In what he calls “an eight-year overnight success story,” Stamford inventor and entrepreneur Marc Toland is in the midst of launching a new and, he believes, better fire alarm.
That may sound something like building the better mousetrap, but Toland said his Safer Alarms live up to their tagline: “Faster detection is safer detection.”
The products — being touted as the first Arrow Electronics-certified, fire detection product of its kind since 1965, when battery-operated smoke detectors first arrived on the market — are compact, heat sensor and companion remote alarm systems that avoid false alarms typically associated with stoves and toasters.
Instead, the Safer Alarm heat sensor is placed in high-risk locations — kitchens and laundry rooms — where, should the temperature hit 150 degrees, it sends a wireless signal to the alarm before the smoke travels to traditional detectors.
Toland said the UL-certified alarm meets all building codes and will continue to sound even if the heat sensor has melted — something not necessarily the case with traditional smoke detectors — meaning that the owner has more time to escape and mitigate property damage.
“It’s the smoke that kills you” in most fires, he said. “There are 10,000 laundry room fires every year, and 145,000 kitchen fires. But you’re not supposed to put smoke detectors in those places for a number of safety-related reasons.”
Loaded power strips in today’s technological environment are ripe for disaster, too, Toland said. “Even in a nursery you can have a baby monitor, a humidifier, a dehumidifier all plugged into one strip.”
There’s also a Safer Alarm designed to look like a Christmas tree ornament, suitable for hanging on the family tree and equally able to send an alarm instantly to the wireless remote alarm should the need arise. Again, Toland was armed with statistics: “House fires are three times more likely during the Christmas season than at any other time of the year.”
Toland said he first got the idea during his 27 years on Wall Street. “I went there right out of college,” he said. “I started to learn why this company was a success while that one was not and why one industry was considered a darling while another wasn’t.”
Eventually he worked his way into a position helping “minor league companies — startups — before they were ready for the majors,” or their Wall Street debut. This in turn led him to working with the maker of a carbon monoxide-detecting firm and determining “why one sensor differed from the others.”
Ultimately he decided to consider coming up with his own wireless alarm — a project given added urgency when a family down the road from his home lost three small children and two grandparents in a Christmas Eve tree fire in 2011.
“My family was awakened by the sirens,” he recounted. “They were remodeling, so they’d removed the smoke detectors that were there and hadn’t put in the hard-wired replacement detectors yet.
“It was a horrific tragedy,” Toland continued. “The fact that I had the patents and intellectual property in hand, which ultimately could have saved their lives, still haunts me.”
He quickly moved back to specifics about Safer Alarm, which he said have already drawn “significant attention” from retailers both here and abroad. It was a featured product at the Ace Hardware 2018 Fall Convention, held Aug. 16-18 in Chicago.
Safer Alarms had been running a special introductory price of $20 each via crowdfunding website Indiegogo, although that arrangement ended on Aug. 15. Moving forward, both the standard and Christmas tree versions will retail for $59.99 “wherever you shop — online or brick and mortar” starting in the fourth quarter.
“Of course I want Safer Alarm to succeed,” he said. “But even if my evangelism only leads to someone changing the battery in their smoke detector, that still saves lives. We want to be a part of preventing tragedies.”