Company developing smarter smoke detectors to keep your family safe

PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images

NORTHBROOK, Ill. — Burgers are on the menu today at the Underwriters Laboratories testing facility in Illinois. It’s not a taste test, but rather a smoke detector test.

And these are actually failing new smoke detector standards.

“You’re cooking in your kitchen, you’re burning toast or the burger burnt a little. It wasn’t a fire. But that alarm started going off,” said Barb Guthrie, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility at Underwriters Laboratories.

That’s called a “nuisance alarm” which can lead to a deadly decision.

“People either waved the air to get it, opened the window, or, unfortunately, took out the batteries. And by taking out the batteries, you are disabling a life-saving device. There is no smoke alarm in your home if the batteries are not in it.”

“They’ll often times take the alarm off the wall or take the battery out. Then the smoke goes away and people forget to put the battery back in,” added Lt. Michael Ball with the Milwaukee Fire Department.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, three in five fire deaths happen in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

Guthrie says her researchers are studying the properties of smoke itself. Alarms with the new standards can break down the components of smoke and sense its true danger.

Basically, the alarms will be able to ignore the burger test but alarm to a true emergency.

Research led to new enhanced standards, which led to these new multi-criteria smoke detectors that’ll be available on the market this spring. They will likely be in the $15 range from different manufacturers, but all tested by U.L.

The standards will be mandatory by 2020.