History of Smoke Alarms

On January 1, 2017, the State of Queensland introduce a new law requiring all homes to have interconnected photoelectric smoke alarms fitted throughout every bedroom, hallway and across every floor. And to be honest, that legislation isn’t much of a shock.

Fire safety and fire awareness have been hot topics (no pun intended) for years and over the last century huge advancements have been made when it comes to smoke detectors. In 1915, if your home caught fire you would have a one in ten chance of dying. Today, that figure has plummeted to one in one hundred.

Thanks to modern technology, fires no longer need to be fatal, so long as we comply to fire safety regulations. Here’s a brief history of smoke detectors.

  • 1890s – Early alarm systems begin to be designed, including by the notable Francis Robbins Upton and Thomas Edison who invented a device which sounded an alarm when the room temperature rose.
  • 1902 – George Andrew Darby successfully first patented a heat and smoke detector in Birmingham, England.
  • 1930s – Walter Jaeger, a Swiss doctor, inadvertently invented a poison gas sensor after lighting up a cigarette over his workbench.
  • 1939 – Dr. Ernst Meli, of Switzerland, invented an ionisation chamber in his device which was used to detect gasses in mines.
  • 1951 – Ionisation smoke detectors first began to sell in the US but they were too expensive for most households to afford, so were usually only found in commercial settings.
  • 1959 – A fire at Our Lady of Angels School proved smoke detectors to respond faster than heat detectors and future inventions followed this discovery.
  • 1965 – Duane Pearsell and Stanley Peterson came out with a somewhat affordable smoke detector, enabling fire safety to be practiced at home; the SmokeGuard 700.
  • 1967 – The National Fire Protection Association in the USA came up with the first national standard for smoke detectors.
  • 1969 – The first battery operated smoke detector was launched by BRK Electronics, revolutionising fire safety.
  • 1972 – The first photoelectric smoke detector was invented and patented by Donald Steele and Robert Emmark, using an infrared light, a lens and a photoelectric receiver to detect smoke in the nearby air.
  • 1976 – The Life Safety Code made it compulsory for homes to install a smoke detector.
  • 1977 – 12 million smoke detectors were sold in the USA.
  • 1988 – Interconnected smoke alarms became common as a way to maximise fire safety.
  • 1993 – Legislation required all bedrooms to be fitted with smoke detectors was passed in the US.
  • 1995 – A lithium battery-powered smoke detector guaranteed to work for ten years was launched.

Today, the best smoke detector available on the market is the photoelectric smoke detector which is why Queensland law now requires them to be fitted and interconnected in all domestic dwellings. Contact BASC Services today and arrange a free consultation at your property to ensure you and your loved ones are kept safe. With fully certified technicians, we can provide you with a certificate of the audit for rental or commercial properties too.

Electrical & Property Maintenance Specialists