Officials sport the longer-lasting smoke detectors in a press conference at Evanston Fire Station No. 1, 1332 Emerson St., on Nov. 6.                             RoundTable photo

Evanston Fire Department officials have used the close of Daylight Saving Time in the past as a reminder for residents to also change the batteries in their smoke detectors along with changing their clocks.

But officials gathering a press conference at Fire Station No. 1 at 1332 Emerson St., on Nov. 6 said they are excited about new technology that will require Illinois residents to replace those batteries with a longer-lasting battery by the end of 2022.

The new law, PA 100-0200, will require smoke detectors with a 10-year sealed battery to be installed in all dwellings either built before 1988 or that do not already have hardwired smoke detectors.

Officials report there were more than 100 residential fire deaths in Illinois in 2018, “and sadly, nearly 70% of these deaths are occurring in homes without working smoke detectors,” said Margaret Vaughn, Government Affairs Director for the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance (IFSA), speaking at the press conference.

“We worked with the General Assembly to pass a law to address this horrific problem by requiring Illinois residents to replace their old smoke detectors with the type that has a long-term 10-year sealed battery by the end of 2022. This would apply to residents that are still using alarms with removable batteries or alarms that are not hard wired.”

The new sealed package is a distinct plus too, she said. The current smoke detectors, because they are not sealed, can collect dust, which can make them inoperable – whether homeowners are changing them or not.

“People often have a false sense of security when it comes to fire safety,” said State Representative Robyn Gabel (D-18th), another speaker. “Since 1988, the Illinois Smoke Detector Act has required all dwellings to have smoke detectors. The new requirement just updates that law to reflect the changes in new technology, aimed at saving lives, while making it easier and more cost effective for Illinois residents to comply.”

Evanston Fire Chief Brian Scott noted that, “while the number of fire deaths may have decreased in the past few decades, you are more likely to die in a residential fire than you were years ago. 

This is because the majority of these deaths are caused by smoke inhalation and not burns, which is why escape time is so critical.”

He added, “The toxic gases that are emitted from the synthetic material in modern homes also contribute to this problem and flash-over is occurring in as little as three minutes as opposed to almost 30 minutes a generation ago.”

“With a long-term 10-year battery alarm,” pointed out IFSA Executive Director Phil Zaleski, “there is no need for battery replacement, which saves the average homeowner between $40 and $60 in battery costs over the life of each alarm. At the end of the 10-year life cycle, the smoke alarm will automatically alert the homeowner to replace the alarm,” he said.

Further, he said, “while many people deactivate their older model smoke alarms or remove the batteries while cooking, the 10-year model is not a cooking nuisance and has a 15-minute silencer button. They are also very affordable, with the current retail price being about $20.

“As far as the functionality goes, where we see a lot of the older models with disconnected batteries is near the kitchen area,” he said at the press conference.

“You have a lot of nuisance alarms going off, due to cooking either on the stove in the oven. And with the new smoke alarm – they have a push-button function, which you simply push the button. It will deactivate the device for 15 minutes and then it will reactivate itself after that – giving the homeowner really no need to remove a battery, no need to remove the device from the wall or ceiling anymore. And that’s going to protect them, because they’re not going to have to try to remember to put that device back on the wall or ceiling. So it’s really working to solve a lot of the issues that the Fire Service is seeing with the older smoke alarms and it’s going to go a long way.”

“People don’t realize how quickly a fire can turn deadly and how important escape time is,” added Greg Olsen, the City of Evanston’s Public Health Manager. “Installing new 10-year sealed battery smoke alarms helps families stay protected, with the most advanced sensing technologies and safety features available.

“We all have things that we worry about, but this new law helps take away the worry of whether or not our smoke detector will work when we need it to.”

Evanston residents who need assistance with installations of a 10-year smoke alarm may contact the Evanston Fire Department through the City of Evanston 311 system, or if using a cell phone, text 847-448-4311, officials said at the conference and in a follow-up press release.

In addition, Illinois-based First Alert is donating smoke alarms and the tools and equipment to install the alarms to the Evanston Fire Department to help reduce the number of fire-related injuries to those in the community, they said.

Residents can also learn more about protecting their families from smoke, fire and carbon monoxide, by visiting the IFSA website at or the First Alert website. 

Bob Seidenberg

Bob Seidenberg is an award-winning reporter covering issues in Evanston for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism.