rental property owners and tenants in the area.

Jensen says, "I think I'll call it a win win for everybody."

The Talens say the healing process is nowhere near complete and may never be.

But having this ordinance helps.

The ordinance holds tenants responsible for the smoke alarm once it is installed.

Landlords will also be required to review fire safety with their tenants when the lease is signed.

The new ordinance should go into effect in August.


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