How The Smoke Alarm Got Its Start

Every day, smoke and heat detectors in homes and businesses do their part to help warn people in time of the present dangers of a fire. We have all grown up with different versions of fire detectors in our homes, and few of us ever gave them too much thought until it is too late. But where exactly did these small plastic alarms begin?

While his colleague, Thomas Edison, was working on the light bulb, Francis Robbins Upton was making huge strides in technology as well. Upton began his career as a mathematician and physicist. Upton was born in Massachusetts in July of 1852. He became the first student to officially earn, by examination, a graduate degree from Princeton University in 1877. Upton then moved to Berlin to study under Hermann von Helmholtz, where he learned Helmholtz’s views on how to analyze electrodynamics in mathematical ways.

In 1876, Thomas Edison had set up his laboratory in New Jersey and was looking for an assistant. Edison knew he wanted someone with good theoretical skills, so he asked Helmholtz who immediately recommended Upton. Upton began helping Edison with mathematical problems associated with his devices. Because he had no formal education, Edison relied on Upton to turn his ideas into possibilities through mathematics. Upton was the key to helping Edison come up with successful models of his ideas, such as the incandescent lamp and the electric light bulb.

In 1890, along with colleague Fernando Dibble, Francis Robbins Upton patented the first automatic electric fire alarm. In its original design, the smoke alarm only contained the battery, a bell-dome thereon, an open circuit with a magnet, and a thermostatic device. In its simplest form, the first smoke alarm would use the thermostatic device to detect abnormal amounts of heat due to smoke or fire. Once it hit the maximum temperature, it would signal the bell to sound. In their patent description, Upton and Dibble said their objective was to “produce an alarm complete in itself, simple in construction, without complicated circuits, and which shall not require constant attention.”

At the beginning, the smoke alarm was not easily attainable due to its high cost. IT was most often found in businesses or in the homes of wealthy people. Over time, however, their popularity grew, and now no home is complete without at least the most basic alarm. Following in Upton’s footsteps, Crossfire Alarms looked to create a product that worked without much fuss and was essential in saving lives. The Crossfire system of smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors takes Upton’s model to the next level for the safest, fastest responding detectors on the market.

From simple beginnings to its present state, the smoke alarm has become a staple in every home. With a clear goal to alert people of the event of a fire, Francis Robbins Upton was able to revolutionize the way we view home safety.

Don’t Start a Fire With Your Fireplace

Some of our best family memories are made around the warm glow of a fireplace. These hearths serve as a centerpiece for decorations, warmth, and other occasions throughout the year. Our fireplaces do a lot to help our homes stay warm, but there is a lot we need to know before lighting up the logs.

Checking Outside
Before you light the fire inside, make sure your fireplace is in working order from the outside. Take a walk around the exterior of your home and look for any cracks or damage to your chimney. Make sure your chimney cap is in place so no animals are in your chimney. Feel free to call a chimney sweep who can go into your chimney and remove any debris that could either cause a fire or enter your home when you open the chimney vent.

If you notice any damage to the exterior of your chimney, call a repairman to come and look over it and make any necessary repairs. In addition, have them check the inside of the chimney for cracks in the chimney liners or other worries that could lead to a dangerous house fire.

Checking Inside
Grab a flashlight and inspect your fireplace flue. Make sure it opens and closes properly, seals well and there is no noticeable damage. Next, open the flue and check for any flammable items hiding in your chimney. Remove any dirt, leaves, debris or other objects that could ignite and cause a more dangerous fire.

Check inside your fireplace and chimney for any moisture. Moisture can indicate either a leak somewhere in the fireplace, or other damage that could have fatal results. Call a repairman to help with any damage or issues you find.

Lighting the Fire
Always use dry, dense wood for your fire. Damp or wet wood can take longer to light and often leftover moisture can cause sparks in the fire. Make sure you clean out the floor of your fireplace after each fire so you don’t have any ashes or other materials left that could catch on fire or cause a problem.

Never late a fire too late in the evening, and make sure you put a fire out completely before going to sleep. All logs should be placed in the rear of the fireplace and a cover should be placed in front of the fire. Do not use flammable liquids to start the fire and instead rely on kindling or start logs. Never let children near the flames or allow them to handle any fireplace materials.

When lighting a fire in your home, make sure you are doing all you can to be safe and enjoy the warmth it brings your family.

For more on keeping your home safe, head over to Crossfire Alarms.

Carbon Monoxide Statistics

Carbon Monoxide is widely known as the “Silent Killer.” The poisonous gas has no scent, no color, and no warning before it takes the life of a person. Many homes come equipped with some version of a carbon monoxide detector, and many people shrug them off as unimportant or unnecessary. However, these alarms could save you and your family from a potentially fatal situation.

In the United States, approximately 400 people die from accidentally inhaling carbon monoxide. According to the National Fire Protection Association, NFPA, there were 72,000 reported non-fire carbon monoxide incidents reported from 2006 to 2010, showing a steady increase over time. In 2003, there were approximately 40,900 reported non-fire carbon monoxide incidents, while close to 80,100 incidents were reported in 2010. The majority of these incidents occur in one or two family residential properties.

According to the NFPA, most carbon monoxide incidents are reported in the evening hours between 5:00pm and 9:00pm, after most families have returned home for the day. Carbon monoxide incidents are most common during the months of December and January, with February and November close behind. Summer months tend to see a drop in carbon monoxide related incidents, due to less people utilizing heat sources that produce the toxic gas.

In a study published by the Center for Disease control, CDC, it was found that across all age groups, men were more likely to die as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning. The CDC’s study found the average annual number of deaths from 1999-2010 for men and women in four different age groups. In the 0-24 year age range, an approximate 40 males and 20 females were killed each year as a result of carbon monoxide. In the 25-44 year range, close to 100 men and 20 women were killed each year. Adults aged 45-64 saw an estimated 110 men and 30 women pass each year, while the 65+ age range saw around 70 men and 40 women die form carbon monoxide each year.

Effective carbon monoxide detectors, like the ones offered by Crossfire Alarms, alert us when carbon monoxide gets to a dangerous level. To protect your family, it is important to take the right steps. Have your heating system, including vents and chimneys, inspected each year and have all repairs made immediately. Never bring charcoal grills or portable generators inside of a home or garage. Do not use ovens or stoves for heating. Make sure your fireplace flue is open before lighting a fire in your fireplace. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Vomiting, mental confusion, loss of coordination and loss of consciousness can all happen at extremely high CO levels.

Carbon monoxide may not seem like a common issue, but it is a danger that can affect every single home. It is important to do as much as you can to keep your home safe, including equipping your home with reliable carbon monoxide detectors. The more you do to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, the less likely you are to become another statistic.

For more on keeping your home safe from carbon monoxide, take a look at our carbon monoxide detectors over at Crossfire Alarms.