State Fire Marshal, firefighters issue warning about smoke alarm certifications

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Fire departments are issuing warnings about smoke alarms being sold online that may not be certified.

Certification is important in knowing a smoke alarm will function properly because when it’s needed, there isn’t much room for error. Firefighters said the average time from when an alarm goes off to when people need to get out of the home has dropped substantially since smoke detectors were invented.

“In 1976, on average, you had 17 minutes to get out of your house,” said Morrisville Deputy Fire Chief Deputy Chief Nathan Lozinsky. “With the introduction of synthetic materials and construction materials in your house, it’s now about three minutes.”

So who makes sure that alarm will perform the way it’s supposed to? That’s the job of a nationally recognized testing lab.

And how can you tell if a lab has certified the product? There’s an easy way.

“There’s always going to be some type of stamp,” said Shannon Bullock of the State Fire Marshal’s office.

That certification can come from the underwriters’ lab or electrical testing lab — both of which authorize their seal on products that have been tested to meet safety certifications.

“There’s no point in having a smoke alarm if it’s not going to work,” said Lozinsky.

Shoppers on Amazon can find lots of smoke alarms for sale, but the Office of the State Fire Marshal said consumers might not realize they are buying a non-certified unit.

Recently, the State Fire Marshal Mike Causey posted an alert on social media that said there were smoke alarms being sold by Amazon that had no certification.

“It’s very frustrating because a lot of times with these online retailers, the smoke detectors are very inexpensive,” said Bullock. “Most of the time, consumers are looking for that inexpensive item, and many of those products aren’t certified and won’t protect you the way certified products could.”

Amazon did not reply to CBS 17’s inquiry about policing products like smoke detectors to make sure they’re certified.

It’s estimated 96 percent of homes in the United States now have smoke alarms. But, as many as 30 percent of those alarms don’t work, and with such a narrow time window in which to escape after the alarm goes off, people need to know it’ll work properly.

Causey’s office said people should sent back non-certified smoke alarms and buy a new, certified one immediately.

Both ETL and UL are considered independent third-party testing labs approved by the government, but they work in different ways.

UL develops the testing standards and tests to them. ETL tests to UL standards.

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