Smoke alarms and detectors are designed to detect a fire in its early stage and alert people so they have time to escape. Home fire fatalities have decreased dramatically over the past few decades. And while that reduction cannot be solely attributed to the use of smoke detection devices, many researchers agree that they played a substantial role.
According to Richard Roberts, Industry Affairs Manager for Honeywell Life Safety, nuisance alarms, most often caused by cooking, are the leading cause of home occupants disabling their smoke alarms. Disabled alarms account for roughly 20% of all smoke alarms, and that number may be higher in high-risk areas, such as inner cities and rural communities.
In the 2013 edition of NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, two new sections were added to the code to address nuisance alarms. The first would require that by 2016, home smoke alarm systems installed between 8-20 feet from a cooking appliance be listed for resistance to common nuisance alarms. The second would require that by 2019, all home smoke alarm systems be listed for resistance to common nuisance alarms.
However, Mr. Roberts said that performance test protocols need to be developed and added to the UL smoke detection product standards – a process that is expected to take up to five years. And because of a current lack of technical data needed to develop those protocols, a motion was filed and approved through the NFPA code development process to push out the effective date of the first requirement to 2019.
The Fire Protection Research Foundation has launched Phase 1 of a new project, "Smoke Alarm Nuisance Source Characterization" that is intended to provide data for the development of test protocols in ANSI/UL 217 and ANSI/UL 268 product standards in order to meet the NFPA 72 requirements. A report on Phase 1 is expected to be released this spring.
During today's symposium, Dr. Daniel Gottuck of Hughes Associates, Inc., provided an overview of the Research Foundation project.