Smoke detectorWhen shopping for a smoke alarm, you may not be aware that there are basically two types on the market. An investigation done by ABC’s Good Morning America “GMA” demonstrated the response times of smoke alarms in real fire scenarios.

The type of smoke alarms sold today are: the ionization type, which is generally faster at detecting blazing fires, and the photoelectric type, which is generally quicker at detecting smoldering fires.  According to GMA, 95% of homes with alarms, have only ionization alarms, and may not be providing all the protection people need.

In the demonstration, two alarms were ionization, two were photoelectric and two were combination alarms that use both technologies.  The alarms were mounted in a hallway of a house that was slated for demolition, and nine cameras were placed to capture all angles. Two firefighters were stationed inside the house.

The first test was a contained, fast, blazing fire. The ionization alarms went off after just 45 seconds. One of the photoelectric alarms went off after four minutes, and the other went off after five minutes.

The results were very different with a smoldering fire. Investigators started a timer at the first sign of smoke. The first alarm to sound was the photoelectric alarm, and it went off at 12 minutes and 15 seconds after the first sign of smoke. Ninety seconds after that, another photoelectric alarm sounded. At this point, the firefighters said visibility was still good.

At 22 minutes and 49 minutes, the dual alarms went off, but the ionization alarms had yet to sound. At that point, visibility was minimal and conditions were life-threatening. After one hour and 10 minutes, the fire chief deemed the house unsafe for firefighters and aborted the demonstration.

An earlier government study also found similar results. Photoelectric alarms sounded 30 minutes earlier than ionization ones in a smoldering fire. It also found that ionization detectors sometimes failed to sound their alarms at all.

As a life safety and security company, Video Surveillance Corporation knows that no battery operated smoke alarm compares to the photoelectric detectors connected to our monitored alarm system. Not only do ours monitor your home or office 24/7, but they also summon the Fire Dept. when activated. Try doing that with a battery operated smoke alarm!