How Flawed Smoke Alarm Standards have Led to

Tens of Thousands of Needless Injuries and Deaths

Part 1

Chapters 1 - 8  |  1997 - 2006







In the Beginning. . .

WFSF Co-Founders discover life-threatening problems with ionization alarms.




U.S. & Canadian Smoke Alarm Standards Exposed

Media reports about flawed standards inspire WFSF's campaign.




'Stop The Children Burning' Launched in Australia

[NZSC: 1 of 5] Stop The Children Burning (STCB) on Australian national TV.




Australia's Flawed Smoke Alarm Standard Exposed

WFSF warns about flawed Australian smoke alarm standard on TVNZ



May 9

N.Z. Fire Service (NZFS) Undermines NZSC Warning

[NZSC: 2 of 5] NZFS controversial media release after N.Z. Safety Council interview.



May 25

'New Zealand Fire Service - Saving Face or Saving Lives?’

[NZSC: 3 of 5] Response to NZFS undermining N.Z. Safety Council's warning.



June 1

'Position on Smoke Alarms in Residential Accommodation'

[NZSC: 3 of 5] Response to NZFS undermining N.Z. Safety Council's warning.



June 6

Consumer Research - Ionization Warning on National TV

[CNZ: 1 of 4]  All ionization alarms fail in Consumer N.Z.'s first scientific study.

Chapter 1

1977 | November

In the Beginning. . .

World Fire Safety Foundation (WFSF) Co-Founders

discover life-threatening problems with ionization smoke alarms.

In November 1997 Adrian Butler & Karl Westwell launched Maximum Fire & Safety (MFS) a division of their Maximum Security franchise that they founded in 1993. MFS sold and installed thousands of ionization smoke alarms throughout New Zealand and Australia.

Maximum Fire
& Safety launch

with ionization
alarms featured
in 'Franchise New Zealand' magazine.

Nov 1997


MORE > > >

'Franchise New Zealand'

Magazine | MFS Report | 1997

Smoke Alarms Failed

However, they soon discovered a serious life-threatening safety problem. Consumers complained that whilst their smoke alarms would go off when cooking, they would often fail to operate in the early, smoldering stage of fires.

Fire Chiefs 1980 Warning

After some research, Butler & Westwell discovered that U.S. Fire Protection Engineer, Mr Richard Patton, had been running a campaign to warn about ionization alarms since the mid 70's and that the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) had warned about ionization alarms in 1980.

International Association of
Fire Chief's
report warning
about ionization
smoke alarms.

Sept 1980


MORE > > >

International Association of Fire Chiefs 'Residential Smoke Alarm Report' | 1980

In their report the IAFC warned lives were at risk with ionization alarms. It said it could take no other course but to recommend photoelectric smoke alarms because:

". . .most ionization detectors will not
respond quickly to a slow, smoldering fire. . ."

Chapter 2
| December

U.S. & Canadian Smoke Alarm Standards Exposed

Media reports about flawed smoke alarm standards inspire

World Fire Safety Foundation's ionization smoke alarm campaign.

'How Safe Are Products Bearing The UL Mark?'
The Washington Post, Washington D.C, U.S.A. | Dec 1999

America's Flawed Smoke Alarm Standard Exposed

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is the  worlds largest independent
product testing company. Since 1977 the validity of UL’s scientific
testing of ionization smoke alarms has been under scrutiny

Boston Fire Department's Chief
Joseph (Jay) Fleming warned:

"While an alarm may sound in UL

 Labs it may not go off in a home..."

The UL Mark

Found on billions
of products globally

Chief Joseph (Jay) Fleming

Boston Fire Dept | MA | U.S.A.



1977 - UL Standard Challenged

UL smoke alarm standards testing was challenged in a 'Business Week' report:
'The Fiery Debate Over Smoke Alarm Efficiency'.


2011 - UL Sued for Flawed Smoke Alarm Standard:
After UL was sued for alleged fraudulent testing, they finally rectified their flawed smoke alarm testing which allowed ionization smoke alarms to be certified as safe when they are not.  The revised standard comes into effect in June 2021.

Jan 2000 | 'Silent Alarms' | Canadian TV
Canadian TV's award-winning documentary exposes the shocking
truth about ionization smoke alarms with scientific testing and landmark lawsuit.

20:01 "...all of them are hiding and sneaking and keeping things from the public that the public needs to know about in order to remain safe."

Nathan Mercer

Ionization Smoke
Alarm Victim


20:59 "In 3 out
of 4 smoldering
fires no alarm sounded at the level required
by the federal government."

Tom Clark

CTV Reporter

7:49   "A smoke detector that sounds approximately nineteen minutes after smoke reached its
 sensing chamber is like an airbag that does not deploy until nineteen minutes after a car accident."

