TN man designs smarter, more efficient smoke detector - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

TN man designs smarter, more efficient smoke detector

(WMC-TV) - If there is a fire at your house, there is one thing that could make the difference between life and death. It is a smoke detector. But a common complaint about smoke detectors is, of course, the false alarm. Technology developed in Tennessee could be the answer to the most common complaint people have about this life saving device.

When a smoke detector begins going off, a common reaction is to take the batteries out. Some will do anything to make the awful noise stop.

"Typically, they'll forget to put it back in, or during the time that it's out, they don't have any protection," said firefighter Kim Lawson.

Two-thirds of fire deaths can be prevented by functioning alarms, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

"It's a very big problem," added Lawson.

A problem that Bruce Wormack of Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory is working to change. He designed a new smoke detector, one he says is smarter and more efficient.

The new alarm uses special sensors and an algorithm to measure heat, rather than just smoke. This technology means the detector can sense the difference between burned food and real danger.

He also believes it can detect a slow burning, smoldering fire up to 30 minutes sooner than the average detectors.

Right now, these new smoke detectors are not being sold to the public, but Wormack is working with manufacturers to get them on store shelves.

"We are hopeful that it stays very cost effective and cheap enough, so that people can actually purchase these and use them in their homes," said Lawson.

Firefighters and designers alike hope this change in smoke detectors as we have known them for decades will save lives.

"Love to have a hand in being able to save some lives. And this has a really good potential of doing that," said Wormack.

Designers say the heat measuring feature adds less than a dollar to the cost of a regular alarm. The new alarm also features a carbon monoxide detector and an alert that sounds at a lower frequency.

That sound, they say, is more effective at waking up children and senior citizens.

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