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History of Fire and Smoke Alarms   Part 4
November 14, 2020
Fire alarms
Source:  Ryan Fire Protection:
            Did you know the fire alarm dates back to 1658, where New York’s finest deployed men to walk around the streets looking for fires, with buckets on ladders and ringing bells to warn the community? In the 1800s, fire alarms became a little more advanced with the placement of bell towers around cities to warn off people of a fire.
The fire alarm progressed yet again, in 1852, where it reached a new level of technology. Using the telegraph system, two alarm boxes with a telegraphic key were used to report neighborhood fires. One man would crank the handle that was attached to the box, releasing the key to send out a message to the central alarm station. The telegrapher at the central station would then send out the address of the location to the fire department.
By the late 1800s, the electric fire alarm system was invented. This was the first time a thermostat could detect heat and trigger the sprinkler system to displace a fire. This was also the birth of fire protection services. As the protection services grew, so did the technology of the fire alarm system
Source:  Total Fire Protection
            Once upon a time—in the mid-17th century to be precise—the fire alarm was invented. A few things differentiate the antiquated fire alarm to what most households use today. Namely, the original fire alarms were people. These individuals would walk around New York City, ringing bells to warn the community and were equipped with buckets to respond to fires. Unsurprisingly, they weren’t very efficient.
            In 1852, Dr. William F. Channing and Moses Farmer designed the first fire alarm that wasn’t a person. The system comprised two fire alarm boxes with a telegraphic key and a handle. If someone cranked the handle, an operator at a nearby station would alert the fire department to go to the scene. Although this system was better than a human fire alarm, it still had significant drawbacks. The system’s most significant disadvantage was that people couldn’t waste time cranking a handle rather than running away from a fire.
            Then in 1890, Francis Robbins Upton invented the first electrical fire alarm system. The system, although innovative for its day, was often overlooked. Notably, Upton didn’t work on the system alone; he received some help from his mentor, a man named Thomas Edison.
            Duane Pearsall and Stanley Bennett Peterson created the first “modern” smoke detector in 1965. The battery-powered smoke detector called the “SmokeGard 700,” was made of fire-resistant steel. The SmokeGard 700 set the bar for future smoke detectors, especially after researchers determined that similar devices detected fires quicker than heat detectors.
Smoke alarms
Source: My Smoke Alarm
            Smoke detectors have been around since the late 1890s. George Andrew Darby patented the first heat and smoke detector in 1902 in Birmingham, England. Twenty years later, Swiss physicist Walter Jaeger was working to invent a sensor for poison gas, but was failing. Sitting at his desk, he lit a cigarette and was startled to notice his “poison” device was responding to the smoke emitting from his coffin nail. His work translated into the road map for modern smoke detectors.
            In 1939, another Swiss physicist Dr. Ernst Meli developed a device with an ionisation chamber that could detect gasses in underground mines. He also invented a cold-cathod tube that could amplify the small electronic signal created by the detection mechanism to a strength sufficient to trigger an alarm. The result was the ionisation smoke alarm.
            The first ionisation smoke detectors were extremely expensive. First introduced into the U.S. market in 1951, their use was limited to commercial and industrial facilities. There were various attempts at creating more practical devices, but as of 1963, were quite limited and did not have much public exposure.
            Duane Pearsall is considered the “father of smoke detectors.” He and collaborator Stanley Bennett Peterson developed the first practical home smoke detector. It was called the “SmokeGard 700.” Made of fire resistant steel, it was shaped like a bee hive. The key to the SmokeGard 700 was the removable and replaceable battery that made its operation cost effective. Early studies in the 1960s demonstrated that smoke detectors responded to fire faster than heat detectors.
Source: AFA Protective Systems
            AFA was the United States first Central Station fire alarm company.  Automatic Signal Telegraph Co. of NYC is incorporated under Telegraph Co. Act of 1848.  Mayor of New York City asks Company to transmit fire alarm signals directly to Fire Department headquarters.

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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
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