ABC Special Investigation

FRNSW "Flawed and Dangerous" Smoke Alarm Testing

Putting consumers and fire fighters lives at risk

"Fire & Rescue New South Wales testing is flawed. Ionization smoke
alarms take
30+ minutes not 30-60 seconds longer than photoelectric
 smoke alarms to activate in the early, smoldering stage of home fires.
"
Adrian Butler & Karl Westwell, Co-Founders, WFSF | QLD, Australia | 29 June 2019

Greg Mullins was the former Commissioner for Fire & Rescue New South Wales (one of the world's largest metropolitan fire departments) and the former President of AFAC, the peak representative body of all Australian and New Zealand Fire departments. Since the Australian Senate Smoke Alarm Inquiry (December 2015, see below) he has repeatedly warned that ionization alarms should be banned. After 39 years of service he left FRNSW in January 2017.

 

Twelve months later, in January 2018 false claims, based on FRNSW's flawed testing were made on national TV, i.e. that ionization alarms respond to smoldering fires just "30 seconds to a minute" slower than photoelectric alarms.  FRNSW flawed research was not peer-reviewed. However, it has now been analyzed and peer-reviewed. . .

S U M M A R Y

Feb 2006:

The Australian Government's CSIRO revealed that under Australian standards testing, ionization smoke alarms were unable to pass their scientific test for visible smoke.

 

Oct 2015:

U.S. Beasley Allen Law Firm and the World Fire Safety Foundation lodged Freedom of Information Act applications for the release of the CSIRO's test data.

 

Jan 2018:

FRNSW release research despite repeated warnings by several experts that their smoke alarm testing was flawed and had not been peer-reviewed.

 

June 2018:

WFSF takes CSIRO to court (i.e. the Administrative Appeals Tribunal) so the truth would be made public.

 

30 Oct 2019:

Peer review exposing FRNSW "flawed and dangerous" testing made public.

Part 1   22 Jan 18: Radio Interview - 8 Min. |  Online Report  |  TV Report - 5 Min.

David Isaac
Standards Australia

Committee FP002

Fire & Rescue NSW Say Research
Settles Smoke Alarm Safety Debate,
Critics Disagree

"Independent fire expert David Isaac told Radio National
Breakfast it was not a proper smoldering fire test."

Mark Whybro

Asst. Commissioner

Fire & Rescue NSW

2:10 "A former NSW fire commissioner told a Senate Inquiry in 2014 ionization alarms should be outlawed everywhere."
       
Annie Guest  |  Reporter/Producer, ABC Radio National  |  Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  22 Jan 2018

4:29  "Our research shows that no particular smoke alarm reacts the best in all situations . . ."

        Mark Whybro | Assistant Commissioner, Fire & Rescue NSW  |  NSW, Australia  |  22 Jan 2018

5:35  "Their (FRNSW) testing, I would argue, was not a proper, smoldering synthetic fire test."

        David Isaac | Member, Standards Australia Committee FP002 & FPAA |  NSW, Australia  |  22 Jan 2018

7:37  "There are times when the ionization alarm is a particularly dangerous device - and we've seen this in the U.S. with
          litigation and court cases where they are always
settled out of court with Confidentiality Orders by the manufacturers."

        David Isaac | Member, Standards Australia Committee FP002 & FPAA |  NSW, Australia  |  22 Jan 2018

Press 'Play' button above   |    Online Report - ABC Website   |    Download MP3  (8.3 Megs)

Which Smoke Alarm is Best?
National Australian TV Report  |  The Project  |  Channel 10  |  22 Jan 2018

2:29
"What makes

them (ionization smoke alarms)

so dangerous?"

Hamish Macdonald

Presenter, 'The Project'
Channel 10

2:59  "But you must think the ionization alarm is inferior otherwise you wouldn't have banned them."

 Hamish Macdonald | Presenter, The Project, Channel 10, Australia | 22 Jan 18

3:04  "The evidence to us says that photoelectric is better for detecting the smoldering fire. Now I'm
an old firefighter myself . . . just giving someone 30 seconds to a minute
* makes all the difference."

