Safety and Health Reporter

Smoke Alarm Failures

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Smoke Alarm Failures

Brien Roche

Smoke alarm failures are highly dependent on the type of smoke alarm in use. The two most common types of smoke alarms are photoelectric and ionization. A photoelectric alarm is activated by smoke. Smoke is generated principally by smoldering fires. The ionization alarm is best for detecting flaming fire. Ionization alarms are less expensive than photoelectric. Ionization alarms represent up to 95% of all alarms sold. An ionization alarm usually takes 30 minutes or longer to sound.

Smoke Alarm Failures-UL 217

Manufacturers defend ionization alarms saying they are approved by Underwriters Laboratories. What they do not tell you is that the UL Standard 217 was devised in the 1970s when most homes had furniture made of cotton. Furniture in most homes today is made of synthetic materials such as polyurethane. This is an oil-based product that gives off a large amount of smoke. Most people who die in smoldering fires die of smoke inhalation. The UL standard 217 test is simply not adequate for most fatal residential home fires.

Manufacturers admit that smoke alarm failures most often consist of not responding to smoke. Most consumer complaints relate to this same issue. These types of consumer complaints may be admissible at trial. To be admissible these complaints must precede the date of the fire. The characteristics to look for in these types of complaints are whether they involved ionization alarms, was your defendant the designer or manufacturer, did the smoke reach the alarm, is there any deficiency in the alarm, the manufacturer received notice of this complaint before your fire, the manufacturer inspected the alarm and found no deficiency, the alarms all passed UL 217 and the defect alleged in the other complaint is the same as in your case.

Any differences in the circumstances surrounding the other complaints go to the weight of the evidence and not its admissibility.

Smoke Alarm Failures-Defective Design

In smoke alarm failures the best claim is defective design. All ionization alarms are defective in design because of the difficulty they have in detecting smoke. Another claim to be asserted is failure to warn. This type of claim makes prior complaints more likely to be admissible. Most renters move into a new apartment or home do not check smoke alarms. They probably have never read the packaging. The smoke alarm itself typically has no warning on it. All of this may be the basis for a failure to warn claim.

In evaluating smoke alarm failures it is critical to know where the alarms were located, were there working batteries in the alarm, were the occupants awake or asleep, did the alarm actually sound. If you’re lucky enough to have the alarms as evidence this may well be what makes your case.

Ionization detectors emit a beam of  ions in a chamber and when the smoke enters the chamber the smoke particles obstruct the flow of ions thereby causing a reduction of current flow and thereby activating the alarm. 

Photoelectric detectors emit a beam of light into a chamber and when the smoke particles enter the chamber and interfere with the beam the alarm is activated.

Typically, ionization detectors respond more quickly to the presence of numerous small particles of smoke such as those produced by by a flaming or fast fire.  Photoelectric detectors, on the other hand, usually respond more quickly to larger particles such as those produced by a smoldering or a slower spreading fire.

The time frame between the activation of a photoelectric detector and the activation of an ionization detector can be considerable.  Typically, the photoelectric detectors tend to give an earlier warning.

In any fire case involving a potentially faulty smoke detector it is critical that the detector itself be obtained or that at least its security be maintained.  It is also important of course to know who else is conducting any inspections of the smoke detector. 

The thrust of any such case involving an alleged smoke detector is that a timely warning from a  properly designed and functioning detector would have prevented injury or at least limited the injury to something minor. 

If you have been injured as a result of a failure of a smoke detector, contact us. 

For more information about fire cases see the other pages on the site and about smoke alarms see the pages on Wikipedia.

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Smoke Alarm Failures

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses Smoke Alarm Failures

Brien Roche

Smoke alarm failures are highly dependent on the type of smoke alarm in use. The two most common types of smoke alarms are photoelectric and ionization. A photoelectric alarm is activated by smoke. Smoke is generated principally by smoldering fires. The ionization alarm is best for detecting flaming fire. Ionization alarms are less expensive than photoelectric. Ionization alarms represent up to 95% of all alarms sold. An ionization alarm usually takes 30 minutes or longer to sound.

Smoke Alarm Failures-UL 217

Manufacturers defend ionization alarms saying they are approved by Underwriters Laboratories. What they do not tell you is that the UL Standard 217 was devised in the 1970s when most homes had furniture made of cotton. Furniture in most homes today is made of synthetic materials such as polyurethane. This is an oil-based product that gives off a large amount of smoke. Most people who die in smoldering fires die of smoke inhalation. The UL standard 217 test is simply not adequate for most fatal residential home fires.

Manufacturers admit that smoke alarm failures most often consist of not responding to smoke. Most consumer complaints relate to this same issue. These types of consumer complaints may be admissible at trial. To be admissible these complaints must precede the date of the fire. The characteristics to look for in these types of complaints are whether they involved ionization alarms, was your defendant the designer or manufacturer, did the smoke reach the alarm, is there any deficiency in the alarm, the manufacturer received notice of this complaint before your fire, the manufacturer inspected the alarm and found no deficiency, the alarms all passed UL 217 and the defect alleged in the other complaint is the same as in your case.

Any differences in the circumstances surrounding the other complaints go to the weight of the evidence and not its admissibility.

Smoke Alarm Failures-Defective Design

In smoke alarm failures the best claim is defective design. All ionization alarms are defective in design because of the difficulty they have in detecting smoke. Another claim to be asserted is failure to warn. This type of claim makes prior complaints more likely to be admissible. Most renters move into a new apartment or home do not check smoke alarms. They probably have never read the packaging. The smoke alarm itself typically has no warning on it. All of this may be the basis for a failure to warn claim.

In evaluating smoke alarm failures it is critical to know where the alarms were located, were there working batteries in the alarm, were the occupants awake or asleep, did the alarm actually sound. If you’re lucky enough to have the alarms as evidence this may well be what makes your case.

Ionization detectors emit a beam of  ions in a chamber and when the smoke enters the chamber the smoke particles obstruct the flow of ions thereby causing a reduction of current flow and thereby activating the alarm. 

Photoelectric detectors emit a beam of light into a chamber and when the smoke particles enter the chamber and interfere with the beam the alarm is activated.

Typically, ionization detectors respond more quickly to the presence of numerous small particles of smoke such as those produced by by a flaming or fast fire.  Photoelectric detectors, on the other hand, usually respond more quickly to larger particles such as those produced by a smoldering or a slower spreading fire.

The time frame between the activation of a photoelectric detector and the activation of an ionization detector can be considerable.  Typically, the photoelectric detectors tend to give an earlier warning.

In any fire case involving a potentially faulty smoke detector it is critical that the detector itself be obtained or that at least its security be maintained.  It is also important of course to know who else is conducting any inspections of the smoke detector. 

The thrust of any such case involving an alleged smoke detector is that a timely warning from a  properly designed and functioning detector would have prevented injury or at least limited the injury to something minor. 

If you have been injured as a result of a failure of a smoke detector, contact us. 

For more information about fire cases see the other pages on the site and about smoke alarms see the pages on Wikipedia.

Contact Us For A Free Consultation

Contact Us For A Free Consultation