Judge David E Schoenthaler | Mercer vs Pittway; BRK Brands Inc | Davenport, Iowa, U.S.A. | April 1998

After Being Ignored by Authorities, WFSF
Founders Decide to Make Their Own Documentary

WFSF Co-Founders, Adrian Butler (left) & Karl Westell (right)
in Waihi, New Zealand during filming of the World Fire Safety
Foundation's documentary, 'Stop The Children Burning'

World Fire Safety Foundation Comments:

Richard Patton FPE

In 2000 Canadian TV (CTV) provided us with contact details for U.S. Fire Protection Engineer Mr Richard Patton the President of the 'Crusade Against Fire Deaths'. In 1967 Mr Patton chaired the committee that produced America's first smoke alarm standard. He was the first person globally to expose the problem with ionization alarms. In 1976 Patton distributed his 'Smoke Detector Fraud Report' to over 3,000 fire Chiefs across the U.S. Mr Patton provided us with overwhelming evidence against ionization alarms from his campaign that started in 1976.


Mercer vs Pittway Corporation; BRK Brands Inc.
The Mercer law suit against the world's largest smoke alarm manufacturer was the inspiration behind 'Silent Alarms'.  Download Patton's 1993 letter sent to Nathan and Jennifer Mercer warning about industry cover-up.


Silent Alarms Silenced

After distributing hundreds of copies of 'Silent Alarms', we sought  New Zealand and Australian distribution rights. However, CTV refused as they were "under litigation" from the ionization alarm manufacturer they exposed.


Stop The Children Burning

As the New Zealand Fire Service refused to accept the overwhelming evidence against ionization alarms, and we we could not use 'Silent Alarms', we decided to make our own documentary, 'Stop The Children Burning' - a film that could not be silenced.

Chapter 3

2004 | October

[NZSC: 1 of 5]

World Fire Safety Foundation Documentary:

'Stop The Children Burning' Launched in  Australia

WFSF Documentary
Stop The Children Burning

The story behind the Waihi and Smithton tragedies
where seven people died (including five children)
in house fires fitted with 'working' ionization alarms.

Endorsed by:


New Zealand Safety Council

Presented by:

Ian Johnstone

 Former TVNZ Crimewatch Presenter

In 2006 the 'International Crusade

Against Fire Deaths' changed its

name to the World Fire Safety Foundation

Richard Patton FPE
ACA, 'Smoke Alarms' | Oct 2004

Richard Patton FPE
Fire Protection Engineer

2:09  "The ionization alarm.
       is a piece of junk."

'A Current Affair' - Presented by Ray Martin

David Isaac appeared

on the program to give

an industry perspective.

Seven months later he

wrote to the Fire Service:

 New Zealand Fire Service -

'Saving Face or Saving Lives'

 See Chapter 6 > > >

David Isaac

FPA Australia


World Fire Safety Foundation Documentary | Released: Oct 2004 | Version 3.2 - Updated: Dec 2011 | 47 minutes

Damien Killalea

Director Community Safety

Tasmania Fire Service

World Fire Safety Foundation Comments:

Tasmanian Testing
After the Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) watched 'Stop The Children Burning' they conducted their own smoke alarms testing. All ionization alarms failed the smoldering fire test.
The TFS's Damien Killalea was a member of the Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC), the peak representative body for all Australian and all New Zealand Fire Brigades.
After the Tasmanian testing he took the issue up with AFAC.

AFAC's Metastudy
AFAC commissioned a metastudy (a study of global research) on ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms.  Nineteen months later, on 1 June 2016, AFAC released its
'Position on Smoke Alarms' vindicating the WFSF's stand.

Chapter 4

2005 | February

Australia's Flawed Smoke Alarm
Standard Exposed on National New Zealand TV
WFSF warns about flawed Australian smoke alarm standard on TVNZ's 'Close Up'.

"...we had no idea there were two types

(of smoke alarms) ... why haven't we been told?"

TVNZ Presenter Susan Wood | See 'NZFS - Saving
Face or Saving Lives?
' letter below | Page 3, Paragraph 6

0:19 "But even if smoke alarms had..

 been fitted, there are fresh claims that..

 they may not have saved the wee girl's life."

Susan Wood, TVNZ Presenter | 'Close Up' | 22 Feb 2005

Susan Wood, Presenter, TVNZ

Bryan Seymour, Journalist, TVNZ

4:13 "These (photoelectric alarms) are proven more effective at
           detecting smoke from the slow burning fires that often kill."

Bryan Seymour, TVNZ Journalist | 'Close Up' | 22 Feb 2005

WFSF Warning About

Flawed Smoke Alarm Standards

2:30 "The problem stems right back to the fact..

that the standards themselves are faulty."

