How is DeTech Dealing With The Issue of Children Not Being Awakened By Smoke Detectors

I am sure that most everyone has heard about this issue recently. It originated with a study that was done in Wisconsin and the news has swept the country like a landslide. It has been the topic of many articles, TV news and even TV specials. This issue has gotten the attention of many experts, including some at the NFPA. Why shouldn’t it? The findings of the study go against the common thinking that a smoke detector or two is all we need to wake our family in the case of a fire. It is always startling (and disturbing) to find out that something we have held to be a truth, turns out to be false. Especially when our lives and the lives of our children were depending on that truth.

DeTech recently received a letter from a state fire marshal, asking what we intended to do about the situation. What changes did we intend to make to help cure the problem? WOW…what a great question. It made us really think. The first, most obvious answer to the problem is louder alarms. (DeTech already has the loudest rated single station alarms available) If you remember though, the study showed that children also would not wake up to decibels equal to a rock band or a jet engine! The study clearly showed that the sound it would take to wake these children from a sound sleep would also destroy their eardrums. Obviously, this is not an option. So what in the world can we do if the children can’t hear the fire alarm, yet we can’t make it louder? We at DeTech took this question very seriously and again, this made for some interesting thoughts and conclusions. The more we thought about this and discussed it with many experts, the more we realized that DeTech already IS the answer to this problem.

Those that have spent many years in this industry and have really studied why people die in home fires have seen the public try and try to find cheap and easy ways to protect their families from fire, only to find out (usually too late) that it was not enough. We have watched the death rate increase 5 of the past 9 years and go up almost 18% in 2004 alone. In reality, it’s about time someone noticed!

What About The New “Voice Alarms”

Be careful! Virtually every time there is a tragic situation, there are many “knee-jerk” reactions to try to help the problem. Some ideas are born of genuine concern for a solution, but they are seldom the cure, since they are often not tested and thoroughly thought out. DeTech believes that is the case with this type of alarm. Several problems arise with this technology. To start with, the test results are extremely mixed and NO scientific studies have yet been done. In the limited testing that has been done, the voice alarms have not proven to work at all for some children. Second, to our knowledge, none of these alarms have passed UL or ULC because the NFPA requires a 3-pulse temporal sound, which these do not have. Third, these are all the ionization type of alarm, which have proven to be incredibly ineffective at detecting a smoldering fire in numerous scientific studies, so the family still would have inadequate protection and a very good chance that the alarm won’t work for that type of fire anyway. Finally, and possibly most important, the only way the children could hear the “voice” is if the smoke was in the bedroom or possibly right outside the bedroom in the case of a hallway alarm. While this may be adequate for a fire that would start in the bedroom itself, the likelihood is that the fire will be in another part of the home. According to the NFPA, the whole idea of complete fire protection, and the only way to get an early warning is to know about the fire while it is still in the room of origin. In other words, why would you want to wait for the fire and smoke to get to you before you know about it? That is often why it is too late.

What Should We Be Looking For?

Here is an interesting question that maybe we should all ask ourselves before we try to answer the other questions about this issue. When my family’s life is at stake, should I be trying to find the easiest and cheapest way to protect them, or should I be trying to find the best and most complete way? Good question…what is your answer? Many families can’t afford complete fire protection, so the codes have been written to be a minimum and overlook, or at least not directly address quality. (See NFPA 72-02 p 155 and Fire Journal – Sept/Oct issue, p52)

Today, quality fire protection costs no more than what the average family spends on cable TV for just a few years, no more than your last computer. Over a lifetime, it costs no more than it costs to take your family to a ballgame or to a play once a year! What are our priorities?

If real fire safety is a priority to you, and you earlier answered that you want to protect your family in the best and most complete way…read on for DeTech’s answer to this problem.

DeTech’s Answer

To start with, it makes sense that if our children can’t hear the alarms; we need to be sure the adults know about the fire in time. In fact we need to know about it sooner than was previously thought, since the adults are obviously going to have to get to the children to wake them up. This can be accomplished by having alarms in all areas of the home to eliminate the chance that a fire can get out of control before we know about it. With more riding on each alarm than we thought, it would also make sense that we need to have the best quality smoke detectors, so we are sure they will work every time and work as soon as possible. That thought needs to go to another level if we want to be sure. We need to know about a fire right away, which means while it is in the room where it started, but many areas of the home (and some of the most dangerous areas) do not allow us to put smoke detectors. Therefore, we need to consider heat detectors in those areas for complete protection. DeTech’s heat detectors have a louder and very unique sound that it much harder to sleep through.

Since an early warning has become more important, we also need to address a problem that seems to be getting worse…proper installation. Many builders of new homes do not understand proper installation either. They install according to code, but remember, that current codes are only a minimum and do not guarantee the optimum location. On the surface, it would seem that installing smoke detectors could be done by anyone, but that misconception is a huge part of the problem. There are dozens of factors involved in proper installation, including dead air spaces and airflow that can effect whether or not the alarms will work in time. This should only be done by trained professionals, which is the reason that DeTech spends so much time and effort on education and training and why all Safety Consultants are required to pass a test on installation.

Affordable Monitoring Provides An Increased Level Of Protection

Another answer could be to have a monitored system that will automatically dial the emergency services when there is a fire. A monitored system alone is not the answer, since virtually all companies (except DeTech) use the cheap ionization type smoke detectors, which have been proven to be the least effective type in a smoldering fire. These systems traditionally cost from $25-$50 per month to monitor. DeTech’s answer is to have quality optical smoke detectors along with monitoring for less than $15 per month. DeTech’s system will call the homeowner first to see if it is a false alarm, (which are extremely rare with quality photocell smoke detectors) and then call the monitoring company. With DeTech’s system, the base station has an alert whenever any of the smoke detectors in the home are activated, so it provides additional peace-of-mind if the homeowner installs the base station in the parent’s bedroom. As an added bonus, DeTech’s monitored system is wireless, so it can be moved to your new home, making it a once-in-a-lifetime investment. And better yet, if the homeowner desires, it can be programmed to call their mobile phone, in which case there are NO monitoring costs.

We Must Also Change Conventional Thinking About Escape Plans

Finally, it makes sense to modify our escape plan. We need to plan to go directly to the children’s rooms to be sure they are awake and then plan our escape from there, which is why, as mentioned earlier, time is so important. I know, we are all taught to get out the fastest way possible. While we do not disagree with this thinking, consider this…if you woke up to a fire in the middle of the night, are you going out your bedroom window without getting the kids first anyway? We didn’t think so! If you are not going to do it, at least plan for it by having an earlier warning.

There you have it! DeTech’s answer to this problem is to continue to do what we have done for years. We will continue to do our best to make sure you have the most complete protection you can afford, state-of-the-art quality, installation by trained professionals, complete service, and the best warranties in the industry. We will also continue to help educate individual homeowners on how to prevent fires and prepare an effective escape plan.

DeTech Will Continue To Be The Solution

Since our inception, DeTech’s focus has been to bring families this type of protection and to make it affordable for the average family, while giving them the best service and the best warranties in the business. DeTech will continue to serve it’s customers by always looking for the best ways to protect families, not the easiest.

Now that the increased importance of an early warning has been brought to the attention of the public, we must all make an extra effort to get this information into the hands of homeowners, friends, and family, so they can make an intelligent decision about their own family’s protection.