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O 1976 Patton, lnc.


HOW THE SMOKE MEN CONNED AMERICA to measure smoke density. carbon monoxide, and other
components of the combustion gases are in place.*
One of the cleverest and most Iucrative cons ever pulled off Ten smoke detectors of various manufacture are on the
in America has been executed by some of the smoke detector ceiling of the upstairs hall. Doors to the upstairs bedrooms are
promoters. The smoke detector is a useful device. lt has closed. On the upper walls and ceiling of the downstairs hall.
advantages. But, 15 years ago it was not a big seller. lt had its at the base of the open stairway, 1 1 more detectors are
disadvantages as well. lt's behavior was erratic as fire is itself installed.
erratic, detecting some fire types quickly, other types not so The house has a third bedroom, located downstairs off the
well at all. A detector that offered good protection some of corridor, approximately B feet down the hall from the open
the time was not nearly so saleable as a detector that offered stairway. The door from this bedroom to the downstairs hall is
good protection all of the time. closed- The bedroom window is closed. An electrical charcoal
Unfortunately, however, as hard as the engineers tried they lighter rod is placed on a mattress in the downstairs bedroom-
could not produce that super detector that could do all things Three minutes later it is removed and a lazy haze of smoke
with all fires. So, the promotors put their heads together, and hovers over the char.
did the next best thing. They designed the fire to fit the One full hour later the char on the mattress is 20" in
detector. diameter. lt is impossible to see across the bedroom. The
researchers consider the bedroom environment "untenable"-
Only four of the 21 smoke detectors in the home have
A full 21 more minutes pass. Carbon monoxide in the
bedroom exceeds 0.3 percent, more than 7 times the
concentration the researchers consider to be tolerable. The
first floor hallway has less than 40% light transmission. The
escape path for the upstairs bedroom is now iudged untenable.
Eight downstairs detectors have operated, but three have not
None of the upstairs detectors have operated- (usually, a home
has a detector at the top of the stairway only' if any-)
At one hour and 34 minutes into the test, the test is

terminated. Smoke in the upstairs bedrooms is stratified at the

3' level (about bed height.) Two downstairs detectors have
failed to operate and att fen upstairs detectors have failed ta
A group of fire researchers have completed the hook up of *For further information and data on this test program evaluating the
21 smoke detectors in a typical two story plus basement brick smoke detector performance contact the National Bureau of Standards,
home in lndiana, and are prepared for the ignition of one of Washington, D. C., and refer to ilTRl Pro.lect J634O, Contract
the 40 live fire tests planned. Thermocouples and instruments +36092

Potton RePott
Published Bimonthly, 6 lssues Per Year By Patton
6075 Cleveland Avenue, Columbus, Ahio 43229
What happened? Was this test a freak? All the world knows tell a lie, be sure its a big lie. Then people will say. this must be
that with the first whiff of smoke - in fact even before the the truth, no one would make up a lie like this.
human eye can se the smoke - the ionic detectors operate' Much of the success of the smoke detector operation was
Everybodlr knows this! Did the researchers goof? Did someone due to the picture of the fire that was drawn' The fire curve as
forget to plug in the circuits? Did somebody sabotage the depicted, with its four stages, and with an elongated first stage,
mechanisms? was so unlike a typical real fire that everyone could instantl-v'
None of these things happened- The detectors operated just recognize it as a fraud. lt was.iust too unreal to be believed. So
as expected (not very well at all). They operated just as they everybodv believed it.
always have worked - or failed to work. The fact is that the
smoke detector that has been promoted for its capability to
detect fire fast {before the flames and the heat appear) is a
very slow detector of smoke before the flames and the heat


