Dark Age of Smoke Detectors is Killing: Fire Chief
Daily Liberal, Dubbo, NSW, 07 May, 2011
The World Fire Safety Foundation
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Vermont, USA

Former Californian fire chief Marc McGinn is a man on a mission.

“These must be banned, they kill people,” he says, pointing to a common household smoke detector.

Mr McGinn blames 1500 fire deaths a year in the United States on ionisation smoke detectors.

On top of this he adds 7500 “burned, maimed and disfigured” fire victims and “millions of affected family members”.

Joining him in Dubbo yesterday was World Fire Safety Foundation CEO Adrian Butler who estimated 95 per cent of the detectors in Australian homes were ionisation smoke alarms.

Mr McGinn labels them “flame detectors” because they are triggered by flames and heat rather than smoke.

“Those flaming fires rarely kill. It’s the smouldering fires, like a thief in the night, you have no idea that it’s even happening and it puts you to sleep and it kills,” he said.

“If we could wave a wand to get rid of all the ionisation detectors we would reduce fire deaths by half.”

The couple is calling for Australia to follow in the footsteps of “eight US cities” and five US states in outlawing the detectors, which are marginally cheaper than the alternative photoelectric alarms.

This type of alarm is designed to detect smoke or “smouldering fires”.

Both detectors meet current legal requirements for smoke alarms, however NSW Fire and Rescue (NSWFR) said it had been recommending photoelectric detectors “for years”.

“We have been for some years recommending installation of the photoelectric smoke alarm, a newer type that can respond faster than the ionisation alarm,” a NSWFR spokesman said.

“As an emergency services agency, we do not set legislation or related standards, but we do recommend people have the best available fire safety equipment to help prevent fires and save lives.”

The spokesman said there was “no doubt” ionisation alarms had saved lives since it became law to install smoke alarms in 2006.

Mr McGinn and Mr Butler, a former firefighter, urged authorities to take a harder line.

Dark age of smoke detectors is killing: fire chief

Patrick Billings   |   The Daily Liberal  |   May 07, 2011 04:00AM

Former Californian fire chief Marc McGinn says ionisation smoke alarms are responsible for thousands of deaths and a switch to photoelectric detectors is absolutely necessary.