A Personal Message

Thank you for taking the time to read our story.

The type of smoke alarm you put in your house can be a matter of life or death. We share this story in the hope it may save you from the needless pain and anguish our families have suffered since we lost our daughters.

In 2003, Andrea was one of five students who died on Palm Sunday at 4 a.m. in an off-campus fire at Ohio State University. Two years later, Julie was one of three students who died in an off-campus fire at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Shockingly, this fire also happened on Palm Sunday at 4 a.m. Both of our girls died of smoke inhalation in houses that had a total of more than twenty ionization smoke detectors installed. With the exception of a few at the Ohio State fire, the smoke detectors were all working. A fire official stated that the few non-working detectors had most likely been disabled due to nuisance alarming problems and that it wasn’t uncommon for kids to disable smoke alarms. We later learned this is only one of the common problems associated with ionization alarms. It's likely you have ionization type alarms in your home; they are by far the most common.

Andrea Dennis · April 13, 2003

Our families became acquainted when Dean attended Julie's funeral service. He and his wife Patty knew only too well the road Doug and Linda were about to travel and they wanted to reach out in support. We couldn’t ignore the tragic coincidences of the fires. Andrea and Julie’s death bought our two families together.

We started researching smoke alarms when Chief Jay Fleming of the Boston Fire Department approached Doug with the thought that photoelectric alarms would probably have saved Julie. We had no idea that there were two types of smoke alarm technologies. After spending several months doing our own in-depth research, we came to the conclusion that Chief Fleming’s information was correct. Not knowing which type of smoke alarm to select when you’re at the hardware store can change your life forever. Many people see the UL label, look at the price, and toss the cheapest alarm in the cart. Most have no idea what they just did.

Ionization alarms have serious flaws and those flaws aren’t only tied to the fact that people often disable them due to nuisance alarm problems. They are also flawed because they have trouble detecting smoke from fires, especially ones that smolder. They have been tied to lawsuits for not sounding at all in smoky fires; smoke inhalation is the leading cause of fire deaths.

Photoelectric alarms are far superior. They have far fewer nuisance alarm problems and they will detect all types of fires. Photoelectric alarms are significantly better and faster by several minutes (sometimes by more than a half-hour) at detecting smoke as it leaves the source of the fire. If your family goes to sleep at night and isn’t protected by photoelectric alarms, your family isn’t protected.

Our families want to put a face to the statistics. Please make sure your family is safe. Please push for codes and ordinances to be changed to mandate photoelectric smoke alarms. Believe that a fire can happen to you. Don’t allow your life to be changed forever.

Dean & Patty Dennis
Doug & Linda Turnbull

Julie Turnbull · April 10, 2005