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Silent Alarms;  Deadly Differences


Published ASHI Reporter, June 2013:

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Silent Alarms;  Deadly Differences:

By Skip Walker, ACI, MCI


Imagine your car air bags deploying randomly when you hit a pothole or speed bump but failing to deploy over half the time in a collision. That is the stark reality with the smoke alarms that are most often found in North American homes. Like most, I had always assumed that a smoke alarm was a smoke alarm. What I now know is that there are two basic types of residential smoke alarms sold in the U.S.: ionization and photoelectric. In real-world fatal fires, these two types of alarms behave very differently. In this case – different is not good. Understanding the difference could very well save your life.


“A smoke detector that sounds approximately nineteen minutes after smoke reached its sensing chamber is like an airbag that does not deploy until nineteen minutes after
a car accident.”

- Judge David E. Schoenthaler, Mercer v. Pitway/BRK Brands (First Alert)


Over 90% of U.S. homes have ionization sensor smoke alarms installed. Around 5% of U.S. homes have photoelectric sensor alarms installed. Approximately 4% have no alarm of any kind installed. (footnote 1) Back in the 1960s, residential smoke alarms were almost unheard of and the fire death rate was about 7 to 8 fatalities per 1,000 U.S. home fires. Between the mid-70s and now, we have gone from about 10% of U.S. homes having smoke alarms to 96% of U.S. homes reporting having at least one smoke alarm. (footnote 2) Surprisingly, after installing smoke alarms in over 100 million U.S. homes over 30 years, the odds of dying in a fire remain about the same. Perhaps it’s just me, but that doesn’t make sense.

Click Here For The Full Article on the ASHI Reporter Website

 

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