Leadership

Why Smoke Detectors Don’t Fulfill Great Expectations for Saving Lives

Issue 9 and Volume 133.

Why Smoke Detectors Don’t Fulfill Great Expectations for Saving Lives features Fire Prevention in Action Staff Correspondent “A Detector in Every Home Will Save Lives.” “Detection program Dramatically Reduces Fire Damage.” “So go the headlines. And yet, speaking at the 1979 Fire and Life Safety Conference, Gordon Vickery of the United States Fire Administration had this sobering thought: “We put 50 million smoke detectors in buildings in America in a two-year period, and our fire loss and death loss rate goes up. We’re having a little trouble explaining these things …” At a National Fire Academy gathering of state fire training directors in February 1980, another USFA official said fire deaths are “still on the upswing.” According to a 1973 UL estimate, about 18,000 households would need detector protection to bring about the saving of one life per year. To really cut the total fire death toll, then, would require…

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