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Photoelectric vs. Ionization Smoke Alarms

Silent Alarms - Canadian TV 5  Documents the Poor Performance of Ionization Alarms in Smoldering Fires 

January 1993, a fire in the Mercer family's home in Davenport, Iowa.  A baby monitor short circuits in the kids upstairs bedroom while they sleep.  The ionization smoke alarms take 19 minutes to respond to the growing fire.  At that point, both small children were already seriously burned.  One child dies several days after in the hospital while his parents watch helpless to do anything.  The other child survives but is scarred for life.

This CA TV 5 program chronicles the event and subsequent lawsuit (Mercer v. BRK/Pitway).  The program also includes the results of independent testing at Texas A&M university where in one test ionization alarms responded 19 minutes after the photoelectric alarms in a smoldering fire.  In 3 subsequent tests, the ionization alarms failed to respond.  The results of another wrongful death lawsuit are also detailed.


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