To understand the reasons for the creation of the imaginary
four stage fire curve, one must understand what the basic
motivations were.
THE FOUR IMAGINARY STAGES OF FIRE ln fire protection, the automatic sprinkler system and the
fire detection system were competing systems. The fire de-
Probably the cleverest con job ever pulled off in the field of
fire safety was the diagram depicting fire in four stages (see tection system detected fire. sounded an alarm, and did
nothing more, lf, when properly alerted, people were able to
to lmply put the fire out - fine. But too often the alarm sounded with
Note how carefully the graph is drawn an
extended period of time for fire to exist. First comes stage 1
no one around to hear it, or those who did hear it were unable
(where it is claimed only the smoke detectors will give to control the fire (and this was not unusual). Fire often
warning, of course.) The Stage 1 fire precedes the development spread so rapidly that life was lost before an effective attack
of smoke. Then, after a while, fire moves on to another could be mounted.
extensive time period (wheie presumably visable smoke is now The sprinkler system not only detected fire, but automatic-
being produced). Note these first two stages are labeled ally controlled it, and wetted all immediately surrounding '-
minutes or hours which conveys much time is passing. Also combustibles so that even if some fire remained. it was held to
note that stage 2 description indicates that, "flame or apprec- a minor stage until the fire department arrived.
iable heat still not present". The curve next moves on to a The sprinkler system had other advantages as well. The
"broken time" interval. A lot more time is passing is the sprinkler system could reduce fire insurance rates by up to
message {Who knowshow much!) 90% and sometimes paid itself off with premiums savings in as
Finally fire moves into stage 3, but the note on the curve little as 3 years. Rate credits for detection systems were slim,
claims, appreciable heat is still not present. Somebody must be if available at all. Sprinklers had a proven capability to reduce
kiddingl Look at all the flame and smoke coming off that fire potential by 99.9% (when properly designed). The reliabil-
curve in stage 3. Still no heat? ity of the detection systems was spotty at best. The detection
Finatly, ar tast, the 4th stage comes. Now time is being system had a reputation of being false alarm prone, requiring
measured not in hours and minutes - but in minutes and very specialized technical knowledge for servicing (which often
seconds. Note the curve is already moving way up fast in the was not available), and frequently being out of service when
major hazard zone. {lt's too late now buddy, you're already fire occured. ln short, detection system salesmen had market-
dead, is the message.) ing and credability Problems.
ls this really a true picture of fire, and an honest evaluation The smoke detector people knew that something drastic
of the smoke detector performance? Of course not, it's atairv had to be done to move the detectors. The American public,
tale that comes to you direct from Roger the Dodger, with and especially the Fire Services, and the Architects had to be
technical assistance by Mother Goose. convinced that the smoke detector was the ultimate solution
to fire, and the sprinkler system a danger to life'
The sprinkler system was operated by heat. The smoke
detector was operated by smoke. Usually the smoke detector
operated faster than the sprinkler head. The plan then was to:

1. Exaggerate the speed of operation of the smoke

Hitler was a mad man. Of that, there can be no doubt. But 2. Exaggerate the time frame of fire'
what many people are reluctant to admit today is that a genius 3. Exaggerate the role of smoke {from the small fire} in fire
lurked behind the madness. death s.
One of Hitler's gems was to never tell a little lie. People will 4. Convince the public that the people too often are

