Each year almost 17,000 people die in household fires. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), fires are the second leading cause of unintentional death in the home. Ironically it is rarely the fire itself that causes injury or death, but rather the smoke from the fire. It is for this reason that smoke detectors (and carbon monoxide) detectors are so important.
Whether we are talking about your own home, or a rental property, a few basic steps can help create a safer environment.
- Purchase smoke detectors that have a manufacturer’s warranty of at least five years.
- Purchase smoke detectors that have malfunction alarms that beep or chirp when the batteries are running low.
- Ensure your smoke detectors are properly installed. The preferred installation method is to have each smoke detector “hard wired” with a battery backup so that if electric power fails the smoke detector will still work. Smoke detectors should be installed away from windows, doors, or air ducts that can interfere with their operation.
- Have smoke detectors installed on every level of your home including the basement. Smoke alarms should be installed in each bedroom/sleeping area, and in rooms where there is an increased chance of a fire such as the kitchen.
- Check the batteries in every smoke detector on a regular basis. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that each residence set a date twice a year, commonly daylight savings time, to change all smoke detector batteries.
What many people may not know is that there are different types of smoke detectors. Ionization smoke detectors and photoelectric smoke detectors are both being marketed as “smoke detectors” and “smoke alarms.” Ionization smoke detectors often fail to detect smoldering fires. Smoldering fires burn very slowly and fill a home with smoke. 80 percent of household fires are smoldering fires, and most often occur at night when the occupants of a residence are sleeping. The smoke detectors in your house might not be able to detect smoldering fires which is cause for great concern.
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Important Facts About Fires/Smoke Detectors
Ionization Smoke Detectors, manufactured by Kidde, BRK, Fire X, First Alert, Firenetics and others are designed to detect fast flaming fires that give off little smoke, and unfortunately not slow smoldering smoky fires which again are the most common type of residential fire. In addition, Kidde Ionization Smoke Detectors are the most common household smoke detector on the market.
Slow burning smoldering smoky fires often go completely undetected by ionization smoke detectors. The level of smoke in a house can reach a fatal level long before these so-called smoke detectors sound an alarm. Slow-burning fires account for by far the largest percentage of home fire deaths.
Photoelectric Smoke Detectors are designed to detect slow-burning fires as well as the flash fires ionization smoke detectors specialize in handling. These smoke detectors only cost about $20 and the technology has been available for almost 30 years.
Ionization smoke detectors are currently marketed as “smoke alarms” and “smoke detectors” even though Kidde, BRK, Fire X, First Alert, Firenetics and others are aware of the numerous fatalities and injuries across the country due to the fact that ionization smoke detectors are not able to detect smoldering fires.
Some smoke detectors also offer “dual sensors” which means that the smoke detector has both ionization and photoelectric technology. Kidde, for example, is aware of this “dual sensor” technology, yet they still sell the ionization only smoke detectors to the public.
In a recent letter, Kidde Inc. stated they recommend “consumers use both types of smoke alarms in their homes.” Yet, there still has been no change to the label and packaging of ionization smoke detectors.
According to tests performed by the U.S. National Bureau of Standards photoelectric smoke detectors provide two to three times more chance of escape than ionization smoke detectors.
There are numerous cases pending across the country associated with the deaths and injuries caused by defective ionization smoke detectors.
In the past several years Messa & Associates has represented many victims who suffered catastrophic injuries, including death, as a result of a fire.
In fact, Messa & Associates is one of the few law firms in the United States with extensive experience with smoke detector/fire cases. Our attorneys have successfully litigated several cases where injuries or deaths have been attributed to smoke detectors including:
- Confidential eight-figure settlement against a leading smoke detector manufacturer and major mobile home company where a family of seven perished in a fire.
- $5.25 Million settlement against a leading smoke detector manufacturer and retailer after four ionization smoke detectors failed to alert a sleeping family of a growing fire, leading to the death of two family members.
- $3.7 million for the death of a 9 year-old boy who died in an apartment fire.
- $2.25 million for 11-year-old burn victim
- $1 million for faulty smoke detector case
- Confidential settlement involving the death of a mother and child whose smoke detector failed to sound during an apartment fire
Our Philadelphia products liability attorneys recently negotiated a substantial eight-figure settlement for the estate of a family of seven who perished in a house fire due to faulty smoke detectors. The family included five children, two of whom were twin boys. The evidence showed that ionization smoke detectors, designed, manufactured and sold by one company, were defective because they failed to sound an alarm despite the presence of significant smoke inside the house. In lieu of this tragedy, we ask everyone to please use caution and educate themselves prior to purchasing smoke detectors for their home. If you have any questions, or have been involved in an accident involving defective smoke detectors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Delaware, please contact Messa & Associates at 1–877–MESSALAW (1-877-637-2529).
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