Fire Research: Improving Smoke Alarms and Saving Lives
Enhanced requirements better address nuisance signaling and the modern home furnishings
When Carey B.’s smoke alarm went off, she was cooking food while her family slept. Even though the alarm blared, it took almost five minutes for family members to wake, and she remembers thinking: There’s got to be a better way. No way could we get out in time!
matters because today families have as little as three
to get out of the house once the smoke alarm goes off. Forty years ago, when
most household materials were made of cotton and wood, which burn more slowly,
families had 17 minutes to get out of a
Nuisance alarms from cooking like the one referenced above can be dangerous, as people often remove the alarm’s batteries to stop false alerts. In three of every five home fire deaths, homes had either no smoke alarms or smoke alarms that didn’t work, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Further, when smoke alarms were present but not working, almost half had missing or disconnected batteries.
Because of the need for better smoke alarms that both reduce nuisance incidents and take into account today’s faster burning fires, UL published a revised requirement to, UL 217 — Standard for Smoke Alarms, 8th edition. More than 250 technical updates address the different smoke composition and faster flammability rates of today’s modern household products. The enhanced Standard will also help to minimize nuisance alarms that can lead to people disconnecting or removing the batteries from their smoke alarms.
For more than four decades, UL has taken a leading role in the development of Standards and testing for smoke alarm performance. Additionally, UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute conducts extensive fire science research both to better understand smoke and fire characteristics, as well as increase firefighter safety and knowledge about how to best fight fires.
of smoke alarms to UL 217 will be consolidated into 50 lab tests. In order
to more efficiently run the tests, UL opened a state-of-the-art Smoke
Detection Test Laboratory at its Northbrook, Ill., campus.
You can purchase smoke alarms that meet the revised smoke alarm requirements in early 2019. Look for this mark (below) on product packaging that indicates the alarm you’re purchasing meets the new requirements. In the meantime, learn how to prepare and protect your family from fires today.