Milwaukee Fire Chief Calls for Tamper-Proof Smoke Detectors


If Milwaukee Fire Chief William Wentlandt has his way, every smoke detector in every single-family home and duplex in the city will have a working temper-proof smoke detector installed in them.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel an ordinance that will require this very thing is due to take effect on Jan. 1, 2008. The new ordinance calls for the replacement of all existing smoke detectors with new models equipped with a 10-year lithium battery that cannot be removed.

According to Larry Sandler, staff writer for the Journal Sentinel, Wentlandt told the Common Council’s Finance & Personnel Committee that the ordinance is needed because too many people are dying in homes without working smoke detectors.

Statistical data for the city of Milwaukee bears Wentlandt’s claim. According to language set in the ordinance, out of 28 fire deaths in the community during the past two years, 12 of them died in homes without working smoke detectors. On a national basis, 70 percent of all fire deaths take place in homes without working smoke detectors.

During a subsequent meeting, aldermen and landlords expressed their concern as to whether homeowners would be over burdened with the purchase of tamper-proof smoke alarms.  Alderman Michael Murphy and others who attended asked about the possibility that responsible homeowners might also be inconvenienced by a measure intended to impact the more irresponsible members of the community.

Existing ordinances already require battery-type smoke alarms in homes built before the year 1983. Hard-wire smoke detectors are also required in homes built after that year. Not only that, but hush buttons are required on those smoke alarms positioned near kitchens.

According to Sandler, “After the committee meeting, landlords questioned the cost of compliance. Council staffers priced the units at $20 to $35, and landlord Jim Dropp said the Apartment Association of Southeastern Wisconsin estimated installation would kick that up to $40 for each unit, which could be $160 to $200 for a home with four or five smoke detectors. But Wentlandt displayed a smoke detector he bought for $14 that met the requirements.”

Milwaukee Mayor, Tom Barrett, is expected to support the smoke alarm measure but says that he wants more information about what it would cost city residents before he signs on. The measure was tabled for now until more information is forthcoming.

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