see through little lies, and won't believe them, he said. lf you already dead when the sprinkler finally opens-
ln carrying through on this extensive and fantastically It is true that a smoldering fire can produce smoke before it
profitable scheme the smoke detector people shuffled facts produces a significant amount of heat. lt is also true that
around like a magician shuffles cards. Here are some of the combustion products (toxic gases) kill more people in fire than
-. tricks. the flames. However, in those fires where there has been
multiple of life due to toxic gases - it has been the big tire
(a tremendous heat producing fire) that has generated the
gases that killed over a large area. The amount of combustion
products being given off by fire is almost a direct function of
fire size. The smoke detector people shuffled smoke from the
THE MYSTERIOUS MOVEMENT little fire (that is too small to operate the sprinkler) with
OF COMBUSTION PRODUCTS smoke from the big fire (that killed a lot of people).
ln effect they first established the fact that people who die
How can a detector at the ceiling be operated by the so
in brg fires usually die from the gases - not the direct
called Stage 1 fire when there is no heat being given off (and
flames.Then having established that the gases kill, they promo-
not even any visible smoke either?) Seems impossible, doesn't
ted the concept that smoldering fires produce smoke without
it? Smoke rises to the ceiling coming off a hot (flaming) fire
heat. The conclusion, watch out for the little fire that doesn't
because the gases are super heated and therefore bouyant and
operate the sprinkler - its the big killer.
dynamic. But if there's no flame and no heat - why would the
combustion products rise up off the fire. and travel across the
ceiling to the detector? What is the driving force? lt doesn't
seem to make sense, technically. But they had an answer to
that one.
The invisible combustion products move about in air like THE "SINGLE FATALITY FIRE" PROOF
molecules move in water solution. Drop a lump of sugar in a
bowl of water and soon the sugar is dispersed uniformly Don't depend on sprinklers to save life, was the tone behind
throughout the solution. Gases disperse similarly as prescribed much of the sales pitch. To prove the point, the single fatality
by the gas diffusion laws. lt sounded great. lt was good to fire was trotted out.
know atomic science was being marshaled to combat fire, Now, it is known that people can die lrom building fires,
The only problem was theV forgot to tell us that not all but they can also die from "human torch" fires within
:ombustion products behave this way and those that do might buildings. An elderly nursing home patient can spill lighter
take forever to reach the detector; and that the chance that fluid on his pajamas while filling his lighter and not even
this early combustion products phenomenon would play a realize it, and then go up in flames as he tries to light his
significant role in a real smaldering fire in a real building might cigarette. A man can use gasoline to clean parts with, and die
be real slim. regretting it.A cigarette in an oxygen tent is like a fireworks
show. lntimate involvement with flames can maim or kill in
less than a minute.
The sprinkler can't protect against this fire type. But
neither can the smoke detector. The detector may operate
THE "PULLING THE IONS within the first minute, but the response time and fire control
OUT OF THE FIRE" TRICK capability of those who will hear the alarm may greatly exceed
the operating time of the sprinkler. But their razzle dazzle
The smoke detector can detect fire in the earliest stage promotions glossed over these matters.
-even before visible smoke appears they told the world.
It sounded great. But some people wanted to see this
remarkable performance t'g,believe it. So they had a test to
Crumble up several sheets of carbon paper in a waste paper
basket, light it off below the detector and count the seconds
--- 12, 13, 14, 15 Bingo. The detector sounds. Beautiful!
I suspect that out of every 100 people this test was shown
to possibly not one grasped a key point, the ability to detect Yes, the smoke detector can sometimes detect fire in 10 to
the so called stage 1 fire was being sold, but the fire being used 60 seconds if the fire initiates as a flaming and heat producing
in the demonstration test was a so called stage 4 fire- fire. This early warning for the flaming fire.
The carbon paper fire produces a generous burst of partic- But the "early warning" detector has not been sold to the
--ulate matter and also a generous burs't of heat to drive the ions American public as a fasf detector for the so called Stage 4
J the detector. (There's no sense relying on that mysterious (heat producing) fire. This detector is being sold to the
gas movement phenomenon, is there?) American public on the basis that it is a fast detector for
Did you ever see a smoke detector salesman demonstrate detecting a so called Stage 1 fire - prior to smoke developing.
his product in a real building by throwing a bunch of oily rags And this is simply not tue. The "early warning" detector does
in the corner? not detect a stage 1 {or even a stage 2l fire early. I n fact, u nder
real life conditions {not laboratory testing) it often will not top of the Wrigley Building in Chicago and shout out, "Hey,
detect the stage 1 or 2fire at all. America, these smoke detectors have some limitations, you
better not believe everything you hear?" Did they do thisT
You bet vour babv they didn't.


