Fire Prevention & Protection

SMOKE DETECTORS AND LIFE SAFETY

Issue 5 and Volume 153.

Since smoke detectors first appeared on the shelves of stores in the 1970s, they have been heralded as the single most effective means of reducing deaths from fire. It has been close to a quarter of a century since low-cost smoke detectors have been introduced, and we are now looking at the question, Do smoke detectors really work? The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says they do. In fact, the NFPA claims smoke detectors are as much as 40 to 50 percent effective in preventing the loss of life by fire. But, how are these claims possible when from 1977 to 1997 there was a 45.3 percent reduction in the number of home fires but only a 42.7 percent reduction of fatalities in home fires? This article addresses the apparent discrepancy and other issues pertaining to the relationship of smoke detectors to life safety. THE PROBLEM NFPA data show a…

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