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HOW THE SMOKE DETECTOR FRAUD BEGAN

Recently an expose of the smoke detector fraud was aired on the 6:00 Pm news on xxxx. This was an historic event because, when this fraud finally gains the attention of the media it will equate to crimes that in total have destroyed probably a hundred times the number of children molested by the Catholic Priests. And we all know how much attention was given to those crimes. My calculations indicate that probably 35 to 40 thousand children were killed because of defective smoke detectors that failed to perform. And if 40,000 children were killed by fires due to the smoke detector fraud, that means that probably 200 thousands children (pre-teens) were wrongly injured by fires when the flawed ionization devices failed to perform. I was named the chairman of four fire codes of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) during (I believe it was) 1964. All dealt with systems oriented toward industrial and commercial properties. At the time the NFPA had been creating fire codes for nearly70 years and had yet to create any meaningful code to deal with the loss of life in homes where approximately 95 percent of all fire deaths (due to building fires) occur. Seemingly, the NFPA beauracracie believed that it was sufficient to recommend that exit plans be posted in homes and fire related comic books be provided to school kids. Well, within about two years I had a residential code prepared and ready for adoption at the 1966 NFPA convention. A few of the committee members were of the type that wanted to correct the sentence structures and the verbiage forever before finalizing it. But about 10:00 I had the hotel bring in huge pots of coffee and plates full of pastries and I announced that we could not take a break until we got a vote on the standard. It passed the committee overwhelmingly and promptly and we all celebrated the creation of the first ever (tentative) fire code that defined a fire detection system for homes. Basically it called for heat detectors throughout the home (warn of the hot flaming fire) and smoke detectors in areas where there was a serious smoldering fire potential. Apparently I caught the fire insurance flatfooted with the creation of a code to make homes fire safe because, I had the code approved and scheduled for a vote for adoption before they were fully prepared to oppose it. At the convention, when I put it up for vote about 9:00 AM, a long line formed to speak against the code. The opposition consisted mainly of insurance industry reps and their fire protection engineering stooges who could prove that water will run uphill if the price is right. My number I enemy for many years, Rolf Jenson, who I considered to be the number 1 hired gun of the insurance industry. The idea of sounding a warning when there was a fire in the home had the potential to dramatically reduce out-of-control fires and the insurance rates and takes. The fire insurers were sure they could kill that code before it became a code. I battled the would-be code killers until about half way through the lunch hour when finally a vote was permitted. It passed handily. After the meeting was adjourned one chief came up to me and said that he and his associates became suspicious when the insurers fought so hard to kill the code. He said they figured if the insurers were afraid if it that it must be pretty good.

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Within a month some high level insurance representatives met with the top people within Seagram Distillers (the company I worked for) and warned them that my activities (including my fire sprinkler system research) was causing serious problems with the insurance industry and that this could have an adverse effect on Seagram (Seagram had just created a captive insurance company in the Bahamas.) Soon thereafter my assignments with the NFPA were terminated and shortly thereafter I was reassigned to the production division in Louisville. I no longer had any fire protection engineering duties. The makers of the ionization type device saw the potential market for protection within homes and apparently decided they wanted the whole ballgame for themselves. At the time the ionization device was called a product of combustion (POC) detector, not a smoke detector because the device was not able to detect real (visible) smoke. The campaign to remove heat detectors from the code and make the code a marketing tool for the manufacturers of the POC device began. The NFPA had been accepting advertising copy from the POC detector manufacturers since 1965 that blatantly lied about the detection capabilities of the devices. They claimed that the device would detect a potential fire even before smoke or flames appeared. I include one (of many) ads so stating. The claims were so blatantly false that it is a mystery why they did not all grow Pinocchio noses. Later, representatives of the NFPA met with Richard Bright, a fire protection engineer with the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), and offered him the chairmanship of the code I created, NFPA 74, Household Fire Warning System. However, as Mr. Bright testified in a deposition, he was advised that the NFPA wanted the code revised to favor smoke detectors rather than heat detectors. Supposedly, one so-called smoke detector (meaning POC detector would protect an entire home). During 1974 the Dunes Tests began. Mr. Bright had already rewritten the code to favor smoke detectors and had essentially written the heat detector out of the code. Then he was named the federal monitor for the Dunes Tests that began during 1974. This test was supposedly intended to honestly test all the commonly used fire detectors, the ionization device which had been renamed a smoke detector, the photoelectric (true) smoke detector and the heat detector. Of course, since the NFPA code No. 74 had already been revised to favor the smoke detector (especially including the phony smoke detector), it was very important that the research prove the ionization device would perform as had been advertised within the Fire Journal of the NFPA, and that the heat detectors fail the testing. The reality is that the ionization devices (real POC detectors) usually failed to respond to smoldering fires until the smoldering area was near a flaming stage or was already flaming. When the smoldering fire tests were allowed to run to nearly 2 hours thats about how long the ionization device failed to warn of smoldering fires. There were relatively few realistic flaming fires created during the Dunes Tests and in all cases but one, if a realistic flaming fire was set the heat detectors were not installed. Thus heat detectors failed to operate when there was virtually no heat developed by the fire, and when real fire were conducted the heat detectors failed because they were not installed. Thus were the revisions in code 74 that were made at the recommendation of the NFPA proven to be justified with a scientific federal fire test program.

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The ionization device is not a smoke detector and it often proves to be deadly when a smoldering fire occurs within a home during the sleeping hours. Few realize it today but Underwriters Laboratories has passed the ionization device based of live flaming fire tests that allow the smoke to go as high as 37 percent (light reduction per foot). Years ago, based on actual fire tests, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) determined that a trapped person would be reluctant to travel an escape path if the smoke density rose above 4 percent. Thus, UL is allowing the smoke (during the flaming fire tests) to go to 9 higher than the safe level as defined by the IAFC. The truth is that the ion device is that it is not a satisfactory warning device for the home regardless of whether the fire is flaming or smoldering. A brief explanation of the events leading to the deadly smoke detector fraud is included here.

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