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Smart Alarm Choices

Smart Alarm Choices

Smart Alarm Choices an online toolkit

This toolkit was created to help fire service leaders with educational materials to promote advanced smoke alarm education among their personnel and community.

Supported by:
Kidde 
Why Was the Program Developed?
Every home needs smoke alarms
More Public Education Videos

Fire experts recommend that smoke alarms are installed on each floor, in hallways and inside of all sleeping areas. Unfortunately, too many homes are not properly protected with enough working smoke alarms, or they are not tested and maintained. That leaves the people who live in the homes at great risk.

There are many challenges with educating the public about smoke alarms. Technology is changing in the smoke alarm industry; media coverage can be confusing with conflicting information about the effectiveness of smoke alarm and widespread budget cuts in fire department public education programs.

This toolkit was developed in conjunction with Kidde and support of the IAFC Fire and Life Safety section. Bookmark this site and check back regularly as resources will continue to be updated.


Featured Resources

Understanding Smoke Alarm Technologies

There are different types of fires. Some can flame and spread quickly while other fires may take more time to spread but produce more smoke. Any type of fire will pose a danger.

Smoke alarm technology has advanced over the years and consumers today have choices on what technology to use in their homes. While understanding what types of alarms are available is important, it is critical to remember that installing working UL-listed alarms and testing them regularly is the key to providing you additional notice and increased time to escape a fire.

Experts divide home fires into two categories:

  • Flaming fires result from the ignition of items such as flammable liquids, wood or paper, or from open flames, such as candles that ignite other items. These fires produce large quantities of flames and lesser amounts of smoke.
  • Smoldering fires most often occur when smoking materials, such as cigarettes, are left unattended. These fires produce minimal amounts of flames, but larger quantities of smoke.

National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) data shows that 93 percent of all residential fires are flaming and that flaming fires account for 75 percent of residential fire deaths. Together, both types of residential fires claim about 2,980 lives annually (NFPA).

Smoke Alarm Technologies

There are two types of smoke alarm technologies currently available to homeowners: ionization and photoelectric. Smoke alarms may be purchased with either ionization or photoelectric technology, or in a dual-sensor smoke alarm that combines both technologies into one unit.

  • Ionization smoke alarms may detect flaming fires sooner
  • Photoelectric smoke alarms may detect smoldering fires sooner
Experts Recommend Having Both Technologies

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), along with virtually every other recognized fire authority – including the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) – recommends the installation of both ionization and photoelectric technology to maximize protection from either flaming or smoldering fires.

Since it can’t be predicted what type of fire will start in a home, it is important that both smoldering flaming fires are detected as quickly as possible. Therefore, it is vital that the correct type (technology) of smoke alarm and their placement (location) within the home be utilized correctly. Additionally, you can leverage the strengths of each technology by considering the location and environment they are placed in.

For example, some studies have shown that ionization smoke alarms may be more prone to nuisance alarms, such as those that occur due to cooking. Consumers may reduce that potential by placing ionization smoke alarms at least 20 feet from appliances, or by installing a photoelectric alarm near a cooking area. Most smoking-material fires, which tend to smolder, begin in a den, family room, living room or bedroom. Families with members who smoke may consider installing photoelectric alarms or dual-sensor alarms in those areas.

The most important thing is to ensure that you have working smoke alarms on every floor of your home, inside each bedroom and outside sleeping areas.

  • Topics:
    • Featured Smart Alarm Choices
  • Resource Type:
    • Public education material
  • Organizational Author:
    • External
    • Fire Life Safety Section
    • IAFC
Understanding Smoke Alarm Technologies

There are different types of fires. Some can flame and spread quickly while other fires may take more time to spread but produce more smoke. Any type of fire will pose a danger.

Smoke alarm technology has advanced over the years and consumers today have choices on what technology to use in their homes. While understanding what types of alarms are available is important, it is critical to remember that installing working UL-listed alarms and testing them regularly is the key to providing you additional notice and increased time to escape a fire.

Experts divide home fires into two categories:

  • Flaming fires result from the ignition of items such as flammable liquids, wood or paper, or from open flames, such as candles that ignite other items. These fires produce large quantities of flames and lesser amounts of smoke.
  • Smoldering fires most often occur when smoking materials, such as cigarettes, are left unattended. These fires produce minimal amounts of flames, but larger quantities of smoke.

National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) data shows that 93 percent of all residential fires are flaming and that flaming fires account for 75 percent of residential fire deaths. Together, both types of residential fires claim about 2,980 lives annually (NFPA).

Smoke Alarm Technologies

There are two types of smoke alarm technologies currently available to homeowners: ionization and photoelectric. Smoke alarms may be purchased with either ionization or photoelectric technology, or in a dual-sensor smoke alarm that combines both technologies into one unit.

  • Ionization smoke alarms may detect flaming fires sooner
  • Photoelectric smoke alarms may detect smoldering fires sooner
Experts Recommend Having Both Technologies

The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), along with virtually every other recognized fire authority – including the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) – recommends the installation of both ionization and photoelectric technology to maximize protection from either flaming or smoldering fires.

Since it can’t be predicted what type of fire will start in a home, it is important that both smoldering flaming fires are detected as quickly as possible. Therefore, it is vital that the correct type (technology) of smoke alarm and their placement (location) within the home be utilized correctly. Additionally, you can leverage the strengths of each technology by considering the location and environment they are placed in.

For example, some studies have shown that ionization smoke alarms may be more prone to nuisance alarms, such as those that occur due to cooking. Consumers may reduce that potential by placing ionization smoke alarms at least 20 feet from appliances, or by installing a photoelectric alarm near a cooking area. Most smoking-material fires, which tend to smolder, begin in a den, family room, living room or bedroom. Families with members who smoke may consider installing photoelectric alarms or dual-sensor alarms in those areas.

The most important thing is to ensure that you have working smoke alarms on every floor of your home, inside each bedroom and outside sleeping areas.

  • Topics:
    • Featured Smart Alarm Choices
  • Resource Type:
    • Public education material
  • Organizational Author:
    • External
    • Fire Life Safety Section
    • IAFC

News

Videos/Podcasts

 

Did you know?

  • 75% of all fatal fires occur in a residence.
  • Approximately 2,980 people die in the United States each year as the result of a fire in their home. 
  • Fire fatalities occur in the 40%% of homes that have no alarms, or 17% no working smoke alarms.

Source: (NFPA)

Contact

Derek Bullington
Program Coordinator
International Association of Fire Chiefs
(703) 537-4831
dbullington@iafc.org

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