Not all smoke alarms are equal, say re­searchers

Central Leader - - NEWS - By EMMA WHIT­TAKER

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.

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