Release date: January 31, 1996
Release number: 96-066

Release Details

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Ann Brown announced today that a new technology in smoke detectors--a smoke detector with a battery that will last up to 10-years--has been introduced to the market in the last four to six months. Industry developed this new state-of-the-art detector, which eliminates the need for yearly battery changes, in response to recommendations for new battery-powered detector technologies made by CPSC's National Smoke Detector Project, launched in 1991.

Brown made the announcement at an event with members of the private and public coalition, For A Safer America, which kicked-off its fire-safety campaign that teaches children ages 5-8 how to protect themselves from fires. With about 20 children in attendance, the coalition premiered the new 15-minute video, "Be Cool About Fire Safety," as part of its nationwide public-service campaign at DC Fire Station #24 in Northwest Washington this morning at 10 a.m.

Chairman Brown was featured with National Consumer League President Linda F. Golodner, U.S. Fire Administrator Carrye Brown, and Allstate Insurance Senior Vice President Ronald McNeil in debuting the video and accompanying 30- and 60- second public service announcements for television. The video features guest star appearances by Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer Little Richard, Gilbert Gottfried, who was also the voice of the parrot in Disney's Aladdin, as the smoke detector character Seemore Smoke, and stand-up comedian Michael Winslow, who also starred in the movie Police Academy.

The launching of the fire-safety campaign in January occurs in the season with the most residential fires, killing an average of about 1,500 people during the winter out of about 4,000 deaths a year. CPSC has jurisdiction over 15,000 types of consumer products including smoke detectors, which have helped reduce the number of deaths and injuries and damage from residential fires.

"A smoke detector is an early warning system that can get you out of harm's way. But a detector that doesn't work cannot save your life," said Chairman Brown."CPSC wants to make sure that all homes have smoke detectors with a working source of power, especially at this time of year when residential fires are at their highest."

"You are never too young to learn how to prevent fires, which kill an average of 1,000 children each year. Even young children can help remind their parents to change the smoke detector batteries or to test the detectors to make sure they work."

Smoke detectors were initially available on the market as far back as the late 1960s. Still in 1972, less than 5 percent of all homes had a smoke detector. CPSC and other groups campaigned to increase the number of homes with smoke detectors, and now about 90 percent of homes have at least one detector.

About 5 years ago, CPSC began receiving numerous reports from fire departments of residential fires where there were non-working smoke detectors. CPSC launched the National Smoke Detector Project in 1991, which subsequently found that almost one-third of all homes were without a working detector. A 1992-93 project survey attributed most non-working detectors to disconnected power, including batteries that were either dead or missing. CPSC found that many people who had installed detectors near the kitchen or bathroom had disconnected them because of nuisance alarms.

CPSC recommends that detectors be installed on every floor near the bedroom area or be centrally located. Avoid installing detectors near the kitchen and bathroom. Consumers should change the batteries every year in the fall when they change their clocks back.

As a result of the National Smoke Detector Project, CPSC is taking a number of initiatives. The agency is working with industry to improve the voluntary standard for smoke detectors, is encouraging the use of electrically powered detectors with battery back-up, and is working to stimulate new technologies, such as the smoke detector with a 10-year battery. In addition, CPSC continues to monitor the market to make sure that smoke detectors sold to consumers will work in a fire and will recall smoke detectors that have defects.

CPSC also recommends the following suggestions to help make this winter season safe and free from fires in your home:

  • If you use a space heater, make sure it has been tested and labelled by a nationally- recognized laboratory and make sure to follow the manufacturer's operating instructions.
  • Follow all instructions when using a wood-burning stove and have it inspected and cleaned by a professional chimney sweep.
  • Be very careful with fireplace fires and when baking or cooking using your oven and range.
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