1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Nov 2006

    Default Why Mass Is Restricting Ion Alarms

    I am the Chief Fleming (Boston Fire) referred to in the original article. I have been resaerching this issue since 1990 and publishing papers since 1998. I have been sending e-mails out to Fire Marshal's after fatal fires for several years now. One of them was sent to Vermont after the Barre Fire.

    Recently, due to my proposals, the Massachsuetts Building and Fire Code Boards approved the following language:

    32.02: Definitions

    Approved monitored battery power smoke detector, shall consist of a working device, as defined in M.GL.c148, s. 26D. However such device shall not include a device that employs ionization technology as the sole means of smoke detection.

    Approved primary power smoke detector, shall consist of a working device, as defined in M.GL.c148, s. 26D. However such device shall not include a device that employs ionization technology as the sole means of smoke detection.

    32.03 Installation of Smoke Detectors In the Vicinity of a Kitchen or Bathroom.
    No smoke detector employing ionization technology shall be installed within 20 feet of an entryway to a kitchen, or a bathroom containing a bathtub or shower. The 20 foot measurement shall include and extend into common areas of a multi-family dwelling, if applicable.

    Some of my research that supported this change can be found at http://www.bostonfirelocal718.org/index.htm.

    Now I would like to respond to a couple of comments.

    Jay Fleming's comment on the NIST Report - NIST found that in many smoldering fires the ion alarm responded too late. (They just never mentioned this in any of their press releases.) In addition, NIST did not use real smoke alarms. they "modified" the alarms and measured their response based on the changes in voltage/current. In the smoldering fires the real photos responded 30 minutes before real ions. In flaming fires real ions were faster than real photos by 30-50 econds.

    Jay Fleming's Comment on Combination alarms.

    Several studies show that ion, and it is fair to assume combination alarms that have ion technology are far more likley to be disabel than photos. That is why I asked the Mass Boards to only allow photos near kitchens and bathroom. In my opinion, the photo is adequate by itself. Most people are awake when flaming fires occur so the extra few seconds provided by ion would only be a benefit in extraordinary circumstances.

    I Have done stories with several TV stations, that have interesting video. Here are a couple. (At these sites search on "smoke" and or "fleming."


    I also gave a talk on this subject at the request of the IAFF. It can be viewed at the Redmond Symposium website.

    I would greatly appreciate it if readers of this forum send me information on fires were fatalies occured insmoldering firedespite operating smoke alarms. I have filed over 50 complaints with the CPSC in the last 2 years. I have estimated that the late response of ion alarms to smoldering smoke and the excessive disablement of ion alarms due to nuisance alarms might be responsible for 10.000 deaths since 1990. (Approximately 40% of fatalities occur when alarm operates and 20% occur when detector disabled.)



  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Milton, GA


    Hi Jay,

    Good luck with this.

    I've seen a lot of news stories lately example about other fire departments running tests on the ionization detectors and getting the same results: for smoldering fires, the photoelectric detector is much better.

    A recent development:
    Indiana's fire marshall says
    The state's official position advocates that all Indiana homes be equipped with photoelectric or dual sensor smoke alarms which, according to the fire marshal, provide better overall protection than the more popular ionization smoke alarm. LINK
    I am puzzled why when I visit Home Depot and Lowe's here in Atlanta, all I see on the shelves are ionization detectors. You can still get good photoelectric smoke alarms from Kidde, First Alert, etc. online from Amazon.com, etc. priced only $5 more than the ionization models in the store. Dual sensor models cost about $10-20 more.

    I haven't seen much online debate from experts defending the ionization detectors. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place -- can anyone point me to the right place?

    Some experts say smoke from smoldering fires accounts for half the fire deaths in the US. PDF link It makes sense at LEAST SOME of the detectors be photoelectric type.

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