The installation of photoelectric smoke detectors will be required in all new homes and businesses in the city of Palo Alto after the City Council recently voted unanimously to become the second city in the state to require such detectors. Ionization detectors are more commonly used, but one major proponent of getting residents to switch to photoelectric devices is Fire Chief Marc McGinn from Albany, which is the first city in California to mandate the switch. We’ve relayed in the past that McGinn believes that ionization smoke alarms do not react as quickly to deadly smoke and because they are prone to setting off frequently for false alarms, people often disconnect them. McGinn believes the fire industry should take an official stand on calling for the complete elimination of these ionization smoke alarms because the response of photoelectric alarms is far better. Palo Alto Online News reports:
“The council considered requiring photoelectric alarms in all new buildings, but reconsidered after learning that ionization alarms could be more effective during flash fires. Mayor Pat Burt recommended requiring builders, landlords and homeowners making major renovation to install either dual-sensor alarms or both types of alarms at areas outside the kitchen. In the kitchen area, where nuisance activation is common, photoelectric alarms will now be required.The council voted unanimously to adopt Burt's proposal. Simpkinson and Albany (California) Fire Chief Mark McGinn both argued Monday that photoelectric alarms are far safer than the ionization type. McGinn said his city has successfully switched over to the photoelectric alarms and encouraged the Palo Alto council to do so as well.”
On the opposing side, the California Fire Chiefs Association suggested the city was moving too quickly to implement the change before a proper evaluation could be conducted. As of January 1, the requirement will be in effect. For more, see here and here.