A new smoke alarm requirement has just taken effect for New Jerseyans living in older homes.

Ten-year sealed battery smoke alarms should now be installed in homes built before 1977.

“They are required in one- and two-family dwellings any time there is a change in occupancy," Lou Kilmer, chief of the bureau of fire code enforcement for the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety, said. "That could be either if the property is sold or if the property is rented and there is a change of occupant.”

Also affected are motel rooms, and rooming unit rooms in rooming houses.

The uniform construction code required all homes built after 1977 to have hardwired alarms installed inside the dwellings, and those homes are not affected by the change.

"We in the fire service have found over the years that smoke alarms tend to be tampered with, that people remove the batteries for a number of reasons," Kilmer said. "They need a 9-volt battery for their radio (or) the toys.”

Or a unit may start to chirp, and the battery is removed because the sound is annoying.

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Kilmer said time and time again firefighters responding to a fire will find “while there was a smoke alarm in the house it did not operate because there was no power source, no battery in there.”

Kilmer noted smoke alarms can make the difference between life and death.

He said last year 62 New Jerseyans perished in fires, and in 2017 51 people died.

He added all Garden State residents should have smoke alarms in their homes and “test them regularly, make sure they’re operational, and make sure you have a plan with your family, what to do in the event of emergency.”

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You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com