SOURCE: Underwriters Laboratories Inc.

October 04, 2005 08:00 ET

Smoke Alarms Invaluable as Home Fires Burn Hotter, Faster

Study Shows Time to Evacuate Reduced to as Little as Two Minutes

NORTHBROOK, IL -- (MARKET WIRE) -- October 4, 2005 -- Home fires are burning hotter and up to five times faster than they did 30 years ago, according to federal research. As a result, properly maintained residential smoke alarms are even more valuable to families than a generation ago.

Last year, a study developed by the National Institute of Standards and Testing (NIST) determined that residential fires are more aggressive today than when smoke alarms first became widely available, reducing the time needed to escape some fires from 15 to 20 minutes to as little as two to five minutes.

"Fires may behave differently because homes today typically contain larger quantities and different types of materials than before," said John Drengenberg, manager of Consumer Affairs for Underwriters Laboratories (UL). "This means you need as much early warning as possible to evacuate safely. Properly installed and maintained smoke alarms remain the most effective way to protect you and your family from the risk of fire."

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the U.S. Fire Administration, the number of home fire fatalities has been cut in half since smoke alarms first became widely available during the mid-1970s. Currently, 95 percent of U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm, but 43 percent of all fatal fires occur in homes without working smoke alarms.

"Smoke alarms have been around a long enough time that most people know to evacuate immediately when they hear one," Drengenberg said. "Unfortunately, people are prone to forget that the batteries in smoke alarms need changing at least once a year and the smoke alarm itself should be replaced every 10 years."

Drengenberg also offered these tips for purchasing, maintaining and installing smoke alarms:

--  When you purchase a smoke alarm, look for the UL Mark.  The symbol
    indicates representative samples of the alarm have met UL's stringent
    safety standards;
--  You may need several smoke alarms to adequately protect your family.
    Install at least one on every level of your home, including the basement
    and outside each sleeping area;
--  If you or family members sleep with the bedroom door closed, install
    smoke alarms inside the bedroom;
--  Some individuals, particularly children, older people, and those with
    special needs, may not wake up to the sound of a smoke alarm.  You should
    be aware of this when developing a home fire escape plan;
--  Follow the manufacturer's instructions for installing smoke alarms;
--  Test smoke alarms at least once a month;
--  Don't disconnect a smoke alarm or "borrow" the batteries;
--  Replace batteries in all smoke alarms twice a year;
--  Replace the smoke alarm every 10 years, or as the manufacturer
To build upon NIST's findings, UL is conducting a groundbreaking study to determine how recent changes in household furnishings have changed the way fires behave in homes and whether those changes alter the way smoke alarms respond. For the first time, the study will investigate and characterize a range of synthetic and natural materials now commonly found in the kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms of modern homes. The research could ultimately help improve the effectiveness of smoke alarms and could lead to changes in requirements that all smoke alarms must meet.

About Underwriters Laboratories

Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) is an independent, not-for-profit product safety certification organization that has been testing products for more than 110 years. UL tests more than 18,850 types of products annually, and more than 19 billion UL Marks appear on products each year. Worldwide, UL's family of companies and its network of service providers inclue 60 laboratories, and testing and certification facilities. More information is available at

Press Contacts:

For additional information on these and other safety tips, or to schedule an interview with John Drengenberg, please contact one of the following UL representatives:

Doug Dusik, UL/Rhea & Kaiser, 630-955-6651,

Joshua Taustein, UL/Rhea & Kaiser, 630-955-6647,

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