The Hon. Craig Crawford | Minister for Fire & Emergency Services, QLD, Australia | 22 Jan 18

*Note: Ionization alarms respond to smoldering fires on average 30 minutes after photoelectric alarms.

 However, approx. 30% never respond because they have been disconnected due to incessant false alarms.

  See admission of the ionization alarms' 'deadly delay' by U.S. Government (NIST) head researcher below

Part 2   19 Jun 18: Radio Interview - 7 Min.  |  Online Report

Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial
Research Organization (CSIRO)
Pressed for Controversial
Smoke Alarm Data

Louie Naumovski
Founder, Logan House Fire Support Network

Press 'Play' button above   |    Online Report - ABC Website   |   Download MP3  (7.5 Megs)

0:58  ". . .it doesn't need to have a particularly intelligent legal person to connect the dots and they can prove that the
           failure of an ionization smoke alarm to warn caused injury or death."

            David Isaac | Member, Standards Australia Committee FP002 | NSW, Australia | 19 June 2018

2:08  "As long as we can get back in the house and it's not totally destroyed, lo and behold it's an ionization smoke alarm
          fitted up on the ceiling and it just failed to activate . . . if they had had a working photoelectric smoke alarm in their

          home, we would not have had Australia's worst residential fire here in Logan."

          Louie Naumovski | Founder, Logan House Fire Support Network | QLD, Australia | 19 June 2018

4:04 "But the report did not satisfy critics, including the World Fire Safety Foundation and David Isaac who allege the
          testing methodology is dangerously flawed because the fire service does not properly understand the technology."

          Annie Guest  |  Reporter/Producer, ABC Radio National  |  Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  19 June 2018

19 June 2018

The ‘dangerous’ smoke alarm most Australians have in their homes

M O R E  > > >

An allegedly “dangerous” type of smoke alarm is installed in more than half of Australian homes.

Part 3    11 Jul 18: Radio Interview - 6 Min.  |  Online Report

Bev Butler vs Commonwealth Scientific Industrial & Research Organization (CSIRO)

Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  9 July 2018

10 October 2015
Bev Butler, WFSF Freedom of Information (FOI) Officer and Beasley Allen Law Firm (AL, U.S.A.) request the release of Australian Government's CSIRO scientific test data for ionization alarms.

9 July 2018
After almost three years of the CSIRO failing to release the test data, a public hearing was held before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). . .

CSIRO Facing an Appeal for the Release
of its ionization Smoke Alarm Test Data

3:33  "No one doubted the nobility and good work of the Foundation that Mr Butler represents. But a moral
           cause or moral outrage isn't an exception to those subsections (of the Freedom Of Information Act)."

        Annie Guest  |  Reporter/Producer, ABC Radio National Breakfast  |  AAT Hearing, Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  9 July 2018

3:08 "The CSIRO's behavior was obscene for endorsing unsafe devices."
       
Bev Butler, FOI Officer, World Fire Safety Foundation  |  AAT Hearing Testimony, Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  9 July 2018

Press 'Play' button above   |    Online Report - ABC Website    |    Download MP3  (6.5 Megs)

2 July 2018

Fire Safety Experts Call for Banning of Common Smoke Alarm

Ionization detectors are putting lives at risk . . . replace them immediately.

M O R E  > > >

9 July 2018

Why this Common Safety Device Could be Banned from Homes

Safety experts calling for the ionization smoke alarms in most QLD homes to be banned.

M O R E  > > >

9 July 2018

The CSIRO has been Taken to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Pressure mounts on the CSIRO to release sensitive ionization smoke alarm test data.

0:43  "There will be a significant drop in deaths from house fires in Australia if

           we were all mandated to have photoelectric smoke alarms in our homes."

Part 4  20 Jul 18: Radio Interview - 8 Min.  |  Online Report

Australian Building Codes
Board (ABCB) Defends Efficiency
of Ionization Smoke Alarms

"There is no statistically significant difference
 between the types of smoke detector technologies. . ."
          Neil Savery | CEO, Australian Building Codes Board

 "The World Fire Safety Foundation disagrees. . ."
Annie Guest | Reporter/Producer, ABC Radio National

Neil Savery

CEO, Australian Building Codes Board

Press 'Play' button above   |    Online Report - ABC Website    |    Download MP3  (7.6 Megs)

1:05   "You must know about the fire when it’s in its early smoldering phase; and that’s what an ionization alarm will not do. . .”
           David Isaac  |  Standards Australia Committee Member  |  AAT Hearing Testimony, Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  9 July 2018 (see below)

3:14   "There is no statistically significant difference between the types of smoke detector technologies being able to
           predict and detect what might be the likely next fire.”

