Richard Ray

Smoke Detector Lab Could Save Lives, Safety Experts Say

If a smoke detector blares at the first sign of burnt toast, some people may be tempted to remove the device’s batteries. But forgetting to re-insert the batteries can lead to terrifying consequences if a real fire flares up in your home.

However, requirements for smoke detectors are now changing. Manufacturers have been tasked with designing detectors to limit so-called “cooking nuisance alerts."

“Which will lead to fewer alarm disablements. People will not be taking them down as frequently, taking the batteries out,” said UL engineer David Mills.

Mills and his colleagues at Northbrook-based UL have been testing smoke detectors that are still in the certification process. They are using a new air-tight and climate-controlled smoke room where smoke detectors can be tested under a variety of conditions.

“We want to save lives and we recognize the importance of smoke alarms,” said UL vice president Barb Guthrie.

According to safety experts, today’s fires are burning hotter and faster because of larger room sizes and synthetic materials found in homes. They said people have less than three to four minutes to escape their homes.

UL said its new testing laboratory will ultimately benefit the public.

“You will again want it to make certain that these alarms respond to what represents the full facet of what we see in our homes and in our residences and in our buildings now,” Guthrie said.

While newer model smoke detectors are still going through the certification process, UL said the devices should be on store shelves soon.

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