Not all smoke alarms are equal, say researchers
Smoke alarms save lives.
But some are better at it than others.
It’s hoped the latest Consumer NZ research on smoke alarms will help people to navigate the baffling line-up on shop shelves to choose the safest one for their homes.
Consumer NZ tested 20 smoke alarms of varying prices and a list of the most effective models is available on its website.
The fire service has been investing in smoke alarm testing since 2006 and the research again shows the best type of alarms are photoelectric ones, Fire Service national fire risk management advisor Todd O’Donoghue says.
Ionisation alarms use different technology which means they’re effective at picking up fast flaming fires but can miss smouldering fires – ones that start in furniture, bedding or an electrical appliance.
Photoelectric alarms generally perform better at detecting both, O’Donoghue says.
Smoke detectors are either not installed or not working properly at around 80 per cent of fires.
‘‘A growing percentage of homes are getting them but they often don’t have the right alarms in the right places, or aren’t operating them properly,’’ Auckland area senior fire risk manager Mike McEnaney says.
‘‘People are aware they need them but they often don’t take the next step,’’ he says.
In November a 6-year-old Oranga girl was killed in a house fire believed to have been started by a younger child playing with matches.
There were some smoke alarms in the house which alerted other family members and likely saved their lives, the fire service said at the time.
The devices are also being credited with saving the lives of a Pt Chevalier couple whose home was destroyed by a fire in the early hours of May 29.
The fire service offers advice on its website about installing smoke alarms. Some people are also eligible for firefighters to visit their home for a free safety inspection.
Best choice: The New Zealand Fire Service is encouraging people to install photoelectric smoke alarms following testing which shows they may be more effective than other types.
Mike McEnaney: Auckland area senior fire risk manager.