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Posted: 5:20 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012

Not all smoke alarms are alike

Fire at Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences, Sept. 5, 2012
Fire at Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences, Sept. 5, 2012

By Glenn Schroeder

TULSA, Okla —

Selecting the right kind of smoke alarm is vital in protecting lives and providing the earliest warning in an event of a fire.

The two most recognized smoke alarm technologies are ionization and photoelectric. 

Ionization is better for flaming fires, while photoelectric does a better job detecting smoldering fires. 

What should you buy? 

Stan May with the Tulsa Fire Department says, "The main issue is that smoke detectors work, regardless of which kind they are.  You're not going to be able to determine if you're going to have a flaming or a smoldering fire." 

The vast majority of alarms rely on ionization technology. 

Estimates show that at least one-third of fatal home fires involve a significant smoldering period. 

That is the major reason why there has been such a push to replace ionization smoke alarms with photoelectric smoke alarms. 

The National Fire Protection Association recommends both technologies in homes. 

In addition to individual ionization and photoelectric alarms, combination alarms that include both technologies in a single device are available.