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Smoke Alarm Information Center

Overview

The Oregon Office of State Fire Marshal (OSFM) provides information to citizens and agencies to increase the number of residences with working smoke alarms and provides guidance on Oregon smoke alarm laws.​
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Training for Realtors, Home Inspectors, and Property Management​

We encourage realtors, home inspectors, and property management companies to consider training for their personnel related to the requirements for smoke alarms when selling, inspecting, or renting one- and two-family or multifamily dwellings. For information regarding training, contact osfm.ce@state.or.us or 503-934-8228.
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​Smoke Alarm Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

An individual or entity should not rely on these FAQs to determine compliance with the statutes or rules. The questions and answers presented here do not constitute legal advice.

Gene​​ral Smoke Alarm Information​

Q. Why should my home have smoke alarms? 

A. You are four times more likely to survive a home fire if you have a working smoke alarm. During a fire, you may have less than three minutes to escape. Smoke spreads fast, and smoke alarms alert you to the danger and give you time to get out.


Q. What is the difference between a smoke alarm and a smoke detector? 

A. A smoke alarm is a self-contained, single or multiple-station smoke-sensing device. A smoke alarm detects and alarms. A smoke detector is a smoke-sensing device that is not self-contained and operates as part of a central control system. A smoke detector detects smoke and sends the information to an alarm panel. (ORS 479.250).

 

Q. What types of smoke alarms are available? 

A. Ionization, photoelectric, combination (ionization/photoelectric), and smoke (ionization or photoelectric)/carbon monoxide alarms. For more information on the types of alarms, their power source, and hush feature requirements see this chart.

A conventional audible smoke alarm does not fully address the needs of people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. For more information on smoke alarms for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please visit: Fire Safety for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing.


Q. What is the difference between ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms? 
A. Ionization smoke alarms are quicker at sensing flaming, fast moving fires. Photoelectric smoke alarms are quicker at sensing smoldering fires. Both types are recommended for protection from both types of fires.


​Q. Where do I install smoke alarms? 

A. Smoke alarms in dwelling units shall be installed in each sleeping room as per the applicable requirements of the State Building Code at the time of construction and in the corridor or area giving access to sleeping areas according to the manufacturer's instructions*.

Where sleeping areas are located on an upper level, the smoke alarm or smoke detector shall be installed in an accessible location as close as practical to the center of the ceiling directly over the stairway. Where sleeping areas are widely separated (i.e., on different levels or opposite ends of the dwelling unit) and/or where a single smoke alarm or smoke detector will not adequately service all sleeping areas, a smoke alarm or smoke detector shall be installed adjacent to each sleeping area. (OAR 837-045-0050)

  • Outside bedrooms within 21 feet of all bedroom doors. 
  • On each level of the home (including the basement). 
  • In bedrooms, if required by state building code at the time of construction. 
  • All smoke alarms are to be installed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

*Please note: required when selling or renting a home.


Q. Are smoke alarms required on every level? 

A. Yes. Smoke alarms are required on each level of the home (including the basement).


Q. Are smoke alarms required in all bedrooms? ** 

A. Smoke alarms in dwelling units shall be installed in each sleeping room as per the applicable requirements of the State Building Code at the time of construction.

The OSFM recommends adding smoke alarms to each bedroom or other areas used for sleeping to increase protection.

**Please note: Some local ordinances have additional requirements. Check with your local building department. See the Building Department Lookup tool in Resources on this page.


Q. Where should smoke alarms not be installed? 

A. Kitchens, bathrooms, garages, and unheated areas where moisture, steam, frost, cooking vapors, and exhaust fumes could cause a nuisance alarm.


Q. Should a smoke alarm be installed in the kitchen? 

A. No. If you install smoke alarms in the kitchen, install them at least 10 feet away from cooking appliances. They should be equipped with a hush feature or be photoelectric smoke alarms. (NFPA 72)

 

Q. How often do I replace my smoke alarm? 
A. Smoke alarms should be replaced according to the National Fire Protection Association, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code (72-14.4.7) Replacement of Smoke Alarms in One and Two-Family Dwellings: “Unless otherwise recommended by the manufacturer’s published instructions, single and multiple station smoke alarms installed in one- and two-family dwellings shall be replaced when they fail to respond to operability test, but shall not remain in service longer than 10 years from the date of manufacture.” (NFPA 72)

 

Q. Can I replace a hard-wired smoke alarm with a smoke/carbon monoxide (CO) alarm? 
A. Yes. You may replace a hardwired smoke alarm with a hardwired with battery back-up smoke/CO alarm.

  • Switching from one manufacturer’s unit to another may require a power adapter plug. 
  • Manufacturers advise adapter plugs may be changed using wire nuts and may require a licensed electrician.

