Target 2: Two Types of Smoke Detectors, Many Different Results - WBAY

Target 2: Two Types of Smoke Detectors, Many Different Results


Target 2: Smoke Detectors

Action 2 News teams up with the Green Bay Fire Department

After every fire in Northeast Wisconsin, firefighters try answering two basic questions -- did the home have a smoke detector and did it work?

As part of Fire Prevention Week, Action 2 News is teaming up with the Green Bay Metro Fire Department.

In an eye-opening experiment, testing different types of smoke alarms, we found critical minutes are lost if you have the wrong kind of detector.

Part of the reason?

In the past four years, 17% of structure fires in Green Bay that had smoke detectors, the fire department found the detectors didn't sound.

"It's not something that's taught in school," Green Bay Metro Fire Department Lieutenant Nick Craig said. "Different types of detectors -- it's not something the manufactures are really pushing."

A national survey by the National Fire Protection Association found most people don't know what type of detector is in their home.

There are two distinct types of technologies that can appear nearly identical: ionization and photoelectric detectors.

"About 95 percent of homes across the United States most likely have ionization detectors," Craig said.

Ionization detectors are best at alarming fast-flaming fires.

But for slow, smouldering fires that start with a lot of smoke, photoelectric alarms test far superior.

Knowing the type you have, and the difference, could determine whether an alarm sounds or not.

"Twenty minutes with the amount of smoke that's in there, and how close the alarms are to where the smoke is coming from," Craig said. "That's a little concerning."


To check what kind of detector you have

  • You may need to take the device off the wall
  • Look at the back side
  • Most will identify as ionization or photoelectric
  • Some detectors combine both technologies
  • -Others may list a radioactive element - americium - that signals it's an ionization detector

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