Smoke detector salesmen make like all fires just sit around
for a half hour or so blowing off smoke, but no heat or flame.
That is certainly the message of the so called four stage fire FIRE ISLAND
curve. ln truth, a high percentage of the fires are instantane- The NFPA-UL control system which was established
ously flaming fires (so called stage 4). They produce tlames, before the turn of the century could be likened to ferry
heat and smoke from time zero forward. Many of these fires operation across a strait to a large island that represents a
can proceed to the room flashover stage in as little as three to tremendous market for goods and service. NFPA-UL operate
five minutes, and begin killing over a wide area, killing many the ferry system, with NFPA writing the regulations and UL
people. Once the entire room bursts into flashover, carbon checking the goods being transported and sold (all goods must
monoxide and other combustible gases can be pumped out of be labeled or approved). Nobody can cross from the mainland
the fire room into the hallway and a ceiling high flame front to trade in the captive market without paying a certification
can roll downthe hallway. lt is the big flaming and heat "tax" on all goods to the ferrymasters. lf you don't support
producing fire that has been the cause of the multiple loss of the ferrymasters, you don't take the ride.
life fires. The sprinkler system will operate promptly for this Now, traders who trade on Fire lsland also ask cooperation
most dangerous fire type, and control it before it becomes from the ferrymasters for their support. lt is a "two way
I arge. strait", and each needs the other.
The smoke detector is not. and never will be a solution to
this fast fire problem because:
1. Most "on site" amateur fire fighters are simply nof
proficient in manually controlling the fast fire. Even
when they discover the fire before the detector itself THE PROBLEM WITH SPRINKLERS
operates, they are quite likely to be unable to control it.
From the viewpoint of protecting and expanding the tot
2. The fast fire can kill over a wide area in less time than it fire safety market place the fire detection system is greatlr
takes for a fire department to respond, hook up hose preferred to the sprinkler system. The detection system is but
lines, and gain control. The people are dying as the one component ol a "total system". Detecting a fire is only
engines pull up to the building in these fires.
step one in bringing fire under control. There also is a need for
fire extinguishers, fire hose, fireproof corridor walls, flame
spread ratings for the interior trim and furnishings, self closing
fire doors, special fire dampers in the air handling system, and
THE PROS ENTER THE PICTURE such a variety of other "approved" and "labeled" products as
Fire safety is a regulated field. Fire protection equipment to amaze and astound those who have not been familiar with
normally is tested and listed by Underwriters Laboratory, and the "Fire lsland Market Place".
installed in accordance with a National Fire Protection Assoc- The sprinkler system on the other hand. is a complete
iation standard. The justification for these regulatory organiz- system of itself. lt detects the fire - and then puts it out.
ations is that they protect the public's interest. Those thousand and one other products that form (along with
U.L. tested and listed the smoke detectors being marketed. a detection system) a "building system for fire safety" are not
When the manufacturers reps went around and talked to the necessarily essential to the performance of the sprinkler
customers about the fantastic performance capabilities of their system. As a consequence, the smoke detector rather than the
products, the U.L. seal was always at the forefront of the sprinkler system is greatly preferred by the vast bulk of those
brochure, test reports, and promotional claims, Articles and organizations that ride the ferry to Fire lsland.
advertising from the NFPA Fire Journal were part of the NFPA and UL also have a direct financial interest in
promotion. When the architect, enqineer, building owner, or maintaining a very broad spectrum of products that must be
whoever else, saw that U.L. seal and had it explained to him, regulated, tested, and approved. This is why the NFPA has
by and large they assumed the seal was certifying the promo- been most careful to always structure the NFPA-1 3 Sprinkler
tional claims. lt's U.L. listed, it detects the stage 1 fire even Committee so that a majority of the committee members have
before smoke appears, ir.'s super fast All these "facts" came a direct conflict of interest with easy to design and install low
out of the same brochure, were spoken by the same salesman. cost sprinkler systems. This desire for vast arrays of fire safetr^
People believed it. Nobody said, "the stage 1 fire might take products, all being components of an extremely broad bas'
an hour and a half to ring the bell." Nobody said, "maybe it "solution" to fire; rather than a more simple and direc.
won't ring at all." solution using already available water. has got to be the
Was U.L. and NFPA aware of the claims being made? Of underlying motivation for the NFPA-UL cooperation in the
course they were. Did the U.L, Chief Engineer get up on the smoke detector scheme.
FIRE PROTECTION IN PERSPECTIVE warrants thorough study. After all, the U.S. does lead the
entire world in the categoryof fire disaster. lt is my firm
The smoke detector salesmen realized that the smoke
conviction that it is no accident that we got where we are.
detection system could not compete successfully with the
system when scientifically evaluated in relation to a
-'aming, THE HOSPITAL AND NURSING HOME -Thefastfire is
heat producing fire. While the smoke detector usually
perated more rapidly, the sprinkler controlled the fire, and
the spectacular fire that wipes out many lives and causes
retroactive fire ordinances to be written. The smoke detector
this was the difference of life or death. Therefore, the fire
which has been sold profusely to medical facilities, via the
