Photoelectric Alarms Are Safer and Offer a Lower Risk of Liability or Injury


Certain hidden hazards in the home can result in fires or other hazards if they are not checked or found. For example, the wrong smoke detector can potentially be deadly. The report states that two kinds of smoke detectors are available – ionization and photoelectric alarms. Ionization detectors are the most commonplace. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) asserts that approximately 90% or 100 million of the alarms used are ionization detectors.

However, research shows that ionization detectors, which employ a small amount of radioactive material to trip the alarm when it detects burning particles, are less able to detect smoldering or slow-burning fires, or those fires that are triggered by such common ignition sources as frayed wires, cigarettes, or fireplace sparks.

According to Joseph Fleming, who works as a deputy fire chief for the Boston Fire Department, approximately 30,000 people in the US, have lost their lives by relying on ionization detectors. An ionization alarm may sometimes take 50 minutes longer to become activated when compared to a photoelectric smoke alarm.

Ionization alarms often are placed in homes because they are more affordable, or about half the price of a photoelectric smoke alarm. Also, the battery on an ionization alarm lasts longer. In addition, fire damage and injury from fast flaming fires is greater while smoldering fires have a lower number of injuries. However, the death rate is higher from smoldering fires because of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Ionization detectors also have a high false alarm rate, causing them to respond to such daily activities as showering or cooking. Photoelectric alarms, which employ a beam of light to detect burning particles, have a lower number of false alarms.

Firefighting experts suggest investing in photoelectric detectors in hallways and bedrooms and placing the ionization alarms in the kitchen, if they are placed at all. In 2008, the International Association of Fire Firefighters recommended the placement of photoelectric alarms only. Several states, such as Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts, also require photoelectric alarms in new home construction.


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