Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Proposed legislation would require photoelectric smoke detectors in rental properties

Photoelectric smoke detectors sense smoke from smoldering fires much better than standard ionization smoke detectors and should be required in all Cincinnati rental properties, according to legislation presented at a press conference this morning.

Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld introduced the legislation as a result of a deadly New Year's Day fire at a rental property on Digby Avenue that claimed the lives of University of Cincinnati students Chad Kohls, 21, and Ellen Garner, 20. Both died of injuries sustained from excessive smoke inhalation.

Following the fire, Qualls and Sittenfeld met with Dean Dennis and Doug Turnbull of Fathers for Fire Safety. Both men lost children in house fires and began a movement to raise awareness of the benefits of photoelectric alarms, which detect smoke through the use of light beams rather than electrically charged particles.

"After meeting with Dean and Doug, hearing their story and learning more about photoelectric alarms we knew we had to do something locally to better protect citizens," Qualls and Sittenfeld said in a joint statement.

An estimated 90 percent of households are equipped only with ionization smoke detectors, which are best at detecting fast-moving, flaming fires. But most fatal house fires begin with a smolder.

And the majority of fire deaths – an estimated 50 to 80 percent – are caused by smoke inhalation.

"In the case of a smoldering fire, the probability of failure for an ionization detector is an alarming 55.8 percent," Sittenfeld said. "That means deadly smoke could be filling your bedroom, and in more than half of all instances, the smoke would go undetected by the ionization alarm."

Cincinnati Fire Chief Richard Braun endorses the new requirement, and said that rental properties should be equipped with both types of detectors.

"The Cincinnati Fire Department (CFD) supports Vice Mayor Qualls and Councilman Sittenfeld in the new requirement for landlords to equip their properties with a photoelectric smoke alarm" Braun said. "CFD recommends having photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms in the home for the most protection against fire."

Representatives of the Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Apartment Association and the Real Estate Investors Association of Greater Cincinnati also spoke in support of the legislation today.

Under the legislation, photoelectric detectors would be required to be installed outside of bedrooms and in common areas. Landlords of buildings with 12 or fewer units would be required to comply with the law within six months of its adoption or whenever a new tenant moves into the apartment; landlords of buildings with 13 or more units would be required to comply within two years or whenever a new tenant moves in.

Detectors would have to be tested when executing or renewing a lease – at least once a year at minimum – and landlords would be required to replace them every 10 years. Testing and replacement would be documented through a form made available on the CFD website.

"This is a simple but important change that should vastly improve fire safety for renters across the city," Qualls said.

Previous reading on BC:
Comprehensive training for landlords is Friday (10/16/12)
Landlord training this Friday (5/16/12)
Chronic nuisance ordinance to be reviewed...again (4/13/10)
DCD will not increase number of properties eligible for rental rehab program (8/4/09)
4373 W Eighth Street: A nuisance? (1/13/09)