           Neil Savery |  CEO, Australian Building Codes Board  |  Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  20 July 2018

6:26   "The World Fire Safety Foundation disagrees, arguing the researchers and regulators should be aware of a 2005 to
           2008 report by the United States' National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) . . . (the Foundation) are
           confident ionization smoke alarms will be withdrawn from the market. . ."

           Annie Guest  |  Reporter/Producer, ABC Radio National  |  Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  20 July 2018

World Fire Safety Foundation Comments:

Consumer New Zealand has conducted four series of independent scientific tests spanning twelve years. In every test, every ionization smoke alarm failed to activate in the early smoldering stage of fire every time.

 

Dr Paul Smith is N.Z. Consumer's Head of Testing. After their latest tests in May 2018, Dr Smith said on Radio New Zealand National: "Photoelectric in a nutshell is the technology that you want to go for and ionization is the one you want to avoid."

Neil Savery Interview

60 Minutes Ionization Alarm Exposé

THE ALARMING TRUTH

Part 5    27 Jul 18: Radio Interview - 6 Min.  |  Online Report

Australians Could Die Unnecessarily
in House Fires Due to Smoke Alarm
Policies, Claims Senior US Firefighter

Chief Jay Fleming

Boston Fire Dept, MA, USA

Press 'Play' button above   |    Online Report - ABC Website    |    Download MP3  (6.1 Megs)

0:47   ". . .this problem has been killing people, then you realize every day you don't fix it, that it's still killing people. . .”
         Deputy Chief Joseph (Jay) Fleming | UL Smoke Alarm Standard Committee Member  |  Boston Fire Department, MA, USA  |  27 July 2018

"A member of the US's smoke alarm standards technical panel warned more lives would be lost as a consequence of Australia's stance.”

How many lives have been lost because the public have not been told the truth about ionization
smoke alarms? See Chief Fleming's 2006 quote about warning the public in
'The C.A.N. Report'  (page 6)

Part 6   7 Aug 18: Radio Interview - 6 Min.  |  Online Report

U.S. Move to Beef Up Smoke
Alarm Laws Set to Spark
More Debate in Australia

Matt Golinski, Aluna & Fiancée Erin
'Running From Empty'
Australian Story, ABC  |  7 August 2018

Sean DeCrane, Underwriters Laboratories
(UL) PR Manager, Advising Australian Authorities

about US's Superior 2020 Smoke Alarm Standard

Press 'Play' button above   |    Online Report - ABC Website    |    Download MP3  (6.3 Megs)

2:13  "A 2004 U.S. government (NIST) report found they (ionization alarms) took on average 30-33 minutes longer than

          photoelectric alarms to respond to smoldering fires. . ."
          Annie Guest  |  Reporter/Producer, ABC Radio National Breakfast  |  QLD, Australia  |  7 August 2018

0:00  "The American standards body is sending an expert (Sean DeCrane) to brief Australian authorities on its progress to
           improve smoke alarm requirements . . . it is expected that an alarm (ionization) commonly used here in Australia will
           be removed from the US market."

          Fran Kelly  |  Host ABC RN Breakfast  |  QLD, Australia  |  7 August 2018

6:14  "Annie referred there to chef Matt Golinski. His journey to recovery, following the house fire that killed his wife and
          children back in 2011, will be featured tonight on 'Australian Story'."
            Fran Kelly  |  ABC Radio National Breakfast Host  |  QLD, Australia  |  7 August 2018

Australian Story - 'Running From Empty'
11:47
"We knew for sure that in Matt's case that he had working alarms in the house. But they simply didn't work."
          
