Fire Safety History and Current Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

A multi-signature early warning fire detection system is being developed to provide reliable warning of actual fire conditions in less time with fewer nuisance alarms than can be achieved with commercially available smoke detection systems." (Rose-Pehrsson, 325)

The research conducted on this subject also supports the claim that while there is a value to establishing legal standards requiring the use of smoke detectors in all homes, there is also some effectiveness in the cultural and informational sway inclining private residents to employ this method of detection. As sophisticated technology becomes available for business facilities, public buildings and newer residential apartment buildings, the battery-operated sound-alarm smoke detector remains a standard presence in many American homes. However, it was not until 1985 that the first county in the United States responded to the proven benefits of smoke detector by mandating their usage. Interestingly, the findings yielded would produce a mixed outlook with respect to the effectiveness of or need for such regulatory imposition. According to the research, "Montgomery County, Maryland was the first major jurisdiction to pass a law requiring smoke detectors in all homes. Smoke detector coverage in the county was evaluated five years after the law's implementation and compared to the coverage in neighboring Fairfax County, Virginia, which has no such law. Firefighters visited 651 randomly selected owner-occupied homes and tested each detector. While a similar percentage of homes in Montgomery and Fairfax counties complied with detector codes (42 per cent vs. 44 per cent, respectively), Montgomery County had a significantly lower percentage of homes with no working detectors (17 per cent vs. 30 per cent) and with no detectors at all (6 per cent vs. 16 per cent)." (McLoughlin et al., 858)

These reported findings would suggest that though most residential households already had smoke detectors even without the imposition of legal standards, those subjected to these legal standards were more likely to be aware of the current status of their smoke detector and to take pains to replace batteries, ensure functionality and ensure presence in the necessary strategic locations. Such research on smoke detectors indicates something of a cultural or social penetration, with a difference between the two examined counties standing as statistically significant but not substantial enough to qualify as a dominant social pattern. Indeed, the final observation of the research process indicates that "analyses of 12 years of fire data suggest that as a county approaches complete detector coverage, the risk of residential fire deaths decreases. An essentially unenforced law seems to be obeyed because it conforms to community values." (McLoughlin et al., 858)

One of the reasons that this research is compelling is that is points to an improved degree of effectiveness invoked by greater regulatory oversight concerning the installation of smoke detectors. Considering the correlation between socio-economic status and access to facilities with proper and modern fire safety or fire suppression methods, regulatory conditions requiring the fixture of smoke alarms to all residential facilities could have a beneficial impact. Indeed, Towner et al. (2009) make the point that "people living in deprived areas suffer a disproportionately high level of fires." (Towner et al., 1) the imposition of more pervasive requirements in this area would subject builders, neighborhood and property developers, landlords and realty companies to laws that might protect the less economically fortunate from this type of general and dangerous neglect.

Unfortunately, make of the greatest innovations in smoke detection technology are far from affordable for average builders and for homeowners or renters alike. Researchers throughout the industry describe a number of technological leaps that are can significantly improve the resident's ability to respond quickly and intelligently to a fire situation but are more accessible to larger facilities. An example is the continued application of smart-design detection systems to factories, university halls, hotels and luxury apartments. For instance, the Cerberus PRO-created by Siemens Building Technologies accords with the highest standards in fire safety and fatality prevention but largely applies these technological advances to the fire needs of bigger structures. Here, such devices have proven markedly effective in channeling the most frequently cited ambitions in terms of technological advance. Primarily, this technology meets the aims of the article by Rose-Perhsson et al., which indicates the requirement for detectors which simultaneously reduced the danger of false alarms while heightening the effectivesness fo the relationship between fire detection and fire suppression. According to the informational site describing the emergent technology, the Cerberus PRO "fire detectors also increase safety thanks to their distributed intelligence: important decisions are made on the spot in the detector." (SBC, 1) Particularly, the decision on how to activate various aspects of its fire-suppression approach is made by the detection devices, indicating a perceptiveness to conditions dictating the use of sprinklers, turbines for removing flammable gases from a room and communication with local firefighters and other emergency personnel. Such systems are also armed with various methods of physical detection with smoke detectors reflecting a more nuanced response to various environmental conditions indicating the presence of smoke, fire or a danger related to either.

Still, it remains a core challenge and area of shortcoming in public safety and administration that in both residences and in public or occupational facilities, implicit dangers have remained unaddressed by technological innovation. In just the last two decades, the United States has experienced something of a lag compared to other nations in its wake. According to a Conference Report regarding an annual meeting of fire safety and fire prevention industrial professionals, fire safety innovation "is an example of American enterprise being asleep at the switch. While U.S. researchers have developed some of the most advanced fire technology in the world, it's the European, Japanese, and Australians who are making sweeping changes in the way they go about achieving fire safety in buildings. The American fire problem creates an unnecessary drag on the economy and gives U.S. businesses another handicap on the playing field of international trade." (CR, 359)

This bleak finding would be underscored by the events occurring within the same year of the conference, illustrated the failure of the United States to exploit its own technological advances. This could likely be seen as a result of economic inequalities in the U.S., making both residents of lesser financial means and laborers more vulnerable to fire dangers than their wealthier counterparts. Indeed, our recent history suggests that there are yet facilities, even in this day and age, which do not abide the properly articulated legal standards for prevention of fires or the diminishment of casualties resulting from fires. In 1991, a poultry plant in Hamlet, North Carolina would illustrate the dangers still present in the negligence of facility owners. Due to improperly sealed exits -- a circumstance which ominously recalls the terrible events in the Triangle Factory -- 49 people were injured and 25 were killed in a fire that ripped through the chicken-packing plant. "In the aftermath of the disaster, N.C. asst. Commissioner of Labor Charles Jeffress, said that the eleven (11) year old food processing plant had not been subjected to state safety inspections due to a lack of inspectors in the state." (ERRI, 1) the casualties here suggest that in spite of heightened legal and practical interest in fire safety standards, proper precautions have not always been taken. One of the major obstacles to universal adherence proper fire safety standards is the availability of resources for the public to adopt those technologies where are available.

This discussion indicates that present research is pushing us toward higher standards in fire safety. However, few of these advances have been economically democratized or fitted to meet the needs of the private residence. Moreover, all indications are that while harsher legal restrictions would improve this imbalance, these are not necessarily enforced in an effective way today. Smoke detection technology has remained static and unchanging in the residential setting for many years. But research indicates that technology is available to could save lives and improve fire safety in the home, provided that it is eventually fitted to those needs.

Works Cited:

Bellis, M. (2006). Fire Sprinkler System. About Inventors. Online at http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blfiresprinkler.htm>

Bosch Corp. (BC). (2008). Smoke Detector Offers Early Fire Detection, Localization. ThomasNet Industrial News.

Conference Report (CR). (1991). Worcester Polytechnic Institute Conference calls for Firesafety Innovations. Fire Technology, 27(4), 359-361.

EHS. (1991). Workplace Fire Safety. Oklahoma State University Physical Plant. Online at .

ERRI. (1991). Hamlet, NC Chicken Plant Fire Kills 25. Emergency Response and Research Institute. Online at http://www.emergency.com/nc-fire.htm.

McLaury, J. (2005). The Occupational Safety & Health Administration: A History of its First 13 Years. U.S. Department of Labor. Online at

McLoughlin, E.; Marchone, M.; Hanger, L.; Germann, P.S. & Baker, S.P. (1985). Smoke Detector Legislation: its effect on owner-occupied homes. American Journal of Public…

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