By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia City Council today took a step toward requiring that older homes which still have battery-operated smoke alarms must use newer models with batteries that last 10 years.

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Any residence built in Philadelphia after 1988 must have hard-wired smoke detectors.  But older homes can still use battery-operated detectors, and officials say the inadequacy of those regular batteries leads to tragedy.

Deputy fire chief Richard Bailey told Council members that one out of five dwelling fires involves a home in which the batteries were dead.   He said newer detectors with sealed, 10-year batteries are superior.

“Once installed, no battery replacement is necessary for the life of the smoke alarm, and the batteries cannot be removed,” he explained.

Bailey said, in fact, that the Philadelphia Fire Department has been installing smoke alarms with 10-year batteries for more than two years, using grant money, in homes that have no detectors.

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An official with the detector manufacturer Kidde told Council the 10-year detectors initially cost about $5 more, but actually save money since the batteries don’t need to be replaced.

Victor Pinkney, president of the landlord association Hapco, called the measure “a no-brainer.”

“Passage of this bill will double the cost of smoke detectors in a single-family dwelling, (but) this is a cost most rental property owners will bear happily to ensure the safety of their tenants,” he said.

So, Council’s Licenses and Inspections committee unanimously approved the measure, and a final vote by the full Council will come later this month.

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