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Types of smoke alarms

In 2006, more than 16,400 people were injured as a result of a fire-and another 3,425 individuals died because of a fire, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Smoke alarms reduce the likelihood of residential fire-related fatalities by half. In fact, smoke alarms have contributed to a nearly 50 percent reduction in fire deaths since the late 1970s, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

But smoke alarms can provide occupants with early warning and additional time to escape only if they work. A recent study by the University of Washington and the Injury Prevention and Research Center revealed that 20 percent of American homes do not have working smoke alarms. The study indicated that the primary reason for non-working smoke alarms is missing or dead batteries.

Additionally, many consumers know they should have a working smoke alarm installed in their home, but are unaware of the options available to optimize protection for their families.

Different types of smoke alarms detect different types of smoke, based on the nature of the fire. Today, three varieties of smoke alarms-photoelectric, ionization and dual-technology-are available:

  • Photoelectric Alarms - quickly sense smoke from smoldering, smoky fires, such as those ignited by a cigarette falling between sofa cushions.
  • Ionization Alarms - quickly sense smoke caused by flaming, fast-moving fires, such as a kitchen fire.
  • Dual-Technology (Dual-Sensor) Alarms - contain both photoelectric and ionization sensors in one unit.

UL, the independent product safety testing and certification organization, recommends consumers have photoelectric and ionization smoke alarm technologies in their homes to provide families with the best available escape time. Based on evolving smoke alarm research, members of the fire safety community are joining together to inform consumers that having either type of smoke alarm is good, but having both technologies is best.

Consumers also should install at least one UL-Listed smoke alarm on every level of the home, including the basement and outside each sleeping area. Installing interconnected smoke alarms is also beneficial for fire protection. When one alarm senses smoke, alarms sound in all areas of a home, regardless of where the fire starts.

For more information, visit the UL Web site at www.ul.com or the U.S. Fire Administration Web site at www.usfa.dhs.gov.