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A r e I o niza tion Sm oke Alar ms


Pu ttin g FireF ight er Live s at Ris k?
by Dean Dennis | Fathers For Fire Safety, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA | 03 Nov, 2014

If fire officials had really understood the


difference between the two technologies,
like theyre starting to learn now, theres a
good chance our kids would be alive today.

Dean & Andrea Dennis

Quote by Dean Dennis, Fathers For Fire Safety, from North


Eastern Ohio Fire Prevent ion Associat io ns website ,
GetSafeAlarms.com
(page 3)

Copyright (c) Father For Fire Safety November, 2014


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Are ionization Smoke Alarms


Pu t t i n g F i r e Fi g hte r Li v es at Ris k?
by Dean Dennis | Fathers For Fire Safety, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA | 03 Nov, 2014

When discussing occupant and responder safety in


residential fires, how critical is the type of smoke alarm
technology in residential homes related to the firefighter
response time? The National Fire Protection Association
(NFPA) states that depending on whether you live in an
urban, suburban or rural area, that fire department response
times to the fire will vary from 9-14 minutes.
There are two different types of smoke alarm
technologies: ionization and photoelectric and two types
of fires: flaming and smoldering fires. In reality, fires have
stages as they develop and each fire is different. Depending
on the cause of the fire, the smoldering stage of some fires
can be an hour or more, or as short as seconds. For
example, an electrical fire or an improperly disposed cigarette
in a cushion could have a prolonged smoldering stage for an
hour or longer. The smoldering stage of a grease fire is nearly
non-existent; and a candle knocked over on a cloth table top
might have a smoldering stage measured in seconds.
How smoke alarm technology responds to the smoldering
stage of a fire is critical for the safety of the occupants and to
the responders. A smoke alarm technology that has trouble
sensing an extended stage of fire prior to it becoming
dangerous, puts everyone at risk.
Manufacturers advertise that ionization alarms are best at
detecting flaming fires. Firefighters have heard this clich
numerous times, as well as the clich that photoelectric
alarms are best at detecting smoldering fires.
But the
problem is that rarely do firefighters select the smoke alarms
that are installed in residential properties. That said, they do
have to respond to the fires in residential properties. Does
speaking in clichs about smoke alarms mask a problem?
Ionization alarms are best at detecting flaming fires. True,
but is that good? What about the tradeoff being that
ionization alarms are poor at detecting the smoldering
stage of a fire? Manufacturers adjust the ionization sensors
so that they can respond 30-50 seconds faster than
photoelectric alarms during the flaming stage of a fire
resulting in the consumer having to live with a higher rate of
nuisance alarm problems particularly in the kitchen area.
This results in ionization alarms getting disabled 5 to 8 times
more than photoelectric alarms. Most people do not know that
the manufacturers can also adjust photoelectric sensors to
respond just as fast as ionization sensors as it relates to the
flaming stage of a fire. However the inverse is not true,
ionization alarms cannot be adjusted to trigger as fast as
photoelectric alarms when it comes to the smoldering stage of
a fire which has cooler and larger particles. In fires having an
extended smoldering stage, photoelectric technology can
detect these fires 30-60 minutes sooner than ionization
alarms. In testing done by the National Institute of Standards
and Technology, photoelectric alarms sounded an average 30
minutes sooner than ionization alarms during the smoldering
stage fires.
Another fact unknown to many is that dual sensor alarms,
those that combine ionization technology with photoelectric
technology, have disguised issues. In a 2010 Consumer
Products Safety Commission pilot study of nuisance alarms

associated with cooking, it was revealed that dual sensor


alarms had a higher nuisance alarming rate than stand-alone
ionization alarms. The reason being is that the manufacturers
have the freedom to adjust the sensors within certain
parameters. In one side by side test of the two leading
smoke alarm manufacturers one manufacturer had 117 out of
the 125 unwanted activations. In some breakout testing of
dual sensors compared to single station photoelectric alarms,
performance is superior on the part of the single station
photoelectric alarms when it comes to the smoldering stage of
fires and nearly the same when it comes to the flaming stage
of the fire.
The problem with ionization technology is that the alarm
isnt designed to detect the smoldering stage of a fire
where the fire signature consists of larger particles and
inherently the technology will never be able to overcome
this problem. This critical flaw is a problem for everyone.
When an ionization alarm sounds it is because the alarm has
detected numerous sub-micron particles. In a kitchen this
can be because an oven door was opened too close to an
ionization alarm resulting in the small sub-micron released
heat particles to triggering the alarm.
This isnt life
threatening. When an ionization sounds when there isnt a
nuisance alarm problem, you could have a serious event.
Ionization alarms will trigger when they detect small heat
charged particles and charged gases about to ignite and
flashover. During the day most occupants will be aware that
there is a serious event and a smoke alarm might not be
relevant, but at night it is a different story. At night the
occupants might only have minutes to escape the house.
Ionization alarms put firefighters at risk. When there is
an extended smoldering period, the ionization alarms
could have missed sounding an average of 30 minutes
sooner when compared to photoelectric alarms. This is
critical when you factor in that it will take responders 9-14
minutes to arrive. It could easily be the difference to their
entering an engulfed structure or a smoldering structure.
A home fitted with ionization smoke alarms in fire with an
extended smoldering fire develops runs the risk of the alarms
will sit for several tens of minutes in the toxic smoke until the
gases and heat build to sufficient levels to trigger the
ionization alarms. This is often too late for the occupants
to survive the fire.
Decades ago, the Boston Fire Department realized the
defects inherent in ionization smoke alarms. Because of
this shortcoming, they were unable to save a significant
number of lives. Taking action, the Boston Fire Department
became instrumental in persuading the state of
Massachusetts to require photoelectric alarm technology.
Boston now has the lowest death rate per capita from
residential fires of any major U.S. city. Massachusetts is
second in the fewest fire deaths per capita among the states.
This is not a coincidence.
Today, the International Association of Fire Fighters
(IAFF), representing over 300,000 firefighters only
endorse photoelectric alarms. Ionization smoke alarms
are not only putting residences at risk, but they are
putting our first responders at risk as well.

