Silent Alarms; Deadly Differences: 90 Percent of U.S. Homes Estimated to Have Less-Accurate Fire Alarm


The American Society of Home Inspectors Advocates the Use of Photoelectric Smoke Alarms

DES PLAINES, IL – September 6, 2013 – (RealEstateRama) — The American Society of Home Inspectors® (ASHI) is urging homeowners to replace ionization fire alarms, which account for over 90 percent of alarms in use according to the National Fire Protection Association, with photoelectric sensing alarms.

Intended to be the first line of warning for residential fires, smoke alarms have failed to provide warning in too many cases. Skip Walker, an ASHI and Fireplace Investigation, Research and Education (FIRE) certified inspector, said that while over 100 million U.S. homes currently have installed alarms, the chances of surviving a fire has only gone up 16 percent over the past 40 years. “The numbers didn’t improve significantly, which doesn’t make sense,” said Walker.

Although studies show ionization alarms are responsive in flaming fires, they often fail to detect immediately smoldering fires. In fact, the Smoke Characterization Project Technical Report, released by Underwriters Laboratories Inc. on behalf of The Fire Protection Research Foundation, found 91 percent of ionization alarms failed to trigger at all in smoldering fires due to synthetic materials like mattress foam and nylon carpet. Smoke inhalation from smoldering fires is a common cause of death in home fires than exposure to flaming mode fires.

Photoelectric alarms are less-susceptible to nuisance alarms—such false alarms from cooking—and dramatically superior at detecting smoldering fires, particularly those that involve synthetic materials.
“All of the facts tell us that photoelectric alarms provide superior protection in real-world fatal fires,” said Bill Jacques, ASHI President. “We recommend that homeowners replace their ionization alarms with photoelectric alarms whenever possible.”

The official ASHI position is based solely on the facts that are available today and has not been mitigated by the opinions of other groups or organizations. Additional information about ASHI’s official position about smoke detectors is also available in the June issue of the ASHI Reporter. For more information about the organization, please visit


About the American Society of Home Inspectors Founded in 1976 and with more than 5,000 members, ASHI is the oldest and most respected non-profit, professional organization of home inspectors in North America. Its Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics is the industry standard. For more information, visit ASHI online. To stay connected to ASHI news and updates, please visit the association’s Facebook Fan Page and Twitter.

Media Contact: Stephanie Colpo, PCI
312-558-1770, ext. 160

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