A disturbing investigative report by NBC News reveals that popular smoke detectors found in millions of homes across the country may not protect your family in a fire. The report comes on the heels of a Texas A&M University experiment that found some smoke detectors will not sound the alarm in time because they are not sensitive enough to detect slow, smoldering fires.
One-quarter of all home fires start during typical sleeping hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and more than one-half of all fire related deaths occur during this period. A working smoking detector might be the only thing between your family and tragedy. But having a working smoke detector may not be enough to protect your family.
Traditional detectors, which rely on an ionization sensor, went off much too late in testing. In one test, 36 minutes after the start of actual smoke. This can be deadly. Even seasoned firefighters were shocked at the results.
The good news is that the technology does exist to better detect smoke. Smoke detector models that include photoelectric sensors are more sensitive to slow, smoldering fires. According to the National Fire Protection Association, "for best protection, it is recommended both (ionization and photoelectric) technologies be in homes. In addition to individual ionization and photoelectric alarms, combination alarms that include both technologies in a single device are available." At the very least, if you have ionization detectors, back them up by photoelectric detectors side-by-side..
Also, look for a detector with a reset or silencer button. This allows you to shut down the detector for approximately 10 minutes during a nuisance alarm, like burned toast, then goes back to full alert. Resetting your detector is always a much better idea than removing the battery, which you could then forget to put back. Even smoke detectors that are wired directly into the home's electrical system need to be regularly checked, as they can easily wear out. Make sure that the red status light on the detector is flashing at regular intervals.
So why are ionic smoke detectors still available on the market? The main reason could be financial, as those detectors are both cheaper to buy and make. But when it comes to your family's safety, there is no price tag. Keeping your smoke detectors in good working order could be a matter of life and death.