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Common smoke alarm gives inadequate warning.

1 June 2006

Common smoke alarm gives inadequate warning.

Ionisation smoke alarms give very little warning of smouldering fires. This type of alarm is the most common type installed in New Zealand homes. Consumers' Institute tests showed that some makes of ionisation smoke alarms did not go off until smoke visibility was less than two metres. By this time, occupants of the house may already have suffocated from inhaling toxic fumes.

Photoelectric alarms performed much better at detecting smoke from smouldering fires, and also worked well for smoke from flaming fires.

"We're not advocating throwing out your current ionisation smoke alarms - any alarm is better than none" says Bill Whitley of Consumers' Institute "but to be really safe, you need to install additional photoelectric alarms at strategic points as well."

"The 'fit smoke alarms' message has been disseminated for a number of years now, but it doesn't go far enough" says Whitley. "Fitting the right alarm in the right spot could be a matter of life-and-death."

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