Majority of City Council Members Sponsor Bill to Change NYC’s Smoke Detector Law
Forty-one out of fifty-one New York City council members have signed on as co-sponsors of a bill that would require photoelectric smoke detectors in residential buildings. Fire safety experts have debated for years the merits of the cheaper and more popular ionization detectors versus the more expensive photoelectric type. According to experts, ionization detectors are better at sensing flaming fires, while photoelectric detectors are more attuned to sensing smoldering fires. Some evidence suggests that the deadliest fires—those that begin at night—are more likely to start as smoldering fires. There's also research that indicates ionization detectors more frequently have false alarms from situations such as smoke from cooking, which lead residents to remove the battery so that they have no protection at all.
The bill was initially introduced by Queens Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley in 2012. It attracted 29 co-sponsors but died at the end of that session. It was re-introduced in 2014, and while the proposal now has 41 backers, there's been no official action on it since a hearing last November. At that hearing, the FDNY registered qualified support for the bill. Noting that national fire-safety organizations support both kinds of smoke-detector technology, FDNY Deputy Assistant Chief Thomas McKavanagh worried “that enacting this legislation might lead some people to remove an existing ionization detector” because they think it doesn't work, without buying a new photoelectric one.