Different smoke detectors that can save your life - AmericaNowNews.com

Different smoke detectors that can save your life

Did you know that there are different types of smoke detectors? Here are two we've tested that could save your life if a fire breaks out in your home and what you need to know about maintenance.

* PHOTOELECTRIC:  Photoelectric detectors use light beams to detect smoke.

"Photoelectric detectors are more designed for detecting smoldering fires," says Graham McBride, detector expert with Memphis-based State Systems, a company that specializes in commercial fire protection systems.

* IONIZATION: Ionization detectors use a radioactive element to ionize the air, which in turn detects small particles of smoke that are otherwise invisible.

McBride says that's why the ionization detector detected smoke 20 seconds faster than the photoelectric detector in a recent test performed with the Memphis Fire Department. Firefighters used a propane torch to ignite some hay, which emitted a significant amount of smoke.

"The characteristics of a fast-burning, flaming fire (smaller smoke particles) were present before the characteristic of a slow-burning, smoldering fire (large smoke particles)," explains McBride. "Thus, the ionization detector went into alarm prior to the photo detector."

Similar tests have demonstrated the photoelectric detector reacting more quickly than the ionization detector, like this test by television station KXLY in Spokane, WA:


"The slow-burning, smoldering fire (in KXLY's) test was ignited with a soldering iron," says McBride. "This allows the smoke to build before the flames."

Lt. Wayne Cooke, public information officer for the Memphis Fire Department, says the department does not endorse either type of detector. What firefighters do endorse, he says, is a working and well-maintained smoke detector near every bedroom in a house.

A firefighter's rule of thumb is to change the batteries in each smoke detector every time you adjust your clocks to daylight-saving time or to standard time.

Carolyn Hinton and her family of nine escaped their burning rental home when faulty electrical wiring in one of the children's bedrooms started a fire that resulted in a total loss of the home and the Hintons' belongings.

Hinton said that a working and maintained smoke detector, installed high on a wall in the middle of the bedroom hallway, alerted the family in plenty of time.

"If we didn't have a smoke detector that night, we all would have died," she says.

The fire destroyed the detector. Hinton doesn't know for sure what type it was, but she said the fire started quickly and hot, with flames lapping a mattress. She says based on the type of fire it was, she suspects the detector was an ionization detector.

"The smoke detector saved our lives that night," she emphasizes. 

Copyright 2011 America Now. All rights reserved.

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