Sunday , March 3 2024
While reports have long declared the inefficiency of ionization fire alarms, many people remain unaware of the potential danger.

Alarming Report: Your Smoke Detectors May Be Unreliable

When you think about your home, what stands out as most important? It’s probably not your smoke detectors. More likely it’s your family, your lifetime of belongings, a favorite room, or just the memories themselves.

While each of these is probably important, they aren’t the most critical component of your home. Because they protect all the rest, the real answer should be your home’s smoke alarms, locks, and security mechanisms.

Without proper attention to and upkeep of these easily overlooked items, you put everything else you care about – from your family to the house itself – at risk.

New smoke alarm study: not so new

How would you feel if you knew your home’s smoke detectors might be ineffective about warning you of a house fire – even when a room is filled with smoke? That’s the issue many people are forced to confront in the wake of a new report that found 90 percent of smoke alarms in U.S. homes are slow to go off.

According to NewsNet5 in Cleveland, “The alarms [in question] utilize what is known as ionization technology and were the first smoke alarms to hit the market in the earlier 1970s.” Perhaps the most depressing aspect of this is that it’s far from a new revelation.

A 1974 government report actually compared the two different types of technology on the market – ionization and photoelectric – and found that the former reacts much more slowly to smoke. In spite of that, a federal mandate that requires homeowners and landlords to install photoelectric instead of ionization smoke alarms has never happened.

Despite the lack of action on a nationwide basis, many municipalities and cities have instituted safer rules and regulations. In Boston, homes and apartments are required to have a photoelectric smoke alarm or dual smoke alarms.

“You are not allowed to use ionization alarms as standalone devices,” says Deputy Fire Chief Jay Fleming.

In addition to the 1974 research, other studies conducted in 1995 and 2005 suggested photoelectric smoke alarms are substantially more reliable than ionization models. With so much evidence to indicate the reliability of one security solution over the other, the question arises: Are people missing the mark on other security mechanisms for their homes and businesses?

The importance of panic bars

For large commercial buildings and businesses with heavy foot traffic, smoke detectors and security alarms aren’t the only safety mechanisms needed. Strategically placed panic bars could save lives, as well.

In fact, panic bars – also known as crash bars – have long been used in conjunction with fire safety plans. The devices are a familiar sight to most (most of us have seen them in school and government buildings), but few know what they actually do.

Placed on the inside of a door or entryway, panic devices keep doors locked from the outside, while allowing people inside to leave by pushing the bar. When a fire forces people to escape, panic bars allow them to exit quickly without getting caught in a stampede or bottleneck – which famously occurred in the 1903 Iroquois Theatre fire in Chicago.

When a curtain caught fire during a performance of Mr. Bluebeard, patrons raced to the exits to escape. However, they found themselves trying to leave by windows and doors that wouldn’t open. Six hundred people died that night.

According to Kevin Klein of, a supplier of door hardware and security features, “The most important thing is to learn from these events and put systems in place to make the world safer.”

Making the decision

The choice for homeowners and businesses alike is whether to invest in photoelectric fire alarms and panic bars over the alternatives. While it may seem like an easy decision, many property owners are either unaware of or unwilling to spend money on more costly security and safety mechanisms.

In terms of ionization fire alarms, the answer seems pretty clear. Studies are regularly conducted that prove their inability to warn inhabitants properly and efficiently of a potential fire. A 2012 study by a scientist at Texas A&M University confirms what other reports have found for the past four decades.

In his opinion, the only thing they’re good for is telling you you’re asleep.

The choice to be safe

Overall, being safe is a choice. Whether it’s smoke detectors, security alarms, door locks, or panic bars, it’s your choice how you protect your home or place of business.

While reports have long declared the inefficiency of ionization fire alarms, many people remain unaware of the potential danger. The hope among experts in the industry is that it won’t take another dangerous catastrophe like the 1903 Chicago Theatre fire to show people that change is necessary.

Fleming said it best when he told reporters, “One-third of all fire deaths in the U.S. could have been prevented by switching to photoelectric alarms.”

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About Jenna Cyprus

Jenna is a freelance writer who loves the outdoors; especially camping while relaxing with her family.

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