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Full-Scale Residential Smoke Alarm Performance



Thomas G. Cleary


A series of 24 full-scale experiments were conducted in a multi-room structure to examine the effects of alarm type (photoelectric, ionization, and dual sensor), alarm location, fabric type (100 % cotton and 100 % polyester), polyurethane foam density, ignition scenario (smoldering or flaming, and room configuration on smoke alarm performance. The fire source was a chair mock-up consisting of a seat and back cushion of a specific fabric and foam density, and resting on a metal frame. Each fire progressed for a time sufficient to produce multiple hazards (smoke, heat, toxic gases) throughout the compartment. Photoelectric, ionization, and dual photoelectric/ionization alarms were co-located at multiple locations to facilitate comparisons of each type of alarm. For each test, a tenability limit for smoke optical density of 0.25 m-1 was reached in the room of fire origin before the fractional effective dose limit of 0.3 for either toxic gases or heat exposure was reached. The trend in the available safe egress time provided by different alarm types was computed using smoke optical density limits of 0.25 m-1 and 0.5 m-1.
Proceedings Title
14th International Conference on Automatic Fire Detection
Conference Dates
September 8-10, 2009
Conference Location


detection, smoke alarms, full scale fire tests, egress


Cleary, T. (2009), Full-Scale Residential Smoke Alarm Performance, 14th International Conference on Automatic Fire Detection, Duisburg, -1, [online], (Accessed May 30, 2024)


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Created September 8, 2009, Updated February 19, 2017