Carbon Monoxide Safety Guide
Why Do I Have To Do This?
Carbon monoxide (CO), known as the
Invisible Killer, is a colorless, odorless,
poisonous gas that results from incomplete
burning of fuels such as natural gas,
propane, oil, wood, coal, and gasoline. Each
year many people die from accidental CO
poisoning and thousands more are injured.
This law was passed to protect all of us from
the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
How Can I Tell if a CO Alarm Is Approved?
CO alarms are approved by an independent
testing company such as Underwriters’
Laboratories (UL), Underwriter’s Laboratory
of Canada (ULC), or International Approval
Service/Canadian Standards Association
(IAS/CSA). Be sure to look for the approval
label when buying CO alarms. Most
of the CO alarms currently sold in the
Commonwealth meet these standards but it
is a good idea to check and make sure they
meet the standard before you purchase the
How Do I Meet the Requirements of the Law?
If you install CO alarms on every habitable
level by March 31, 2006 and keep them in
good working order you don’t have to do
anything else to be in compliance with the
law. When you sell your home, you must
have an inspection and certificate from the
local fire department before the sale is final.
Contact your local fire department directly
– they will know what to do to assist you.
How Do I Know if I Have CO Poisoning?
The first symptoms of CO poisoning are
similar to the flu (but without the fever).
They include:
• Headache
• Fatigue
• Shortness of breath
• Nausea
• Dizziness
If you think you have symptoms of carbon
monoxide poisoning or your CO alarm is
sounding, contact your fire department and
leave the building immediately.
For more information about the
requirements of the law contact your
local fire department or visit the
Massachusetts Department of Fire
Services website at
Consumer’s Guide
to Massachusetts
Requirements for
Department of Fire Services
P.O. Box 1025, Stow, MA 01775
P.O. Box 389, Northampton, MA 01060
In November 2005, Governor Mitt Romney signed
“Nicole’s Law” which places certain requirements
on owners of all residential properties to install
and maintain carbon monoxide (CO) alarms.
The Board of Fire Prevention Regulations has
developed the regulations (527 CMR 31.00)
establishing the specific requirements of the law
including the type, location, maintenance and
inspection requirements for the alarms.
Who Is Impacted by this Law?
Generally speaking anyone who owns
residential property regardless of size
(i.e., 1- & 2-family homes, multi-family
buildings, apartments, condominiums
and townhouses, etc.) that contains fossil
burning fuel equipment (i.e., oil, gas,
wood, coal, etc.) OR contains enclosed
parking (i.e., attached or enclosed garage)
in Massachusetts, is required to install
CO alarms by March 31, 2006. In certain
limited instances (see below), the installation
requirements are deferred until January 1,
What Do I Have to Do?
Install CO alarms on every level of your
home except for basements and attics that do
not have habitable living spaces (i.e., family
rooms, dens, etc.) by March 31, 2006.
What Kinds of CO Alarms Are Allowed?
There are several types of alarms that are
allowed; they include:
• Battery powered with battery monitoring;
• Plug-in (AC powered) units
with battery backup;
• AC primary power (hard-wired
– usually involves hiring an
electrician) with battery backup;
• Low-voltage or wireless alarms; and
• Qualified combination smoke
detectors and CO alarms.
What Are Qualified Combination
Detectors and Alarms?
Acceptable combination smoke detectors
and carbon monoxide alarms must have
simulated voice and tone alarms that clearly
distinguish between the two types of
emergencies. If you have questions about
various types of smoke detectors, contact
your local fire department.
What Am I Required to Do if I’m a Landlord?
Landlords must install CO alarms in each
dwelling unit. Landlords also must inspect,
test and maintain the CO alarms at least
once a year or at the beginning of any rental
period (such as lease renewal). Batteries are
required to be replaced once a year. Tenants
should report any problems with alarms
to the landlord immediately and learn to
recognize the difference between the smoke
detector and the carbon monoxide alarm.
What Are Alternative Compliance Options?
The regulation allows for alternative
compliance options that may be more
practical for larger buildings with multiple
dwelling units that contain minimal or no
sources of CO inside the individual units.
The option allows owners to target the CO
alarm protection in only those areas
(i.e., rooms that contain boilers, hot water
heaters, central laundry areas and all adjacent
spaces, in addition to enclosed parking areas)
that could be potential sources of the CO.
This CO protection option requires hardwiring or low-voltage wiring, monitoring
(i.e., by an alarm company) and certain
signal transmission requirements.
What Are the Limited Instances Where I Don’t
Have to Install CO Alarms until January 1, 2007?
Owners of residential buildings that notify
the local fire department and choose
the alternative compliance option and
buildings owned by the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts (i.e., public housing units)
will not be required to install CO alarms until
January 1, 2007.
Where Do I Have To Put These CO Alarms?
In most residences, carbon monoxide alarms
are required to be located on every level of
a home or dwelling unit including habitable
portions of basements and attics. On levels
with sleeping areas the alarms must be placed
within ten feet of the bedroom doors.
CO alarms do not go inside garages, but in
the adjacent living areas.
When Do I Have to Install CO Alarms?
Most residences are required to install CO
alarms by March 31, 2006. After that date
anyone who sells their property will be
required to have an inspection by the fire
department prior to the sale or transfer of
their property.
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