The World Fire Safety Foundation
Marc McGinn
Former Fire Chief, Albany, CA, USA
Viewing Problems?sorry.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0

Warning: Your smoke alarm may not detect smoke

On July 19, 2010, the Albany City Council adopted Ordinance 2010-06 requiring all new and renovated homes, including all apartment units, to install Photoelectric “Only” smoke alarms. Currently there is great confusion regarding the topic of smoke alarms. There are currently two type of smoke alarms used to protect residents in the event of a fire; photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms. Both respond differently to smoke and flame. The fact is; ionization smoke alarms react poorly (at times never respond) to deadly smoke but slightly faster to flames while photoelectric alarms react much faster to smoke. Ionization alarms are present in over 95% of homes in America and have a high failure rate when it comes to detecting smoke. The problem is; most deadly fires are smoldering fires and not fast flaming fires. By now, most people understand it is the deadly smoke and heat that kills you long before the flames even reach you. If a fire is in a “flaming state”, it is usually much too late. Ionization alarms should labeled flame alarms and not smoke alarms. An example of a fast flaming fire would be a kitchen fire which is one of the leading causes of residential fires but rarely do they claim lives. I implore you to watch the videos on to review side-by-side test of the two alarms.

Arguably a greater problem with the ionization alarm is the number of false alarms it renders; thus leading to residents disconnecting the alarm all together. I must include an interesting story – a couple of years ago, I installed a combination ionization/photoelectric smoke alarm in my living room. Because my home is not large, the house is heated by a wood burning stove. After numerous false alarms (initiated by the invisible smoke similar to cooking vapors) started by my stove, I gave up using the hush button and disconnected the battery; and remained disconnected until I went to bed. Finally after one season I replaced the combination alarm with a new photoelectric “only” alarm in my living room (and bedrooms). Do I need to tell you the results? Not one false alarm. So, my point is; how many residents (worldwide) give up and just permanently disconnect the ionization and combination alarms and expose themselves to a potential lethal smoldering fire? There have been many fire deaths worldwide with working smoke alarms present but failed to detect smoke.


Marc McGinn

Albany Fire Chief

Extracted 04 September, 2010 from the City of Albany’s website

P.S. I fervently urge you to immediately replace your current ionization alarms that incessantly false alarm and do not detect lethal smoldering smoke with photoelectric “only” smoke alarms. I welcome your personal phone call at 510.528.5773. Your safety is my priority! For further information please visit
Please take the time to review the following videos:

Video 1   |   Video 2   |   Video 3   |   Video 4 (University of Cincinnati presentation)

Former Fire Chief Marc McGinn

Albany Fire Department, California, USA

Fire Chief’s Message

“How many firefighter lives would be saved through
early detection by utilizing photoelectric alarms/detectors?”

Chief Marc McGinn’s Message
May, 2010

Closing Statement from First Reading of Albany City Council Smoke Alarm Ordinance, 2010-06  |  6 July, 2010

“Concerning all the ionization smoke alarms, all we can do is protect our city with responsible codes and ordinances.
 Although I understand this, I am going on record and calling for the immediate removal of this fraudulent and dangerous alarm
 from all the shelves in America.  The Fire Chiefs of America need to wake up and take a stand, like the International Association
 of Fire Fighters did in 2008, by denouncing the ionization alarms as there have been far too many citizens that  have died in
 homes with so-called working smoke alarms present.”
“Albany Fire Department just purchased a brand new, US$650,000 fire truck. However, every time that Fire Truck leaves the station
 someone loses. It’s not about suppression - it’s all about prevention”
“If we could wave the magic wand right now and make make all the ionization alarms disappear and replace them with photoelectric
 smoke alarms, we would reduce fire deaths in America by at least  50%.  That represents approximately 1,500 needless citizen and
 fire fighter deaths every year.”
"I call for the immediate removal of the.fraudulent, “deadly”, ionization so-called smoke alarm from all stores and homes
 in America before more people are.needlessly maimed or killed.”cbs.htmlshapeimage_11_link_0
Chief Marc McGinn, Albany California, USA
Front page, San Francisco Chronicle  August, 2010
Marc McGinn
04 April, 2011
Albany City Council Meeting honoring
Chief McGinn’s 33 years of service - April, 2011
“I can’t say I know anyone who feels more strongly of the importance of preventing fires from happening in the first place. . .

. . .and whereas in May 2011 Marc McGinn is travelling to Australia to visit the World Fire Safety Foundation and help spread the word about the importance of changing to photoelectric smoke detectors . . .”
Albany City Council presentation to Fire Chief Marc McGinn on his retirement after thirty three years of service.

“Chronicle reporter Kevin
Fagan says most homes in
the Bay Area and the rest of
the country don’t have the
the right kind of smoke
alarms and it’s costing lives.”

Click Play to Listen

‘Getting the Right Smoke
 Alarm For Your Home’
3 minutes 34 seconds
‘Raising Alarm for Fire Safety’
05 April, 2011
Albany became the first city in California to mandate
photoelectric-only smoke alarms after a David vs Goliath battle
Chief McGinn’s Stand
Albany Fire Chief Marc McGinn
reading the World Fire Safety Foundation’s letter to the Albany City Council to counter industry attempts to block Albany’s photoelectric-only smoke alarm legislation.

The NFPA Journal
Chief McGinn’s Message
May/June, 2010

Chief McGinn’s
California Legislature
Assembly Resolution