I'm pretty sure that people legally need to have fire alarms in every building. But what about Amish? Are they exempt from that law or do they follow it?
Do Amish have fire alarms?
Some Mennonites and Amish, I am sure have fire alarms in their homes. They are not so much anti-technology as so much to desire to live a much simpler life style than most other Christians. This can cause them to be greatly misunderstood.
The short answer is maybe, but no may be closer to the truth.
The Amish may be forced to install a fire detector by law and enforcement of the law, but whether the fire detector remains in place is not known. Installation of such devices goes against their religious convictions.
News came earlier this week that the long-running dispute between Amish and authorities in Morristown, New York, has come to an end. You might remember a post last spring on the Amish smoke alarm issue; if you viewed the PBS documentary The Amish you would have seen this case discussed.
To review, Amish had refused to follow local building codes (updated by the town in 2006), arguing that they conflicted with their religious beliefs. Most memorably, the Amish balked at the installation of household smoke detectors. But they also found other regulations problematic, covering everything from the foundation to the roof. Here’s Karen Johnson-Weiner explaining the smoke alarm issue (taken from the transcript of The Amish film):
Karen M. Johnson-Weiner, Anthropologist: There are a number of aspects of the building code that are problematic. The need for smoke detectors and now carbon monoxide detectors. That’s putting your faith in a manmade device instead of God. What God wants to happen will happen. The Amish are building their homes according to way their Ordnung says they have to build. If, heaven forbid, a fire comes, sweeps through the house and something terrible happens, the child will be in a better place, the people will be in a better place, they’ll be with God. Theirs is not an intellectual faith; it’s a lived faith. In a very real way because everything they do is guided by their Ordnung, by their beliefs. In a way they’re always in church.
Both sides have conceded points in the dispute. Though not on every issue. I found the following bit amusing:
On the thorniest issue — smoke detectors — neither side caved. The town’s code inspector will install detectors before giving homes a final approval, but whether they remain is up to the homeowners, as it is in any home.
Any Morristownians in the market for a smoke detector, barely used? I have a hunch there will be a few soon available (if they don’t land in the junk pile behind the barn first).
As one of the principals in the case pointed out, this resolution means both parties leave satisfied, with no one having to go to jail. That of course is in contrast to what went on in Kentucky in 2011-2012, when numerous Swartzentruber Amish ended up in prison in the dispute over the SMV triangle. - Amish smoke detector dispute resolved
Mennonites and Amish are not, in general against technology. They are against specific items of technology, mostly for its affect on community. They are in general also very law abiding.
Mennonites dairy farmers will often have electricity in ther barns because it is legally necessary to keep their milk cold and enable it to be sold. Those same farmers would never dream of having electricity in the house, where it is not legally required. It's viewed as a necessity and therefore not a problem. Certain branches will allow cellphones and computers where necessary for a business, but refrain from using them for recreation. Even the strictest Mennonites carry electric powered lights on their horse buggies when driving at night.
If fire alarms are legally necessary, most Old Order Mennonites will probably have fire alarms. However Mennonites will also negotiate exemptions for themselves where they can - Ontario Mennonite farmers have negotiated exemptions for health and other insurances, on the grounds that the community covers the losses and liabilities of any farmer unfortunate to suffer loss or illness. I would be surprisaed if some at least have not negotiated exemptions to building codes.