Next Gen Smoke Alarms Could Significantly Reduce Fire Deaths

A new breed of smoke alarms incorporates military technology that is said to be superior to either ionization or photoelectric technologies.

A new generation of smoke alarms could prove as significant in reducing fire deaths as the nearly 75% reduction witnessed since the first battery-operated ionization smoke alarms were introduced more than 40 years ago, according to

The cutting-edge alarms incorporate an adaptation of technology used by the military in chemical and biological weapon detectors called Linear Discriminator Analysis or LDA. The detector compares the chemical or biological makeup of the atmosphere against certain programmed models to alert against potential hostile or contaminated areas, according to the article.

In the following passage the article’s author, Robert Rielage, describes how LDA could be applied in fire detection: 

In late August 2015, the U.S. Fire Administration issued a report “Smart Smoke Alarm.” This report described recent testing by the Oak Ridge Laboratories in the use of microcontrollers programmed to hunt certain patterns in the atmosphere geared to the early detection of a fire. For example, one microcontroller might be programmed to detect levels of carbon monoxide, another for temperature changes and a third for smoke and flame detection.

The LDA comes into play by developing a mathematical model where when these interacting microcontrollers combine to reach certain parameters, they activate the smoke alarm, thus alerting the occupants of a fire.

Perhaps even more critical to the equation, this technology can better discriminate between an actual fire and a nuisance alarm. This reduces incidents of a resident disabling the smoke alarm due to repeated false alarms or of fire department response for a system malfunction.

The USFA report indicated that using LDA technology is superior to either ionization or photoelectric technologies. The findings were based on both current data from fire research modeling and actual fire testing using the UL 217 fire tests, as well as the proposed newer flaming and smoldering foam tests.

Given the current reduction in the cost of microcontrollers and 10-year batteries, manufacturers are expected to soon bring this new generation of smoke alarms to market without a significant cost increase, according to the article.

The proven LDA mathematical model, coupled with a 10-year battery and perhaps interconnectivity among smoke alarm stations, could make residences significantly safer, according to the article, which concludes with: 

Remember, 80% of the fire deaths in the U.S. still occur in residential structures. And a significant number of our annual firefighter line-of-duty deaths occur in our “bread and butter” residential fire setting.

Providing ways for residents and firefighters to be safer through better technology that provides earlier detection and response should be a goal for every fire chief, company officer and firefighter.

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About the Author


Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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