Photoelectric and Ionization Smoke Detectors

Slow moving fires are the leading cause of fire related deaths in homes and the most commonly installed type of smoke detector in the U.S. is not designed to detect smoldering, slow-moving fires.

Failed Smoke Detector Lawyer, BostonFailed Smoke Detectors Can Result in Preventable Injuries Due to Smoke Inhalation, Carbon Monoxide Poisoning, and Fatalities

Most people think that smoke detectors are built and designed to detect smoke and sound an alarm to alert residents and building occupants. However, most smoke alarms only detect heat — not smoke.   This means that every room in a house or building could be filled with smoke and a smoke detector still might not sound the alarm unless enough heat is detected. In most cases it is too late to evacuate when enough heat reaches the smoke alarm to trigger the alert.

Most smoke detectors use one of two smoke detection technologies: ionization or photoelectric technology. The vast majority of smoke detectors that are sold and installed in the United States use ionization technology. These ionization smoke detectors are not sufficient to protect people and structures because they are only capable of detecting combustion particles which are found in a full flaming fire, flash fire or fast moving fire.

Flames and heat pose significant risks to fire victims, but smoke inhalation, which includes breathing carbon monoxide and other toxic fumes is the leading cause of fire-related deaths.

Why Ionization Fire Alarms Fail to Provide Adequate Protection in Slow Moving Fires

Ionazation Fire Alarms

Ionization fire alarms are not good at detecting slow moving, smoldering, smoky fires that usually burn in homes and residences in the early morning hours. These slow moving fires are the leading cause of fire related deaths in homes. These slow moving, smoldering fires also produce toxic poison gas that can fill a house before a fire turns into a full flaming fire. These gases can kill a resident before the fire does or they can render residents unconscious and incapable of escaping the house before the fire transitions into a full fire.

Most people who purchase ionization smoke detectors are not aware that they are not effective at detecting slow burning, smoldering fires. The following is a list of some of the brands and manufacturers of ionization smoke alarm:

  • Nest Protect
  • Nighthawk
  • Kidde
  • BRK
  • First Alert
  • BKR
  • United Technologies
  • Fire Sentry

Photoelectric Smoke Detectors

Photoelectric smoke detectors are only found in 1 out of every 10 buildings. These detectors use a beam of light that is capable of detecting smoke. Photoelectric smoke alarms shoot a beam of light and when smoke particles cross the beam of light they cause the beam of light to scatter which triggers the alarm.

These smoke detectors are much more effective at detecting smoldering fires which  are the leading cause of fire related deaths in homes. However, they are not effective in detecting fast moving flash fires that spread quickly but produce little smoke. Photoelectric fire alarms are also prone to false alarms. Hot water steam and cooking fumes can also scatter the alarm’s beam of light and trigger the alarm.

Injured By A Photoelectric or Ionization Smoke Detector In Massachusetts?

If you or a loved one has been injured by a ionization smoke detector, then call the smoke alarm lawsuit lawyers at the law offices of Gerald J. Noonan today. We have a proven track record with over 35 years of legal experience. Our ionization smoke detector lawyers have successfully represented victims of fires for decades and we are ready to take on your case today.

Massachusetts Injury Trial Lawyers Equal Justice


We offer a free, no-obligation legal consultation to help you understand your rights and the value of your case.

Failed Smoke Detector Injury Attorneys

Our law firm is available to assist clients throughout Massachusetts, including but not limited to: Plymouth County including Brockton, Plymouth, Bridgewater, Wareham, Abington, Rockland, Whitman, Hanson, Holbrook Middleboro; Norfolk County including Quincy, Stoughton, Dedham, Weymouth, Braintree, Randolph, Canton, Sharon, Brookline, Franklin; Bristol County including New Bedford, Fall River, Taunton, Wrentham, Attleboro, Mansfield, Easton, Raynham; and Middlesex County including Cambridge, Lowell, Somerville, Newton, Woburn, Framingham, Malden, Chelsea, Everett, Arlington, Medford and Waltham; Cape Cod, Barnstable, Hyannis, Falmouth; Springfield & Worcester; Essex County including Lynn, Lawrence, Peabody, Haverhill; and the Greater Boston area including, Revere, Dorchester, and Roxbury.New Bedford, Fall River, Taunton, Attleboro, Westport, Dartmouth, Mansfield, Easton, Raynham, Lakeville, Norton; Cape Cod, Hyannis, Falmouth, Barnstable and the Greater Boston area including Cambridge, Somerville, Medford, Everett, Lawrence, Lynn, Revere, Dorchester, Roxbury.

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