Last week, I attended an MSCA [Massachusetts Systems Contractors Association] meeting where the speaker, a well know code expert, disclosed that the 2019 NFPA-72 will call for smoke alarms that are "resistant to kitchen products of combustion". Uncharacteristically, I waited patiently for someone to ask what should have been the obvious question, but it never got asked, so let me throw it out to this audience:
Since 47% of home fires are "cooking related", according to NFPA statistics, as are 20% of home fire deaths, would any rational thinker want to decrease a life safety device's sensitivity to the most common subset of REAL combustion products, and what is it that we perhaps aren't discussing when it comes to cooking-related 'false alarms' ?
I happen to have combo smoke/heat smoke alarms in my house, and I must admit that when my dear wife occasionally, noticeably obscures vision in the kitchen while frying or broiling some delicacy or other, those combustion products do, in fact manage to migrate to the smoke alarm at the bottom of the stairwell, and yes, we get an alarm, but, my friends, is that a FALSE alarm ? I say no, because without personal intervention, that smoke could soon become an open flaming fire.
As we should all be aware, once open flaming is achieved, fire growth tends to be geometric. Additionally, we must consider the greatly reduced time for successful evacuation when confronted with the deadly combination of faster burning, more toxic home furnishings, and the drastically shortened time to structural failure resulting from the widespread use of "light weight, engineered construction". These factors would seem to argue that any significant introduced delay in reporting a potentially dangerous condition could well turn out to be particularly ill-advised.
From where I sit, Ionization smoke alarms, the cheapest of the genre available, are patently unsuitable for the uncontrolled environment that is the typical residence, yet, they, or those parts combined with photoelectric sensors, are allowed and/or required.
If statistics were kept on the proportion of false smoke alarms that were experienced by the Ionization type or those which contained Ionization sensing, might that data help us refine any causal relationships between alarm sensing type and false alarm incident rate ?
Are there other types of combined sensor alarms that might be both stable and reliable, or is it time that manufacturers consider the sale of products that are intended to be installed in the [sometimes hostile] kitchen environment ?
Why haven't we considered installing smoke alarm-compatible heat alarms within 3-5' of cooking appliances ?
Should we considered mandatory residential cooking appliance venting, and/or residential vent hood extinguishing systems ?
Surely, this industry can create better solutions that don't involve reducing already marginal protection levels and evacuation times.