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Smoke and fire alarms

Since the development of smoke alarm sensors there have been advances in microelectronics, sensors and other technologies to improve home smoke alarms. As smoke alarm technology advances, it’s important for members of the fire service to understand what’s next for smoke alarms, how they perform, and how to store and dispose of them.

Our latest report: Smart Smoke Alarm Using Linear Discriminant Analysis

Key finding: Using a powerful mathematical technique (Linear Discriminant Analysis) in home smoke alarms, combined with inexpensive microcontrollers, can reduce nuisance alarms.

“Smart Smoke Alarm” technology will improve the performance of home smoke alarms without significantly increasing the cost to consumers.

The widespread use of home smoke alarms is considered to be a main reason for the decline in home fire deaths. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), in partnership with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is working to make smoke alarms even better. We’re researching ways to optimize modern smoke alarm sensors so that they can indicate the difference between dangerous home fires and nonhazardous conditions. This capability can reduce nuisance alarms that lead many people to disable smoke alarms – a potentially deadly mistake!

Download “Smart Smoke Alarm Using Linear Discriminant Analysis”

PDF 2.1 MB

Report cover: Smart Smoke Alarm Using Linear Discriminant Analysis


The two most common types of smoke alarms are ionization and photoelectric. The USFA, the CPSC and the National Institute of Standards and Technology conducted a review of smoke alarm responses in a controlled laboratory test and in a series of real-scale tests in residential structures.
The experiment found that ionization alarms provide faster notification to flaming fires and photoelectric alarms provide faster alerts to smoldering fires. Get the detailed analysis report PDF 10 MB.

Public education outreach materials

USFA creates, reviews and collects resources that can be used in public outreach activities to help keep communities safe from fire. Explore these free smoke alarm outreach materials.

More information on smoke and fire alarms