Q. Are 10-year batteries and a hush feature required in smoke alarms in Oregon? 

A. All ionization smoke alarms sold in this state that are solely battery-operated shall be packaged with a 10-year battery. All ionization smoke alarms sold in this state shall include a hush mechanism that allows a person to temporarily disengage the alarm for a period of not more than 15 minutes. (ORS 479.297)

"Ten-year smoke alarm battery" means a battery power source that is warranted by the battery manufacturer to be free from defects in materials and workmanship for a period of at least ten (10) years when used in an ionization smoke alarm that: Is listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory; and has been approved by the nationally recognized testing laboratory for use with a ten-year battery. (OAR 837-045-0040)

Photoelectric, combination (ionization/photoelectric), and smoke/carbon monoxide alarms do not require a 10-year (long life) battery or a hush feature, but are available for sale in Oregon.


Q. How do I keep my smoke alarm working? 

A. Smoke alarms must be maintained, tested, and batteries replaced according to the manufacturer’s recommended instructions. (OAR 837-047-0150)

Follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for the type of battery to use in your smoke alarm. Never disconnect or remove smoke alarm batteries for other uses.

Smoke alarms with a non-replaceable (long-life) battery are designed to be effective for up to 10 years. If the alarm chirps, immediately replace the entire smoke alarm.

For smoke alarms with any other type of battery, replace the battery at least once a year. If the alarm chirps, replace only the battery.


Q. How and when do I test my smoke alarm? 

A. Test smoke alarms once a month by pushing the test button.


Q. What should I do when the smoke alarm sounds? 

A. Get outside and stay outside. Get low and crawl low under the smoke to your way out. Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number for help. Never go back inside for people, pets, or belongings.


Q. What do I do if my smoke alarm sounds and it is a nuisance alarm? 

A. Many smoke alarms come with a hush feature, a button on the alarm that you push to silence nuisance alarms for up to 15 minutes.​​


Please note: Nuisance alarms can be caused by steam from showers or smoke from cooking.​​


Smoke Alarm Information for​ Realtors, Home Sellers, and Home Buyers

Q. Are smoke alarms required and where should they be installed when selling a home?

A. Yes. A person may not convey fee title to any real property that includes a dwelling unit or lodging house, or transfer possession of any dwelling unit or lodging house pursuant to a land sale contract, unless there is installed in the dwelling unit or lodging house a smoke detector or the required number of approved smoke alarms, installed in accordance with the state building code and rules of the State Fire Marshal. (ORS 479.260) 

Smoke alarms and smoke detectors in dwelling units shall be installed in each sleeping room as per the applicable requirements of the State Building Code at the time of construction and in the corridor or area giving access to sleeping areas according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Where sleeping areas are located on an upper level, the smoke alarm or smoke detector shall be installed in an accessible location as close as practical to the center of the ceiling directly over the stairway. Where sleeping areas are widely separated (i.e., on different levels or opposite ends of the dwelling unit) and/or where a single smoke alarm or smoke detector will not adequately service all sleeping areas, a smoke alarm or smoke detector shall be installed adjacent to each sleeping area. (ORS 837-045-0050)

  • ​​Outside bedrooms within 21 feet of all bedroom doors. 
  • On each level of the home (including the basement).
  • In bedrooms, if required by state building code at the time of construction. 
  • All smoke alarms are to be installed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

 

​Smoke Alarm Information for Property Management, Landlords, and Tenants

Q. Are smoke alarms required in rental dwelling units?

A. Yes. The owner of any rental dwelling unit or the owners authorized agent shall be responsible for supplying, installing, and maintaining the required smoke alarms or smoke detectors and shall provide a written notice containing instructions for testing of the devices. The notice shall be given to the tenant at the time the tenant first takes possession of the premises. (ORS 479.270)

If a smoke alarm is battery-operated or has a battery-operated backup system, the landlord shall supply working batteries for the alarm at the beginning of a new tenancy.


Q. What are my obligations as a tenant?

A. It shall be the responsibility of the tenant of any rental dwelling unit to perform such tests on the smoke alarms or smoke detectors located in a part of the dwelling unit that the tenant is entitled to occupy to the exclusion of others as are recommended by the manufacturer’s instructions and immediately notify, in writing, the owner or authorized agent of any deficiencies. Testing intervals shall not exceed six months. It shall also be the responsibility of the tenant during the tenancy to replace any dead batteries, as needed.

A tenant must test, at least once every six months, and replace batteries as needed in any smoke alarm provided by the landlord and notify the landlord in writing of any operating deficiencies. (ORS 479.275)

A tenant may not remove or tamper with a smoke alarm. Tampering includes removal of working batteries. (ORS 479.300) 

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Resources

Building Department Lookup
Use the building department lookup to locate your local building department. They can help verify what smoke alarms were required at the time of construction. 
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