Adrian Butler, WFSF | 'Close Up' | 22 Feb 2005


“Ionization alarms are allowed to go to

 50-60% (smoke) obscuration per meter,

 dangerously high, totally unacceptable!”

  David Isaac, Standards Australia Committee

  FP002 Member, NSW, Australia | August 2006

Adrian Butler, Chairman, WFSF

Can Australian & U.S. Smoke
Alarm Standards be Trusted?

WFSF Report Published in
Volunteer Fire Fighter Magazine

TVNZ's 'Close Up' video is currently unable to be shown publicly.
Journalists, lawyers or fire departments may request permission to
view this video. To send an email request, CLICK HERE > > >

Chapter 5

2006 | May 9

[NZSC: 2 of 5]

New Zealand Fire Service (NZFS) Undermines
New Zealand Safety Council's (NZSC) Warning

NZFS controversial media release after NZSC radio interview.

Mr David Calvert, Founder of the New Zealand Safety Council is one of the most highly
qualified safety professionals in New Zealand. On 9 May 2006 he gave a radio interview
to warn the public about the life-threatening safety issues with ionization smoke alarms.


This is the response from the New Zealand Fire Service. . .

Subject:  May 9, 2006. Media Release.


New Zealand Fire Service Position

on ionization vs Photoelectric Smoke Alarm Debate


Media release from Dr Paula Beever, National Director Fire Risk Management, in response to a radio item this morning:

May 9, 2006


Working smoke alarms better than no smoke alarms, says Fire Service


The debate has been raised this week about what types of smoke alarms should be installed in homes.


The Fire Service says people should not lose faith in smoke alarms.


Working smoke alarms are far better than no smoke alarms at all.


"In most fatal fires in New Zealand no smoke alarms were installed, and most fires in this country begin in the kitchen; hot flaming fires well up to the ionization smoke alarms most commonly used in this country,"

says fire engineer Dr Paula Beever.


Dr Beever is a world recognised authority in fire engineering and runs the Fire Service's risk management arm.


She says that each year since 2002, 1,000 house fires have been successfully detected by smoke alarms, and two-thirds of these fires controlled without any damage to the house.


"Smoke alarms do save lives.  All of them give people sufficient warning time to get everyone out - that is why we always advise people to get smoke alarms installed and practice your escape plans".


She says a consortium of Australasian fire authorities, including New Zealand, has commissioned research into smoke alarms and the results are due to be released shortly.


"We will adopt the findings as soon as they are available"


Paula says fire safety is not just about smoke alarms which are, at the end of the day, the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.


"We are always urging people to stop fires happening in the first place.

There are three causes of fires - men, women and children.  For instance one of our main messages is "keep looking while you're cooking".



Dr Paula Beever

(cell number withheld)

Chapter 6

2006 | May 25

[NZSC: 3 of 5]

New Zealand Fire Service - 'Saving Face or Saving Lives?'

Response to N.Z. Fire Service undermining N.Z. Safety Council's warning.

Report sent to the New Zealand Fire Service's (NZFS) Dr Paula
Beever after her 9 May 2006 Press Release (above) undermined the warning
about ionization smoke alarms by Zealand Safety Council's CEO, Mr David Calvert

"In failing to provide appropriate information to the public, you have
ignored statistical information available from comprehensive international
data which paints a very different picture to that of your media release."

Mr David Isaac, fire industry expert,  | Page 1, Paragraph 5

"The failure of the New Zealand Fire Service to provide proper
  advice on smoke alarms appears entrenched within the Fire Service."

Mr David Isaac, fire industry expert,  | Page 2, Paragraph 5

"We recommend people use them (ionization alarms)
and we do not intend to move away from that advice."

Gary Talbot, NZFS Fire Safety Integration Officer | Page 3, Paragraph 1

"...we had no idea there were two types (of smoke alarms) ... why haven't we been told?"

Susan Wood, TVNZ Presenter  | Page 3, Paragraph 6


World Fire Safety Foundation Comments:

 NZFS's "world recognized authority", Dr Paula Beever, claimed in her 9 May 2006 official Media Release:

"Smoke alarms do save lives. All of them give people sufficient warning time to get everyone out." (page 6, para 9)


However, Dr Beever was wrong as evidenced by AFAC's official position
which was released just three weeks later - Clause 3 states:

"Ionization smoke alarms (the type in most New Zealand homes) may not
operate in time to alert occupants early enough to escape from smoldering fires."


Dr Beever also claimed in her media Release:

"We will adopt the findings (AFAC's findings - see below) as soon as they are available" (page 6, para 9)

The NZFS Claimed it Would Adopt AFAC's Findings:
" soon as they are available."

Critical Fact

Since 1 June 2006, the NZFS has never warned the New Zealand public
about the life-threatening safety issue with ionization smoke alarms, i.e. that they

"may not operate in time to alert occupants early enough to escape from smoldering fires."

