Updated: Apr 15
Recently we sat down with Adrian Butler, Chairman of The World Fire Safety Foundation, to discuss why for the first time, The World Fire Safety Foundation had chosen to endorse our product, The S-Series. We also explored Adrian’s background to learn more about what drove him to establish the organization, as well as some of the dangers surrounding the Ionization “smoke” alarm.
Why did The World Fire Safety Foundation choose to endorse the S-Series?
One of the biggest issues we face is the misrepresentation of the danger associated with fire. The fire industry has perpetuated this myth that there are “two types of fire,” therefore you need two types of smoke alarms. You need an Ionization for the flaming fire and a photoelectric alarm for the smoldering fire; then, you will be well protected. Most fatal fires begin with an extended smoldering stage which can last from several minutes to hours before erupting into flames. Ionization alarms will not sound with the presence of visible smoke. In New Zealand, extensive testing of ionization alarms in smoldering fires were performed in 2006, 2010, 2014, and 2018 by the nation’s independent consumer protection group, ‘Consumer New Zealand.’ These tests provide scientific evidence that Ionization alarms are dangerous. In every test, every Ionization alarm failed every time.
Ionization alarms simply do not detect visible smoke. They are submicron particle detectors; they detect the hot, invisible particles given from a naked flame or the red-hot heating element of the toaster or griller. Since most fatal fires begin with an extended smoldering stage, you need an alarm that will sound at this early stage. That is why we were so excited when SAAM came along. Even with a photoelectric alarm, the delay between the start of the fire and the detection can be considerable. With the S-Series detecting as much as four times faster, it provides the much-needed time to evacuate safely.
What is your background? I used to work as a full-time fireman in the 70’s. In 1993, my business partner, Karl Westwell, and I started a security franchise across Australia and New Zealand. With my background as a retired firefighter, we decided to expand the business to include smoke alarms and other fire safety equipment. Our 100 plus franchisees sold tens of thousands of ionization alarms. As our business grew, we started to receive complaints. The alarms would often go off when people were cooking but would often fail to sound when a real fire started. We started researching and discovered to our amazement that even though the issue had plagued ionization alarms since they were first introduced back in the ’60s, that the truth about them had been with-held from the public and even our firefighters. In December of 1999, The Washington Post published an especially damning article, ‘How Safe are Products Bearing the UL Mark? The Post’s report exposed flawed U.S. safety standards testing of ionization alarms. One month later, ‘Silent Alarms,’ an award-winning documentary, aired across Canada. We knew we had to take action as ionization alarms are in hundreds of millions of homes around the world. In March 2000, we formed The World Fire Safety Foundation to warn about ionization alarms. Given the overwhelming evidence that ionization alarms were not safe, we thought it would only take a few years to solve this problem – but that was more than 20 years ago! Ionization alarms are submicron particle detectors, and in fact, when they were first released, it was not called a smoke alarm. It was known as a “product of combustion detector” because they detected flame, but it didn’t detect visible smoke. Most fatal fires begin with an extended, low heat smoldering stage which can last from several minutes to hours before erupting into flames. Ionization alarms will not sound with the presence of visible smoke. Don’t believe us? Check out this video. . What makes Ionization alarms so dangerous?
Ionization alarms are insidious. They lull people into a false sense of security when they go off when cooking, which misleads people into believing they will go off early in a real-world fire. Most people have no idea that most fatal fires begin with an extended, low heat smoldering stage. In this early smoldering stage, the same alarm that falsely sounds while making toast remains silent while your home is slowly filling with toxic smoke and deadly gasses. It isn’t until the smoldering fire finally bursts into flames that the ionization alarm sounds. Tragically it’s often too late.