Thursday, March 12, 2009
7 News Investigations: Alarming Danger
When you go to sleep at night you're probably comforted by the thought of your smoke alarm. If a fire breaks out you're protected, right? Wrong. You might not realize this, but there are two different kinds of fires and two very different kinds of smoke detectors. As Seven's Patrick Fraser tells us in tonight's special report, having the wrong kind of detector could put you in Alarming Danger.
WSVN -- If your house catches on fire you want two things: a smoke detector to warn you and time for your family to get out. Sheila Hackert got neither.
Sheila Hackert: "He heard his father say, 'Oh, my God! Oh, my God!' He heard his sister screaming for help and couldn't get to her."
Sheila's husband and daughter died when their house went up in flames. She had a smoke detector that didn't go off because it was the wrong kind.
Sheila Hackert: "If it's an ionization, like I had, and you have a fire like I had, then you might as well write off that whole family cause they're not going to get out."
It's estimated that 90 percent of homes with smoke alarms have ionization detectors, which are built to detect flaming fires, but most homes are destroyed by smoldering fires, which are best detected by a photoelectric detector.
Russell Ashe: "Somebody is going to die tonight because they don't have photoelectric smoke alarms in their homes. Somebody is going to die tonight because they don't know."
Patrick Fraser: "Many people, me included, assume there is one kind of detector, and you may not even know what type you have. Here on the back is where you find out what type you have, an I for ionization to detect flaming fires or a P for photoelectric to detect smoldering, smokey fires, and if you have the wrong one, you're life can be at risk."
Mike Pinkans: "Kelly called 911. At this point, our smoke detectors, nothing was going off."
The Pinkans smelled smoke in their Vermont home and rushed outside, then watched as the smoldering fire erupted into flames.
Mike Pinkans: "Right when the fire department arrived, when the truck arrived, that's when the smoke detectors went off."
Their smoke detectors were like the ones in most homes: ionization, designed to detect flames.
Matthew Cetin: "That's kind of how we got started. As firefighters we always question why. Why did this have to happen?"
Vermont's Barre Fire Department sounded the alarm over the detectors after four family members in their city died in a fire. The home had the wrong type of smoke detector.
Matthew Cetin: "The old smoke detector line of: any smoke detector is good is not true anymore."
Coral Springs firefighters ran tests for us. Each detector sounded the alarm for the type of fire it was built for before the other alarm.
The obvious solution, just ask Lici Merritt what type of alarm she uses to protect her family.
Lici Merritt: "Mine is the detector that has ionization and photoelectric built in."
Sheila Hackert learned about the dual smoke detectors after she buried her husband and daughter.
Sheila Hackert: "You need to have photoelectric or ionization together in order to get out. Time is of the essence."
Today, her attorney wants everyone to know about the dual smoke detectors before they need it.
Jim Hacker: "If you have children, if you have parents, if you want as much time as possible to get out of your house in all types of fires, reach in your wallet and spend the extra $25 and get yourself a combination detector."
A few dollars to save precious lives.