Chapter 7

2006 | June 1

'Position on Smoke Alarms in Residential Accommodation'

The Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC - Australia/New Zealand)
& The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF - U.S.A. & Canada)
Official Positions on Smoke Alarms in Residential Accommodation

The Australasian Fire Authorities Council (AFAC) is the peak representative body for all Australasian fire brigades.
There are over 50,000 firefighters (including full-time and volunteers) throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Note: Circa 2009 AFAC changed it's name to the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council

AFAC's Official Position on Smoke Alarms

"That all residential accommodation be fitted with photoelectric smoke alarms . . . Ionization smoke

alarms may not operate in time to alert occupants early enough to escape from smoldering fires."

  'Position on Smoke Alarms...' | AFAC | 1 June 2006 | Clause 3, Note 3, Page 3



IAFF Official Position on Smoke Alarms | August 2008


"WHEREAS, there are two principle types of smoke alarms that are intended to alert occupants of building fires: ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms. Ionization smoke alarms predominantly detect the presence of extremely small particles of smoke – often invisible – typical of flaming fires, while photoelectric smoke alarms predominantly detect larger smoke particles – always visible – typical conditions found at smoldering fires; and


WHEREAS, research indicates that both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms are intended to provide occupants time to escape. However, ionization smoke alarms may not operate in time to alert occupants early enough to escape from smoldering fires (emphasis added - exact same wording as AFAC's official position above); and


WHEREAS, current research indicates that ionization smoke alarms detect flaming fires marginally earlier than photoelectric smoke. However, ionization smoke alarms are far more prone to nuisance alarms increasing the probability that they will be disabled by building occupants; and


WHEREAS, photoelectric smoke alarms detect smoldering fires and fires starting in areas remote from smoke alarms significantly earlier than ionization smoke alarms; and


WHEREAS, dual alarms, also called combination alarms, that contain both technologies are available but the benefit over photoelectric in the response to fires is marginal. They are more costly, and they will experience the same nuisance problem as ionization smoke alarms; and


WHEREAS, as many fires in residential occupancies begin as smoldering fires, particularly when occupants are sleeping, photoelectric smoke alarms provide more effective all-around detection and alarm than ionization alarms; and


WHEREAS, failure to detect a fire and provide an early alarm places building occupants at risk from an ever-escalating fire; and


WHEREAS, such escalating fires place the lives of firefighters responding to an increasing risk from such an escalating fire; and


WHEREAS, the increase in the use of photoelectric technology has the potential to save hundreds of lives each year and should be promoted as the technology of choice by members of the IAFF in their homes; and


WHEREAS, IAFF members should advocate for their mandatory requirement for placement and use of photoelectric alarms in fire and building codes, in a manner similar to recent legislation in Vermont and Massachusetts. . ."

2008 IAFF Convention | Resolution 15 | August 2008 | Pages 1-2

World Fire Safety Foundation Comments:

"Once a landlord, fire official, building owner, real estate agent or any official becomes
aware of the fact that ionization smoke alarms are not
Fit For Purpose . . . Failure to warn
 in these circumstances may lead to litigation in the event of death, injury or loss of property."

Adrian Butler, Chairman, WFSF | Queensland, Australia | March 2007

International Association of Firefighters (IAFF)
The IAFF is the official union representing over 300,000 U.S. and Canadian firefighters. In August 2008,
the IAFF published a Resolution taking the same official position as AFAC, i.e. that
"ionization smoke
alarms may not operate in time to alert occupants early enough to escape from smoldering fires."

This following extract from the IAFF's official position is a must-read for all fire service personnel:

Chapter 8

2006 | June 6

[CNZ: 1 of 4]

Consumer Research - Ionization Smoke

Alarm Warning on National Australian TV

All ionization alarms fail Consumer New Zealand's first scientific study.

0:24  ". . .the vast majority of us have the wrong type of smoke alarm fitted in our homes."
Tracy Grimshaw | Presenter, A Current Affair | NSW, Australia | 6 June 2006.

3.41 " A larger scale study of twenty one alarms conducted by New Zealand's Consumer's Institute showed.
the same disturbing results. Both types of alarms picked up blazing fires quickly, but when it came to
 smoldering fires, some ionization alarms took up to ten minutes to go off, and some did not go off at all."
Elise Mooney | Reporter, A Current Affair | NSW, Australia | 6 June 2006.

In Testing Commissioned by Consumer New Zealand
Ionization Alarms Failed to Pass Critical Smoldering Fires Tests

Consumer N.Z.'s Smoke Alarm Scientific Research
2006     |     2010     |     2014     |     2018

Chapters 9 - 17  > > >

"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