Early detection: the latest smoke alarm technology

Having smoke alarms is one thing. But having smoke alarms that aren’t connected to one another, or installing the wrong type of smoke alarms in different areas of the home can mean that you aren’t as protected as you might believe you are.

We all understand the need to have smoke alarms in the home but understanding the differences between the types of alarms available is important when deciding how to protect your family, smoke alarm expert Shaun Howes of CAVIUS says.

“Traditional smoke alarms can’t be installed in certain areas, including kitchens and garages,” Shaun says. “That’s because they have chambers in which smoke must enter to cut out the optical light to set the alarm off. In areas like kitchens and garages, traditionally, we haven’t been able to install alarms in these areas because over time, cooking grease and car fumes block the chamber, preventing smoke from entering and rendering the alarms ineffective.”

A new Thermal Heat Alarm recently launched in New Zealand by CAVIUS was designed specifically for those areas that traditionally could not be protected. “These thermal alarms have an open sensor that takes away the former issues with chambers becoming blocked, and importantly, they detect a rapid and constant change in heat, normally caused by the type of fires that break out in these areas – flaming or flash fires.”

Typically, the types of fires that erupt in kitchens and garages ignite quickly and have little to burn. Kitchens and garages, generally, incorporate hard surfaces that don’t facilitate the type of smouldering burning that other alarms pick up. The flames are generally quick and large, and don’t initially produce a huge level of smoke, which is needed to set off smoke alarms.

“Thermal alarms will detect these types of flash fires faster because rather than sensing smoke, they sense and alert the end user to a rapid and constant change in temperature,” Shaun says.

The New Zealand Fire Service now recommends that a thermal heat alarm is installed in home kitchen areas – a new recommendation that has been made since the introduction of Thermal Heat Alarms in New Zealand.

Another risk factor, particularly in larger homes or in detached or closed off parts of a house, is still the ability for the people in the home to be alerted as quickly as possible. It is when it takes time for people to be alerted to an alarm when the risk of harm is significantly increased, Shaun says. “What we have developed to overcome this issue is our Wireless Family alarms, which, using new RF technology allow all of the alarms in a home to be connected to one another so as soon as one is set off, a signal is sent to the other devices, which will then all go off.

“This is particularly important for families with children because we know that children often don’t wake to smoke alarms until they are 16 or 17 years old. So if you’ve got a standalone smoke alarm in a child’s room that is located in a different area of the house to the adults’ room, it’s possible that the adult or adults in the house won’t immediately hear the alarm sounding,” Shaun says.

The Wireless Family alarms are a new product to New Zealand, and the only one of its kind currently available in the country. There are other interconnected smoke alarm systems, but these need to be hardwired in by an electrician. “The point of difference with the CAVIUS range is that it is a DIY system.”

Setting up the Wireless Family alarms takes just a few seconds – the group of alarms bought are set next to each other, placed into ‘learn’ mode, at which point a master device is chosen (by pressing down the test button on one of the alarms) that sends a unique code to the other alarms in learn mode. Those devices will then flash, they are then placed into ‘normal’ mode, and can then be installed as normal by the homeowner.

“The aim of these new products is very simple; it’s about ensuring the earliest detection possible,” Shaun says.

Get in touch with CAVIUS on ArchiPro here to learn more about the latest smoke alarm technology.