Fire Marshal 'pleased' with free pizza promo

Smoke detectors are not all created equal. A detector test conducted by the Hook with assistance from local fire officials revealed in June that ionization models may not activate until it's too late to escape.

A creative smoke detector promotion by Albemarle County Fire Department yielded free pizza for lucky–- and safety conscious–- Domino's Pizza customers last week. The October 7 promotion promised customers of the Seminole Trail store a free pizza if a county firefighter riding along with the delivery driver determined that all of the home's smoke detectors were functioning.

Barber says three firefighters teamed up with three delivery drivers from 4-7pm and served up about a dozen free pies.

"I would have liked to have gotten more houses, but overall I'm pleased," says County Fire Marshal James Barber, who adds that the department deliberately limited the scope of the promotion because it was their first attempt and they didn't know how strong response would be. Barber expects the department to repeat the promo in about six months, and says that "hopefully, it'll be expanded."

Despite the relatively low number of pizza calls, to the firefighters' delight, the detectors were working at almost every home they visited. "We replaced two batteries," says Barber, "but every home we went to, the detector basically was functional."

Barber says the firefighters answered residents' questions about detectors, including about the different types of detectors–- ionization and photoelectric. As the Hook has reported on extensively, ionization detectors–– the type found in at least 90 percent of American homes–– are actually flame detectors and, in our test, as in many others conducted around the country, appeared woefully inadequate at detecting the smoke from a smoldering fire, the type of fire most likely to kill people while they’re sleeping at night. The other type, photoelectric detectors, are fastest at detecting smoke from smoldering fires and have the added benefit of being less prone to false alarms, which are the leading cause of people disabling their detectors.

Although the International Association of Fire Fighters in August passed a resolution in favor of photoelectric detectors and condemning ionization models, Barber maintains he doesn't believe ionization poses a risk to homeowners. "They work differently," he says.

Boston Deputy Fire Chief Jay Fleming agrees that no one should throw away their ionization detectors unless they're ready to replace them immediately with photoelectric models (or, if they prefer, with combination models, like the ones given out by the city and county through their free detector programs. Combination detectors, Fleming points out, are still susceptible to false alarms). And while he agrees that ionization detectors are better than no detector, he likens them to another type of safety device.

"An ionization detector is like a seatbelt that works 50 percent of the time," he says. "That seatbelt would be considered an unacceptable device for life safety. "

Fleming says he applauds the County's efforts to raise fire safety awareness, but he believes promotions can go a step further in educating the public.

"We're into our 30th year of convincing the public to use smoke detectors," he says. "I'm not saying that that message is bad; I just think the public deserves the complete package now."


you lost me at Domino's

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