Smoke alarms: how do I choose?

PLATTSBURGH - No fire is the same.

Smoke alarms are an effective technology when used properly to combat fires and save lives. Currently, there are two different technologies that detect specific fire types. One is photo-electronic smoke alarms and the second is ionization smoke alarms.

Plattsburgh Fire Captain Edmund Sanderson said, "Ionization smoke alarms detect flaming fires, such as grease fires in the kitchen."

Sanderson explained the technology in the ionization smoke alarms are best when used in rooms where combustible materials are used.

Usually that is in a garage, where paints and thinners are kept, a kitchen where grease and cookbooks are and in a bathroom where cleaners are used and stored.

The ionization technology uses ions or electronically charged particles in the air, to make it go off.

Sanderson added photo-electronic smoke alarms detect smoldering fires, such as cigarettes in a sofa, which typically have thick, black smoke.

This alarm type is better used in living rooms, bedrooms and kitchens, but not for grease flames and countertop fires, when the countertop itself catches fire.

Photo-electronic technology uses LED where smoke particles are trapped in the alarm's chamber causing interference with the LED beam, making it go off.

According to the training manual the Plattsburgh Fire Department uses, it states, "Smoke alarms should not be located less than 4 to 6 inches away from where the wall and ceiling meet on their surface; this space is dead air that receives little circulation.

Smoke alarms should not be mounted in front of an air supply such as a return duct, ceiling fan or dusty areas.

Plattsburgh Fire Department Chief Paul Williams said, "Place alarms in every location inside your sleeping area and outside every sleeping area. You need more than one alarm."

Williams suggested a combination of smoke alarms for the kitchen. The combination uses both ionization and photo-electronic technology for grease and countertop flames.

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