AreIonizationSmokeAlarmsPuttingFireFighterLivesAtRisk?V1.3.pdf
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'What Happens when Industry Voluntarily Complies to a Flawed Standard?'


Internet Extract | Dean Dennis FFFS, Testimony to CPSC | 24 June 2015
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Internet Extract | 05 July 2015:
www.SmokeAlarmWarning.org/oh.html
See NEOFPAs CPSCs Smoke Alarm Testimony: Part 3 and other Fathers For Fire Safety Videos at:
www.facebook.com/TheWFSF/videos/vl.631940136940579/957702197584772/?type=1&theater
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www.GetSafeAlarms.com is the worlds leading fire fighter website revealing the inherent dangers with
ionization alarms and advocating for the safe photoelectric alternatives.

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Fathers of Fire Victims Come Together to


Push for Photoelectric Smoke Detectors
By: Cristin Severance, The Ohio News Network Posted: 5:15 PM, Feb 5, 2011 Updated: 5:22 PM, Feb 5, 2011

CLEVELAND - Ohio University student Andrea Dennis


was visiting friends at The Ohio State University in
2003 when she never made it home from the trip.
"One second your life's fine, the next second your life's
changed," said her father, Dean Dennis. "She was
having a great time at the party with all her friends and
then at four o'clock in the morning on Palm Sunday,
the house was torched by an arsonist."
In 2005, almost two years to the date of Dennis' death,
Julie Turnbull died in a fire at a Miami University offcampus home in Oxford. She was killed when a lit
cigarette started a couch fire.
She died just one month before her graduation.
"She was in a house that had 17 ionization smoke
detectors in the house, but by the time the very first one
went off, she was already dead," said her father, Doug
Turnbull.
The girls did not go to the same college and didn't know
each other, but Dean Dennis felt he had to attend Julie
Turnbull's funeral.
"Julie died at four in the morning on Palm Sunday, too.
It was such an eerie coincidence, I just couldn't let it
go," said Dean Dennis.
The grieving fathers became friends and that friendship
has taken them all over the country as educators,
ONN's Cristin Severance reported.
Their campaign was sparked by a call from an assistant
fire chief in Boston. Jay Flemming is an advocate of
using photoelectric smoke detectors and researches
fires all over the country.
Flemming told Doug Turnbull that if they had used a
different type of smoke detector in the house, Julie
would still be alive.
Dean Dennis and Doug Turnbull started doing their
own research on the difference between photoelectric
smoke detectors and the more common ionization
alarms, which are the kind in the homes where Andrea
and Julie died. Their research on smoke detectors
became a full time job.
"Ionization alarms get disabled eight times more than
photoelectric alarms," Doug Turnbull said. "Quite
frankly, they have up to a 50 percent failure rate in a
smoldering fire, which is the most common fire that
will kill you."
The men started getting invitations from fire chiefs
around the country to talk about their findings.
"Once you are armed with this knowledge, you feel
compelled to pass it on," Doug Trunbull said.

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Doug Turnbull (left) with Dean Dennis from
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Fathers For Fire Safety, Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
They spoke to fire officials in Northeast Ohio and told
them about photoelectric smoke detectors and how
their daughters could have been saved if they'd been in
those homes.
"They get it, and if you make the case to them they are
going to go home and check their detectors and if they
look into the issue, they are going to educate the people
in their fire company and then the people in their
community," Doug Trunbull said.
That's exactly what happened in Shaker Heights.
The fire department did its own digging after hearing
from the dads and now photoelectric smoke detectors
are required in homes.
Chagrin Falls plans to pass the same ordinance.
The fathers are working to pass state legislation later
this year.
They don't get paid for the countless hours of research
or their trips around the county, but they said that the
satisfaction they get is priceless.
Massachusetts and Vermont have changed laws to
require a photoelectric smoke detector.
The Albany Fire Department in California changed its
ordinance to require all detectors to be photoelectric, as
well.
Watch ONN and refresh ONNtv.com for the latest
information.
More Information, visit the The World Fire Safety
Foundation's website:
http://theworldfiresafetyfoundation.org

Report extracted from Newsnet5 website, 10 November 2014:


www.newsnet5.com/news/local-news/cleveland-metro/fathers-of-fire-victims-come-together-to-push-for-photoelectric-smoke-detectors
See this and other Fathers For Fire Safety Videos at:
www.facebook.com/TheWFSF/videos/vl.631940136940579/957702197584772/?type=1&theater
AreIonizationSmokeAlarmsPuttingFireFighterLivesAtRisk?V1.3.pdf
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