Standards Matter
March 4, 2022

Helping to Reduce Cooking Nuisance Alarms with UL 217, the Standard for Safety for Smoke Alarms

Standards Matter: Underwriters Laboratories and Smoke Alarm Standards from Underwriters Laboratories on Vimeo.

Why It Matters

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), almost three out of five home fire deaths from 2014-2018 were caused by fires in properties without working smoke alarms. In 16% of these cases, smoke alarms were present but failed to operate. Dead batteries and AC power issues were often cited as factors for non-working smoke alarms, but more commonly, these alarms failed to operate because users had intentionally disconnected batteries or power sources.1

One reason users often provide for removing a battery or disabling a hardwired smoke alarm is to silence nuisance alarms, such as those that can result from cooking. NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, states that smoke alarms should be at least 10 feet away from cooking appliances to help prevent nuisance alarms. Smoke alarms provide the earliest warning of a home fire to inhabitants — critical in light of research findings by UL’s Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) which show that people have an average of three minutes or less to exit the home following activation of a smoke alarm.2 Disabling a smoke alarm could prove deadly, and standards matter when it comes to addressing this critical safety issue.  

What We’re Doing

Standards are always evolving to address innovations in safety science and technology. In developing and maintaining all of our standards, we partner with industry experts, regulators, and end users to assure that advances in safety and technology are inherent and drive effectiveness. 

A major update implemented in the eighth edition of UL 217, the Standard for Safety for Smoke Alarms, includes new requirements for a Cooking Nuisance Smoke Test to help prevent cooking nuisance alarms. During the test, smoke alarms are mounted 10 feet away from an electric range, which is turned to full power with frozen hamburger patties cooking inside on a broiler tray underneath electric broiler coils. In order to pass the test, the alarms must not go off while the patties are cooking prior to the smoke reaching a certain obscuration (OBS) level and/or measuring ionization chamber (MIC) value.

How You Can Help

At UL Standards & Engagement, we leverage scientific and testing expertise and the collective wisdom of our technical committee (TC) members and stakeholders to determine which changes are made to a standard. This is done through a consensus-based process that helps assure all stakeholder groups are represented. 

TC members represent a variety of interests, including industry, academia, government, retail, and manufacturing. Our open process allows anyone to get involved in standards development by submitting a proposal or commenting on a proposal. If you are involved in the fire service, fire protection, or related industries, or have a regulatory or other interest in advancing fire safety, please consider sharing your expertise by getting involved in standards development.