A new International Standard harmonizes the various standards used around the world for smoke alarms designed to prevent injury, death or damage.

However, one of the main difficulties manufacturers face is the different audible warning signals as well as the different labelling, connection and battery requirements for smoke alarms practised in different countries. These difficulties would be drastically reduced if smoke alarm manufacturers could follow one set of requirements and the criteria accepted in all markets.

ISO 12239:2003, Fire detection and fire alarm systems - Smoke alarms, provides manufacturers with a common set of functions - along with requirements, test methods, performance criteria and manufacturer's instructions - that are to be provided on all smoke alarms.

"ISO 12239 provides a common set of requirements to enable a manufacturer to manufacture to a single standard, enabling producers to obtain better economies of scale and reduce prices to consumers," says Peter Parsons, Chair of the subcommittee that developed the new standard.

Manufacturers, for example, will be able to offer lower prices if they receive larger orders for similar types of smoke alarms, and customers will gain confidence in knowing that the smoke alarm they own has been manufactured in accordance with international best practice.

"The requirement to use the 'evacuate' signal specified in ISO 8201, Acoustics - Audible emergency evacuation signal, is an important adoption in ISO 12239 because it is the same signal pattern used in a number of countries to evacuate commercial buildings," further notes Peter Parsons. "The adoption of the signal in ISO 12239 means that households will become used to recognizing the signal so when they hear the same signal in a commercial building, factory or shopping centre they will know that they should immediately evacuate the premises."

ISO 12239:2003 costs 150 Swiss francs and is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat. The new standard is the work of ISO technical committee ISO/TC 21, Equipment for fire protection and fire fighting, subcommittee SC 3, Fire detection and alarm systems.