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National Safety Month Feature: The History of the Smoke Detector

A photo of a smoke detector

With June being National Safety Month, we wanted to highlight a seemingly simple technology that is extremely helpful for national safety but so frequently overlooked: the smoke detector. Here at Mister Sparky, we are always searching for ways to better protect each and every one of our clients where we can. So, we thought there is no better way to get in touch with the future of safety than to take a trip back to the humble beginnings of such an influential piece of home safety technology.

The Invention of the Smoke Detector 

The story started in 1902 in Birmingham, England with Mr. George Andrew Darby. Mr. Darby is credited with pursuing the first patent of a fire-detecting equipment. After that point, many following designs, renditions and improvements followed.

In 1930, a physicist by the name of Walter Jaeger attempted to create a device that would notify the presence of poisonous gasses. After countless hours of work, his device was simply not responding to the poisonous gasses he was testing with. It was only when he was taking a smoke break that the device began to ring when he discovered its accidental purpose.

From there, other large-scale detectors were created, yet none of them were suited for use within a residential setting. It was not until 1965 that Duane Pearsall and Stanley Bennett Peterson, from the U.S., created the first smoke detector suited for in-home use: the SmokeGard 700.

Though the initial design was rather bulky and too expensive for the majority of American society, it was still the breakthrough technology that paved the way for the compact, affordable smoke detectors that reside in approximately 96% of American homes today.

Finally, in 1972, the first battery-powered, ionised smoke detectors came out, produced by BRK Electronics. The invention was bought by Sears two years later, sold in stores and truly became commonplace in the homes of many millions. Specifically, sales were at 8 million units in 1976 and 12 million units in 1977.

In 1976, the first code requiring the presence of smoke detectors in a house by law was created. From that point, there has always been some form of law requiring the use of smoke detectors in all houses, specifically in bedrooms. At Mister Sparky, we stay consistently updated about these codes and are ready to provide assistance with any smoke detector code adherence or maintenance you might need.

We think it is pretty remarkable that such a small invention could have such a large impact on our society. 100 years ago, if a house caught on fire with its residents inside, there was a 1 in 100 chance of fatality. Today, with the help of smoke detectors, that statistic has lowered to 1 in 1000, amassing millions of lives saved.

Mister Sparky® of San Antonio Is Committed to Keeping You Safe

For more ways we can help ensure your house is as safe as possible, check out some of our other articles or set up an appointment with a trained Mister Sparky professional today for a consultation.

*Information for this article gathered from Soft Schools.