11 Jan 2023

A Brief History About Smoke Detectors

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Smoke Alarms save lives!

Smoke detectors are a part of fire safety that is built into the fabric of our daily lives. There is no commercial building or home that we enter now that does not have at least one. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the risk of dying in fires at home is cut in half in homes where a working smoke detector is installed.

Walter Jaeger, a Swiss scientist, introduced the smoke detector by accident. He was working on an invention to detect gas poisoning, and he happened to create a smoke detector.

However, when Jaeger tested the device, the gas did not alter the currents or trigger anything. Frustrated, he lit a cigarette and noticed that the smoke did register in his device. This was the beginning of what would later become the smoke detectors that we see everywhere.

Another Swiss scientist improved Jaeger’s groundwork with another inventor by the name of Ern n Meili in 1939. Meili worked to improve the technology that Jaeger’s ionization detector (which your smoke detector will sound off to tell you there’s a fire) has for detecting combustible gases in mines. Aside from his most interesting creation, the cold-cathode tube, which made Meili’s innovations distinctive, put him on the front lines of the development of protective technology for personal security.

In the 1950s, smoke detectors were made available to the public in the United States, though they were initially found in commercial settings due to their large size and cost. By 1970, technology allowed for the production of single-station detectors that could be used in residential settings. These models, which were battery-operated and based on ionization technology, were the first of their kind on the market and are similar to those used today.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends installing both Photoelectric and Ionization detectors in homes. Dual sensor systems are now available, which combine both Photoelectric and Ionization technologies to ensure that the home is protected from smoke and fire at all stages.

It is important to maintain smoke detectors in your home in order to ensure fire safety. To do this, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends testing your detectors once per month, replacing batteries as needed, following the manufacturer’s instructions, and ensuring that your family knows how to respond when they hear the alarm.


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