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Smoke alarms by type and battery life in rural households: a randomized controlled trial.

Yang J; Peek-Asa C; Jones MP; Nordstrom DL; Taylor C; Young TL; Zwerling C
Am J Prev Med 2008 Jul; 35(1):20-24
BACKGROUND: Although the use of smoke alarms is widely recommended, little guidance is available on the types of alarms and batteries that function best. This study examined smoke alarm and battery function 12 months after installation in rural residential households. METHODS: An RCT, involving the installation of either a photoelectric or ionizing smoke alarm with either a lithium or carbon-zinc battery, was conducted in 643 rural Iowa households in July 2003. The functionality of each installed smoke alarm was tested 12 months later. Generalized estimating equations were used to model the effects of alarm type and battery type on alarm function and false alarms 12 months after installation. RESULTS: Of 643 study homes, 98.8% had at least one functioning alarm, and 81.5% had all alarms functioning 12 months after installation. No difference was observed in alarm function between photoelectric alarms and ionizing alarms 12 months after installation (OR=1.30, 95% CI=0.88, 1.92). However, photoelectric alarms had significantly lower odds of false alarms than ionizing alarms. Alarms with lithium batteries had 91% higher odds of functioning than those with carbon-zinc batteries. The main reasons for nonfunctioning included a missing battery (30.7%); a missing alarm (28%); and a disconnected battery (11.3%). CONCLUSIONS: Although lithium batteries and photoelectric alarms are more expensive than their counterparts, the financial investment might be worthwhile in terms of overall performance.
Fire protection; Equipment design; Equipment reliability; Equipment operation; Safety equipment; Smoke detectors; Sensors; Warning devices; Fire detection systems; Fires; Batteries; Carbon; Zinc; Lithium; Ionization; Photoelectric cells; Cost effectiveness; Costs; Performance capability; Performance tests; Equipment testing
Jingzhen Yang, MPH, PhD, Assistant Professor, the Department of Community and Behavioral Health, College of Public Health, The University of Iowa, 200 Hawkins Drive, E236 GH, Iowa City, IA 52242
7440-66-6; 7439-93-2; 7440-44-0
Publication Date
Document Type
Journal Article
Email Address
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement; Grant
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
Cooperative-Agreement-Number-U07-CCU-706145; Grant-Number-T42-OH-008491
Issue of Publication
Source Name
American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Performing Organization
University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
Page last reviewed: October 28, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division