Smoke Detectors (Photoelectric)
What In The World Is A Photo Electric Smoke Detector…And Why Do I Need Them?
GCNKAA has been working very closely with Vice Mayor Qualls and Councilmember Sittenfeld on the issue of photo-electric smoke detectors being required in rental property. On January 1, 2013, in the Clifton area, two college students died of smoke inhalation due to a smoldering fire. While there are complicating factors to that situation, including deactivated ionization smoke detectors, the smoke-based fatality is a problem that could most likely be avoided with the use of a photo-electric type of smoke detector. These detectors, according to several university studies, are significantly more effective in picking up smoldering fires. With today’s pervasive use of fire retardant materials, most fires actually smolder for a significant amount of time before growing into a flaming-fire. The photo-electric smoke detectors are quicker activating with these smoldering fires and substantially the same in fast burning fires. By utilizing a single sensor photo-electric smoke detector residents may be notified between 2 and 40 minutes earlier, based on university studies.
Due to this technological advantage, members of the Legislative Committee met with, and decided to partner with, the City of Cincinnati Fire Department in an effort to help reduce smoke related fatalities in Cincinnati. Cincinnati City Council passed an ordinance on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 to require photo-electric smoke detectors in rental properties. Buildings with less than 12 units have 6 months to install one photo-electric smoke detector in a bedroom, or outside of a bedroom between contiguous bedrooms. Buildings with 13 or more units are to install the photo-electric smoke detectors at turn-over and have them all in place within 2 years. (Personally, I am also placing one at the top of stairwells.)
The City’s initial plan required all rental property to have photo-electric smoke detectors in place within 90 days. In discussing the logistics and financial impact, as well as the likelihood of incident, smaller buildings were asked to finish the process more quickly, as student and university related fatalities have been more significantly impacted. We are working with vendors and manufacturers alike in addressing the substantial need for the Cincinnati region. For perspective, the common ionization smoke detector costs approximately $4.95 (Home Depot) and the basic single sensor photo-electric smoke detector costs from $10.99 (Meijer in Oakley– prepay bulk orders) to $13.95 with most other suppliers. Home Depot and HD Supply (Association Members) are working on pricing in the $9.00 range. First Alert, BRK and Kidde are the main manufacturers. (Please keep in mind when purchasing that Kidde has lobbied against our industry several times.) As new pricing and bulk purchase options become available we will post them on the website and provide additional notification.
There will be an annual certification that the detectors are working. The process for this will most likely be the posting of a self-signed and dated certificate in an area by a fire extinguisher or boiler certificate at the property.
Ionization Detectors: typically these are disabled at least 20% of the time due to nuisance (false) alarms. While the City still encourages their use, ironically near the kitchen where they are most likely to inadvertently go off, you are not required to place or remove them. However, please consider that ALL smoke alarms expire after 10 years. If the smoke alarm does not have a date stamped on it, it most likely predates the 10 year expiration and will be considered “expired” by fire inspectors in any region. Ionization detectors will often have an atomic symbol on them for their (exceptionally small) radioactive ingredient, while photo-electrics will typically have “P” in a square stamped on the case. 90%+ of all detectors currently being used are ionization.
Lithium batteries: These long-life batteries can help minimize the maintenance required for battery change outs and reduce the time it takes to perform annual certification. Most lithium batteries currently last about 6 years. 9-volt Lithium batteries are less likely to be “removed” by tenants as there are fewer uses outside of smoke alarms for this style of battery. Longer lasting batteries are expected to enter the market later this year – updates will be announced as they become available. Many detectors have a pin near the battery case which can help deny or delay a tenant access to the battery.
Combo-Units: Please note the use of the term “single sensor” is not without purpose. There are combo-units that include both ionization and photo-electric sensors. However, these combo units consistently react slower than single sensor units in various tests, and are NOT recommended. To be brief, they are more costly and less effective.
2013 Cincinnati Photoelectric Smoke Alarm Law
Cincinnati Fire Safety Smoke Alarm Information
Cincinnati Fire Department’s Property Owner Photoelectric Smoke Alarm Inspection Form
Information on the Cincinnati Safe Student Housing Program
Tuesday morning, Jong Woong Kim, a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati, opened the door of his apartment on Vine Street to a group of firefighters, politicians, grieving parents, his property manager and a gaggle of media. They were there as part of a new effort by the city of Cincinnati to keep him safe from fire. His apartment was filled with thick books, healthy snacks and exercise equipment. In just about a minute, a firefighter checked Kim’s smoke detectors, windows and doors and told him everything looked fine.
The creation of a “Safe Student Housing List” is the work of Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan. She wanted to do something after a fire January 1 killed two UC students, Chad Kohls and Ellen Garner. Quinlivan said the deaths were preventable. She said the home they were in did not have a safe way out from the third floor.
Based on the number of occupants in the building, it should have. The window in Kohls’ room, she said, was blocked by an air conditioner. Quinlivan’s plan, completely voluntary, allows landlords to call the Cincinnati Fire Department for a free inspection. Once a home or apartment building passes, it will be placed on the safe list.
The list, which will be maintained by the city, will be available for anybody looking for an apartment.
Tuesday’s inspections were the first, so the list is not yet available. Quinlivan said she did not want to penalize landlords, but rather give them an incentive. She believes students and their parents will want to find homes that are certified safe. “The market has to drive it. People, landlords, have to want to get their property on the list,” Quinlivan said.
Cincinnati Fire Chief Richard A. Braun was there. “This is an opportunity to make our students and our citizens safer,” Braun said. “It’s near and dear to me because I have five grandchildren in college, three of whom are in off-campus housing.”
The management of Vine Street Flats said that having a building known as safe is the right decision ethically and financially.”As a business decision, it makes sense for us to put ourselves forward as a good, safe option,” said Johnna Mullikin, vice president of property management with Uptown Rental Properties. “It’s what people are looking for.”
Student Jaclyn Hyde agreed. She said the New Year’s Day fire that killed Kohls and Garner changed what students and their parents want in housing. Safety is now paramount. “After last semester’s tragedy, that’s what we are looking for now,” said Hyde, an incoming senior.
UC has at least 4,000 students living in off-campus housing, according to Debra Merchant, vice president for Student Affairs & Services. The school will provide a link to the city’s list, as well as creating its own student-generated database. Merchant says the school’s list will be a meeting place where students can describe their housing experiences.
When fire inspectors check a building, they will make sure it gets up to code, especially if it’s already occupied. When a building passes, and gets placed on the list, Braun will be required to provide tenants with a “TLC Addendum.”
The tenant-landlord contract is “an agreement by the landlord to provide specific fire safety measures.” The A-E-I-O-U list addresses alarms, exits, inspections, overcrowding and an understanding by tenants of their rights.
Ann Garner, the mother of Ellen Garner, said she never wanted her daughter’s legacy to be fire safety. “Here’s the reality: Ellen had a passion for fashion. That is where she wanted to make her mark,” she said. “Unfortunately this is where God chose for her to make her mark.”