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Smoke Detector Technologies are NOT of Equal Value nor Interchangeable

Smoke Detector Technologies are NOT of Equal Value nor Interchangeable

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Dr Vytenis (Vyto) Babrauskas, was an employee of the National Institue of Standards and Technology (NIST) for 16 years.
He is America's first fire science engineer.
This paper discusses concerns with smoke alarm research by the National Institue of Standards and Technology (NIST) in their 2004 'Home Smoke Alarms Test' (technical Note 1455) research paper that is relied upon by Fire Departments and others fire industry professionals throughout the world.
More Information:
www.DoctorFire.com
www.theWFSF.org/drfire
Dr Vytenis (Vyto) Babrauskas, was an employee of the National Institue of Standards and Technology (NIST) for 16 years.
He is America's first fire science engineer.
This paper discusses concerns with smoke alarm research by the National Institue of Standards and Technology (NIST) in their 2004 'Home Smoke Alarms Test' (technical Note 1455) research paper that is relied upon by Fire Departments and others fire industry professionals throughout the world.
More Information:
www.DoctorFire.com
www.theWFSF.org/drfire

More info:

Published by: The World Fire Safety Foundation on Oct 17, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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01/23/2013

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© Copyright 2008, Dr Vytenis (Vyto) Babrauskas |www.
DoctorFire
.com 
SDTechnologiesAreNOTofEqualValue.pdf
|
This document is at:
 
www.scribd.com/doc/110359119
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“Smoke alarms of either the ionization or the photoelectric type consistently provide time foroccupants to escape from most residential fires.
This message has been delivered to the American publicby many institutions over the years, especially theNational Institute of Standards and Technologies (NIST).
Unfortunately, the message is incorrect, misleading, and has been an active obstacle towards providingbetter life safety in American residences.
Smoke Detectors:Technologies areNOT of EqualValue nor Interchangeable
Extracted from ‘Fire Safety & Technology Bulletin’, Vol 3, No 12, pages 1-3, Dec, 2008The World Fire Safety Foundation thanks Dr Babrauskas for permission to reproduce this reportDr Vytenis (Vyto) Babrauskas (page 2, para 1)
byVytenis (Vyto) Babrauskas Ph.D.
Issaquah, WA, USA December, 2008
 
© Copyright 2008, Dr Vytenis (Vyto) Babrauskas |www.
DoctorFire
.com 
SDTechnologiesAreNOTofEqualValue.pdf
|
This document is at:
 
www.scribd.com/doc/110359119
2 of 3
Smoke alarms of either the ionization or the photoelectric type consistently provide time foroccupants to escape from most residential fires.”
(NIST Report Tech. Note 1455-1, February 2008)
This message has been delivered to the Americanpublic by many institutions over the years, especiallythe National Institute of Standards and Technology(NIST). Unfortunately, the message is incorrect,misleading, and has been an active obstacle towardsproviding better life safety in American residences.In slightly more detail, the traditional message hasbeen saying that ionization detectors respond morequickly to flaming fires, photoelectric detectorsrespond more quickly to smoldering, but you don’tknow which type of fire you will have, so your oddsare just as good with either technology. This statementis incorrect for two reasons:(1) people do not have an equal need for being warnedwarned of smoldering, versus flaming fires; and(2) there are huge differences between the warningtime advantages in the two cases. So we need toconsider these issues in more detail.Smoke detectors (smoke alarms) by themselves do notput out fires, their only function is to sound an alarm.A person will most notably need warning if he isasleep. If the person is awake, he is both more likely toobserve the fire without the benefit of a smokedetector, and he will also be in a much better positionto safely make his exit.Surprisingly, the U.S. fire statistics reporting system(NFIRS) does not ask the question if the fire originatedin a flaming or in a smoldering mode. But theexperience of fire officials and fire researchers is that if a fire occurs when the occupants are asleep, it is muchmore likely to start out as smoldering rather thanflaming.Smoldering fires originate from cigarette ignitions,many electric wiring problems, and numerous types of furnace, fireplace, flue-pipe, and chimneymalfunctions. Conversely, flaming fires are mosttypically associated with activities of an awake, alertindividual. These include cooking (by far the mostcommon cause of all house fires, although a very highpercentage of these fires are never reported),improperly fueling a fireplace, and actively using openflames in the household.It is not uncommon for fire investigators doing areconstruction test of a smoldering fire to find that anionization detector will never sound, although thesmoke has gotten so bad that a person cannot see theirhand in front of their face. But when ionizationdetectors actually do work in a smoldering fire, theresponse is generally extremely slow. In theNISTstudy mentioned above, photoelectric detectors usedwith smoldering fires gave 31 minutes more warning,on the average, than did ionization detectors. Bycontrast, in the same study, for flaming fires,ionization detectors gave only 48 seconds morewarning.This is a huge disparity, and it does not justify theclaim that neither type has an overall advantage. It isalso not a new finding. In 1978, researchers at the FireResearch Station in England (Kennedy et al.) ransmoldering-fire tests and found that photoelectricdetectors gave warning on the average 113 minutesbefore ionization detectors did. Another study(Schuchard, 1979) found that for smoldering mattressfires, photoelectric detectors sounded an alarm on theaverage 59 minutes quicker than did ionizationdetectors. A study organized by the National FireProtection Association (NFPA) (Drouin and Cote,1984) found a 68 minute faster photoelectric detectorresponse in the case of a smoldering fire, but only a 12second faster ionization detector response for flaming.The latest results are from experiments by theNational Research Council Canada (Su et al., 2008)involving 11 flaming house fires. These showed anaverage 16 s alarm time advantage for ionizationdetectors, compared to photoelectric. Thus, it is clearthat photoelectric detectors will provide a hugeadvantage in smolder fires (30 minutes to 1 hour, ormore), while ionization detectors provide a trivialadvantage (a few seconds) in flaming fires.By the way, proponents of ionization detectorssometimes argue that, even though the time advantageof ionization detectors for flaming fires may be verysmall, it is still an important advantage since flamingfires reach untenable conditions much more quickly.This is a specious argument, since it fails to take intoaccount human behavior. In a real fire emergency,individuals do not behave in a robotic fashion, movingquickly and directly to the correct exit. Instead, theyare most likely to engage in numerous activitiesbefore proceeding to the exit and may, even then,choose a poor exit. Minutes, not seconds, aregenerally likely to be needed before all the occupantsof a house have successfully exited. In the context of that reality, a time difference of 12-48 seconds is veryunlikely to make the difference between life anddeath.
Smoke Detectors:Technologies are NOT of Equal Value nor Interchangeable
by Vytenis (Vyto) Babrauskas Ph.D.

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