To:Head of Fire Departments
From:Stephen D. Coan, State Fire Marshal
Date:September 1, 2004
Re:Smoke and Heat Detector Requirements for One and Two Family Homes

The installation of fire detection systems in new one and two family homes is controlled by the State Building Code, 780 CMR 3603.16, which specifies where and when detection is required in new one and two family homes. The reference standard, NFPA 72 - 2002 edition, specifies the manner in which the prescribed detection is to be installed.
The State Building Code does not require the installation of heat detectors anywhere within a one or two family home or garage. The fire official is requested to sign off on certificates of occupancy for one and two family homes based upon the detection requirements outlined in the State Building Code.

The OSFM constantly receives calls regarding these requirements for the new construction of one and two family homes. It is our opinion that a certificate of occupancy cannot be held up by the fire official for the lack of installation on non required detectors. If the appropriate system has been installed in accordance with the state building code there is no legal reason the local fire department has to hold up or stop the certificate of occupancy from being issued. The use of additional detectors is up to the property owner, who may choose to install and utilize heat detectors or other detectors in accordance with their listings. The refusal to sign off on detection requirements for one and two family homes can be appealed to the State Building Code Appeals Board in accordance with MGL c. 148, §26B

Requirements under MGL c. 148, §26F

We often receive requests for clarification under MGL c. 148, §26F as to what existing one or two family homes need to comply with in order for this certificate to be legally issued.

The OSFM has taken the following position:

  1. homes built prior to 1975 are required upon sale or transfer to comply with the requirements of MGL c. 148, §26E(A); and
  2. homes built after 1975 are required upon sale or transfer to comply with the State Building Code in effect at the time of construction.

In order to provide further clarification, homes built between 1975 and 1998 are required to have hard wired interconnected smoke detectors outside the bedrooms and one detector on each floor at the top of the stairs (the detector at the top of the stairs can be the same detector required outside the bedroom).

For homes built after 1998, smoke detectors are required to be interconnected and have a battery backup. Smoke detectors are required in each bedroom, outside the bedroom and at the top of each flight of stairs. A single detector can satisfy multiple location requirements, if sited properly. There must also be one smoke detector on each level and one smoke detector for each 1,200 square feet of living space.

If you have any questions contact our Technical Services Unit at 978-567-3375 or in Western MA at 413-587-3181. Our web site is