Keith Golinski who is campaigning to make photoelectric smoke alarms mandatory in Australia  |  'Running From Empty'  |  7 August 2018

Part 7   14 Aug 18: Online Report

Smoke Alarm Campaigners Lose Bid
 to have CSIRO Test Data Released

Bev Butler vs CSIRO | Administrative Appeals Tribunal Hearing | Brisbane, QLD, Australia | 9 June 2018

"I was shocked and appalled, given it was such an important decision involving public safety . . . The CSIRO, the Australian
 Government and the manufacturers, they all know that these ionization alarms are not fit for purpose."

Bev Butler  |  World Fire Safety Foundation FOI Officer after AAT Appeal decision  |  Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  14 August 2018

"The ionization alarm remains common in Australian households and has been blamed for deaths, including that of celebrity
 chef Matt Golinski's wife and three children in 2011."

Annie Guest  |  Reporter/Producer, ABC Radio National Breakfast  |   Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  14 August 2018

"Because it's gone on for so long, I think the Australian Government and the manufacturers are concerned about the legal
 liabilities,"

Adrian Butler  |  Co-Founder, World Fire Safety Foundation after AAT Appeal decision  |  Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  14 August 2018

"In the United States, standalone ionization alarms are expected to be forced off the market by 2020, when a new, stricter
 standard comes into force."

Annie Guest  |  Reporter/Producer, ABC Radio National Breakfast  |  Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  14 August 2018

Online Report - ABC Website

Part 8   18 Dec 18: Radio Interview - 7 Min.  |  Online Report

Researcher Defends
 Ionization Smoke Alarm
Safety Claims

Richard M Patton, Fire Protection Engineer
Chairman world's first residential smoke alarm standard. Fire safety advocate for over fifty years

Richard Bukowski
Senior Research Engineer, National
Institute of Standards & Technology (U.S.)

1:05  "Ionization detectors are blamed for tens of thousands* of Australian deaths including those of celebrity chef

           Matt Golinski's wife and three children in 2011."
             Annie Guest  |  Reporter/Producer, ABC Radio National  |  Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  18 December 2018

            *Note: "tens of thousands" relates to global data. Hundreds of Australians have died in homes fitted with working ionization alarms.

1:46  "The studies found average delays of fifteen minutes to one hour in the response of ionization alarms to smolder,
           but these delays were not explicitly stated in the report."
             Annie Guest  |  Reporter/Producer, ABC Radio National  |  Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  18 December 2018

2:49  "...he (Richard Bukowski) at the end hid the data and claimed that the (ionization) smoke detectors worked fine

           In other words he whitewashed it, and by then he was in so deep and Underwriters (Laboratories) was in so
           deep, nobody wanted to say that the emperor (the ionization alarm) had no clothes so to speak."

           Richard M Patton  |  Author, Fire Protection Engineer  |  Sacramento, CA, USA  |  18 December 2018

4:00  "In New Zealand retailers began removing ionization alarms from shelves earlier this year after research and
           recommendations from Consumer New Zealand."
             Annie Guest  |  Reporter/Producer, ABC Radio National  |  Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  18 December 2018

6:19  "If you have a smoldering fire, yeah, it may take the ionization alarm half hour, 45 minutes longer, but nothing gets
           dangerous for an hour."


6:32   "But that's a misleading way to think about the data according to a member of Underwriters Laboratories smoke
           alarm committee, Jay Fleming, he's also Boston's Deputy Fire Chief. . . "
             Richard Bukowski  |  Former Head Researcher, National Institute of Standards & Technology  |  California, USA  |  18 December 2018

             Annie Guest  |  Reporter/Producer, ABC Radio National  |  Brisbane, QLD, Australia  |  18 December 2018

Press 'Play' button above   |    Online Report - ABC Website    |    Download MP3  (7.5 Megs)

Dr Vyto Babrauskas | Peer Review:
FRNSW Flawed Smoke Alarm Research

"The Stage 2 FRNSW study did not produce
 useful data for comparing the performance
 of different smoke alarm technologies."

Dr Vyto Babrauskas

"The world is a dangerous

  place to live; not because

  of the people who are evil,

  but because of the people

  who do nothing about it."

Albert Einstein

"Ignorance, allied with..
power, is the most.. ferocious enemy..
 justice can have."

James A Baldwin

"The only thing..

necessary for the.. triumph of evil is that..

good men do nothing."

Edmund Burke