Smoke Detectors – Are you really Protected? – There are two types of smoke detectors, one that can sense small smoke particles produced by fast-moving flaming fires (Ionization type detectors) and the other senses smoldering fires that begin slowly and burn without a flame for a long period of time (Photoelectric detectors).

Ionization Alarms – Uses a radioisotope, typically Americium-241, to ionize air; a difference due to smoke is detected and an alarm is generated. Ionization detectors are more sensitive to the flaming stage of fires than optical detectors, while optical detectors are more sensitive to fires in the early smoldering stage.

Ionization smoke detectors are usually cheaper to manufacture than optical (photoelectric) detectors. They may be more prone to false alarms triggered by non-hazardous events than photoelectric detectors, and may be much slower to respond to typical house fires.

Photoelectric Alarms – A photoelectric, or optical smoke detector contains a source of infrared, visible, or ultraviolet light (typically an incandescent light bulb or light-emitting diode), a lens, and a photoelectric receiver (typically a photodiode). May be better suited for those slow smoldering fires.

Ionization vs PhotoelectricWhich One Do I choose – Although photoelectric alarms are highly effective at detecting smoldering fires and do provide adequate protection from flaming fires, fire safety experts and the National Fire Protection Agency recommend installing what are called combination alarms, which are alarms that either detect both heat and smoke, or use both the ionization and photoelectric processes. Some combination alarms may include a carbon monoxide detection capability.

NBC Today reported on how the most common smoke detectors may not go off in timeview the video.

Type and Age of Smoke Detectors – To know the difference between ionization and photoelectric alarms, you need to take the smoke alarm down and look at the back. Ionization alarms all contain a trace amount of a radioactive material, Americium 241. They’ll all have a warning about this on the back side. Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors DO NOT last forever, they actually have a 7-10 years Make sure you look for this and purchase a unit that has not expired.

Placement of Smoke Detectors – Since smoke rises it’s important that smoke detectors are place on or near ceilings. There are areas which should be avoided and in many cases you may require multiple detectors. The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs website can provide more info…Please read it, you may save a life!


Carbon Monoxide Detectors it’s the Law – The Ontario Government passed a law in late 2014 – Ontario Regulation 194/14 requiring carbon monoxide detectors to be in every home on every floor especially near all sleeping areas, such as bedrooms and or rooms that somebody might fall asleep in, such as in an unfinished basement where there is a couch. For added protection carbon monoxide detectors should be placed in every bedroom and as close to sleeping areas on every floor.

You can purchase models which plug into an electrical outlet or you can purchase a dual unit which is a smoke and carbon monoxide detector in one package.

Placement of Carbon Monoxide Detectors – The placement of the carbon monoxide detectors is very important, because carbon monoxide moves freely in the air they can be placed low at floor level or high at ceiling level. The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs website can provide more information on the exact placement of carbon monoxide detectors make sure you look around the site it has some good info. Make sure you also read where NOT to place carbon monoxide detectors. You can also look over CMHC’s Bulleting on Carbon Monoxide.

Where to Buy – There are individual units, combination units (smoke and carbon detectors) or (photoelectric and ionization smoke detectors) you can get them in battery or hardwired (house wiring) connection. Carbon Monoxide detectors can be plugged into a wall outlet or hardwired. You can now purchase detectors with lights and even ones for hearing impaired. So many to choose from. I recommend to do some homework, figure out which ones best for you…there are even NEST type detectors now which may give you even more flexibility. You can also start with the manufacturer Kidde very popular in Ontario, there are other manufacturers, it’s up to you to choose.

Interconnected alarms – Are highly recommended and this may also be the law especially for newer, last 14 years, homes and rental basements/units. Interconnected means when one alarm goes off they ALL go off. Interconnected is the way to go.

One last note – To this day even with all of the TV reports of smoke and carbon monoxide related deaths, I still see so many homes that do not have smoke detectors and or carbon monoxide detectors. Many have outdated units, no units in key locations and or units in the wrong locations. Remember, your family and pets can’t do it, so it’s up to you!

I also recommend that in basements you provide carbon monoxide detectors and in some cases you may even benefit with multiple units depending on how the basement is configured, it may be the law…read the Ontario Fire Regulation 194/14 for more information.


Your family (kids) and pet/s count on you…better to be safe then sorry!

Read more on Pet Fire Safety.