Fire Safety: Knowing the Facts about Life Saving Smoke Detectors

One man's efforts to make a difference after the death of his daughter and what you should know to keep your home and family safe. 

By: Kelley Ujvary

Date: March 22, 2011

In June 2010, Dean Dennis came to UC to speak about his daughter, Andrea, who had lost her life in a house fire at the Ohio State University in Columbus.  Andrea, and four others who died in the fire, had Ionization smoke detectors in their house that never went off the night they died.
Ionization detectors contain a small amount of radioactivity that conducts electricity.  Electricity flows between two electrodes in a chamber and when this flow is interrupted, the alarm goes off.  These detectors are most beneficial in situations such as a grease fire in the kitchen. 

Photoelectric detectors contain a beam of light and a photocell within the chamber.  When smoke enters, it deflects the beam, causing it to strike the photocell and set off the alarm, allowing for more sensitivity to faint smoke conditions. 

Photoelectric trumps ionization detectors when it comes to home safety. “This is not to say you should remove all of your ionization detectors,” says UC-CEAS Fire Science professor, Larry Bennett, “They are definitely useful, but adding additional photoelectric ones is essential to increasing safety.” 

The price difference on these items is a mere $3.00. 

Awareness on this topic is a must and Dennis is now doing his part so no family has to go through what he did.  He now travels around the country to speak of the importance of knowing the facts as a tribute to his late daughter Andrea.  As well, the Colerain Township Fire Department sent a letter to every resident encouraging them to add these additional detectors. 

CEAS would like to encourage you to spread awareness of this fire safety issue to your friends and family.  For more information, please view the Smoke Alarms Presentation that was delivered in June.