Fire Prevention and Detection is Serious Business

The most recent development in fire detector detection deals with children and the findings of several studies which suggest they can sleep through the sound of an activated smoke alarm.


May 2003 Issue


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The most recent development in fire detector detection deals with children and the findings of several studies which suggest they can sleep through the sound of an activated smoke alarm. According to various reports, children under the age of 13 sleep so soundly during the first two hours of slumber that the sound of an average 80 decibel alarm will not alert them during the first stages of fire.

It seems clear that some children-especially young children-may at times sleep so deeply that it may not be possible for the alarm alone to arouse them to the point where they can reliably evacuate a house on their own, comments Underwriters Laboratories spokesperson John Dregenberg.

What's worse is that very often children have televisions, computers and other electronics in their rooms. Having these appliances in the bedroom increases the risk of fire.

Sleep experts suggest the poor response could be due in part to the way kids sleep. Children spend more time in the deep, dreamless phase of sleep, so even a blaring smoke alarm won't always wake them, comments Dr. Shelly Weiss, a pediatric sleep expert at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.

Underwriters Laboratory has assigned a working group to further investigate the issue and assess whether changes need to be made to the alarms themselves. However, researchers are not sure what type of change would ensure better responses from kids, but might consider altering the tone, volume or style of alarm sound.

This unit is available either as a strobe, horn/strobe or speaker/strobe.Another concern is that when they do hear the alarm, the high-pitched sound makes children confused and unsure of what to do. Fire officials often report of frightened children crawling into closets to hide from smoke and the noise of the alarm. Four inventors are addressing this issue with a talking smoke alarm. The idea for a smoke detector that lets parents record a message to tell young children what to do when there is a fire came in a dream, says Eddie Fray, one of four inventors of the KidSmart Vocal Smoke Detector.

"I dreamed there was a fire in the house and the smoke alarm told the kids to get out," recalls Fray, a 42-year-old father of three. "I almost went back to sleep, but I decided to get up and write it down."

Fray and business partner Dale McCarthy teamed up with Brent Routman and Larry Stults, who also had patented a talking smoke alarm. Routman and Stults received their patent first but agreed to partner with the other two men in a single company, Smart Safety Systems Inc.

While the outcome of these developments are still to be determined, perhaps you should be sharing with your customers that not only do smoke detectors need to be fitted on each floor, but they should also be installed in children's bedrooms. There is some very high-quality fire equipment on the market today for both commercial and residential applications.

System Sensor, for instance, places a premium on research and development, resulting in products that are reliable, sophisticated and designed for real-world applications. The System Sensor i3 Series photoelectric smoke detectors, for example, offers a plug-in design, making installation quick and simple. The i3 Series has drift compensation and smoothing algorithms designed to reduce unnecessary maintenance calls. When a two-wire i3 Series requires cleaning, it annunciates through its remote maintenance signal. The i3 Series detectors have red and green LEDs that make status indication more intuitive. By using the i3 Series reader, detector sensitivity measurement is precise and complete within seconds.

The  built-in thermal heat feature detects fires up to 135°F.The newest addition to the company's SpectrAlert line-the Selectable Output Series is available as a strobe unit, a horn/strobe or as a speaker/strobe because, when it comes to strobe notification appliances, different interior spaces require different intensities of light. All three models offer added candela settings and operate at dual voltage levels, self-adjusting for either 24 or 12 volts. At 24 volts, they can be set to provide light intensities of 15, 15/75, 30, 75 or 110 candela. At 12 volts, they will output 15 candela or 15/75.

A slide switch on the back adjusts the candela level, which is displayed in a window that remains clearly visible once the unit is installed. In horn/strobe models, a three-position DIP switch selects high or low volume, temporal or nontemporal, and mechanical or 3,000 Hz. In addition, these new products come with the unique features including their low current draw and the QuickClick easy installation system.

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