Why didn’t residents hear the smoke alarms in a massive WVC fire?

Apr 2, 2019, 1:49 PM

WEST VALLEY CITY — A massive two-alarm fire that blazed through an apartment complex this week highlighted two stories: first, that firefighters and police officers risk their lives every day to keep you safe; second, that not everyone hears the smoke alarms when the fire rages.

Heroes on the job

If you are a cop, you carry a gun. If you are a firefighter, you bring a hose. Both types of public servants willingly run into danger to save people in need. This is what a local police officer did this week.

A West Valley City police officer is being called a hero for saving people from that fire on Sunday and into early Monday.

The apartment complex near the Maverik Center was on fire, displacing dozens of people.

A police officer drove his car through a fence to get to the apartment property. A trapped resident, visible on the officer’s body cam, looks frozen in place. An officer then got onto the hood of that car and called for the resident to jump to him.

The officer’s actions allowed the resident to be safely lowered down to the hood of the cop car from the second floor of the burning building.

A police officer ran into the burning apartment complex, going door to door to get residents to safety.

Many people are calling those officers heroes. The officers are humbly denying the title.

The officers have been dismissing the compliments they have received. Why? Perhaps it is because the police officers enter dangerous situations to save people on a daily basis. Running into a fire is just another day on the job for them, Debbie Dujanovic, co-host of Dave & Dujanovic, pointed out on Tuesday’s show.

People don’t always hear smoke alarms

One of the issues coming to light in the aftermath of the apartment fire is the multiple residents who say they did not hear the smoke alarms.

A possible explanation is a phenomenon called auditory exclusion. This term refers to a temporary loss of hearing when a person is under extreme stress.

Auditory exclusion, experts say, is like tunnel vision where a person is focused on a single view to the exclusion of everything else.

Which smoke detector do you need?

Many people may not realize there are two kinds of smoke detectors: ionization detectors and photoelectric detectors. Each detector does its job differently and is designed to warn the homeowner of different kinds of fires.

Ionization detectors determine the presence of smoke by detecting a disruption in the ionization flow. This is done by two electrically-charged plates in the smoke detector that ionizes the air. Smoke disrupts the flow, triggering the smoke alarm and notifying the residents.

Ionization detectors are best at tracking flaming fires.

Photoelectric detectors are used to detect smoldering fires. A smoldering fire is a fire that can burn for days without anyone noticing. Photoelectric detectors use the disruption of beams of light to detect the presence of smoke coming from smoldering fires.

Which type of smoke detectors should be installed in a home? Experts say, for maximum protection, get both types. The silver lining in needing to buy another detector is that it will only set you back about $25 to get the other kind of smoke detector.

Hold the door

Debbie Dujanovic recalls a recent test conducted by NBC where a home was constructed for the purpose of burning it down.

One of the findings from this experiment is that in a bedroom where the bedroom door is closed, the temperature remained at 77 degrees Fahrenheit during the fire. Outside of the bedroom door, the temperature reached 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit.

The lesson is simple and free: Sleep with the bedroom doors closed.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon on KSL Newsradio. Users can find the show on the KSL Newsradio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.

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Why didn’t residents hear the smoke alarms in a massive WVC fire?