curve was developed so as to concentrate on a very slow,
codes, represents little or no protection against the fast fire,
smoldering fire, which would not break out into flame for a
because detection doesn't sfop the fire.
long time period. Having concentrated on this f ire type, it was
As for detecting the very slowfire (stage 1 or 2 fire) sure it
then necessary to conceal two important facts. One was that
will do that in 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour or two hours,
the very slow fire will produce deadly conditions very stowly;
depending. But, what is the staff doing during this time when
and in an occupancy such as an hospital it is rather unlikely
smoke is slowing building to that future time when the bells
that the staff would remain unaware of a smoldering fire for
will ring? The human nose is many times more sensitive than
an extended period of time. Secondly, it was necessary to
the detector. and usually you can see the smoke long before
conceal the fact that the smoke detector could be extremely
the detectors sound.
slow to react to this fire type. The NFPA and U.L. cooperated
The detectors are detecting that fire type {so called stage 1
in allowing much less than a full disclosure of all the facts, and
or 2) that the staff itself is capable of defending against, and
NFPA then cooperated in the forced selling (via mandatory
nof providing good protection against the fire type that the
requirements in their codes) of the equipment.
staff is not capable of guarding against (the instantaneous stage
Simultaneously, they wrote code restrictions that greatly
4 fire).
increased sprinkler system costs making this system far less
The hospitals and nursing homes have spent huge sums of
money on smoke detectors, they have purchased a nightmare
lf all the facts are told. where is the frue value of the smoke
detector? I personally view the need for detectors as follows:
to maintain, they have been lulled into a sense of false
security, and they still have about the same chance as ever of
suffering the big deadly fire.
1. I support smoke detectors in a dwelling or apartment
The smoke detector salesman and the NFPA has conned the
because a fire (slow or fast) can wipe out a family when asleep.
But, for a minimum level of protection a detector on at least Hospital and Nursing Homes away from the good and econom'
is necessary, and the public is entitled to a true r'cal protection, which could have reduced fire deaths, reduced
_every level
'icture of the response time for various fires, construction costs, and reduced insurance premiums.
2. Large buildings that could suffer a major "fast" fire By far the most serious consequence of the smoke detector
{including hospitals. nursing homes. hotels, motels, institu- distortions of the fire problem is that the needed solutions -
tional buildings, schools and high rise buildingsl tirst need the really practical and reliable solutions to fire - have been
sprinklers. Generally, imposing smoke detectors on top of the put on the shelf. During a period when the United States
sprinkler system is not justified. There may be exceptions suffers more fire deaths on a per capita basis than any other
where people sleep and the area is not well supervised. nation on earth, profiteers have manuvered the codes to
3. Smoke detectors in air handling systems are quite likely virtually guarantee that the besf safety systems will not be
to not operate, especially if the system is large. This situation installed-
needs further testing and evaluation. I believe it is improper
for the NFPA codes to mandate detectors in air handling
equipment until all facts are laid on the table and evaluated.
4. As for smoke detectors in the corridors of hospitals and
nursing homes as prescribed by NFPA-101 , I consider that a
waste of money if the building is sprinklered. and very
questionable protection even if it isn't.
5. Smoke detectors arranged to automatically remove
elevators from service is one of the most controversial THE SOLUTIONS?
"protection" regulations today. I consider it a condition that
ls there any solution to the problem when non elected,
may well precipitate panic and major loss of life - even under
the condition of a non fire. outside the government, quasi legal organizations write codes,
regulations, and standards that in effect have the weight of
I also believe that the Federal Government should initiate law? When they can control the products being sold, and can
an extensive investigation into the practices, regulatory powers also investigate the fires that occur and give their own
and market controls of the National Fire Protection interpretations as to the cause, how can they be stopped?
Association and Underwriters Laboratories, and the influences The enclosed pages from the Congressional Record indicate
.----of the lobbyists associated with these organizations. one possible solution through the Federal Government.
There are more that 1 2,000 lives and 1 00,000 f ire maimings There is another possible solution. Why can't the bussiness-
per year at stake, and my claim that there are direct conflicts man who has improperly forced via a code to purchase
of interest involved in fire safety - with desires to preserve equipment that has been misrepresented to him, take legal
and enlarge markets for fire safery products frequently being action against those who profit through the forced sale of the
in direct conflict with efforts to reduce the fire rate - equipment? Why can't the relatives of those who die from fires
in buildings, that have been designed in conformance with the or agency is acting improperly in allowing organizations such
NFPA Life Safety Code take legal action against NFPA? Why as NFPA to control commerce, and prevent the use of lower
can't a businessman who is forced to expend huge sums of cost and safer systems? lf the NFPA continues in the present
money to revise his property to conform th an NFPA Code destructive directions, it would only seem a matter of time *
{due to a local, state or Federal Agency adopting that code until businessmen and the fire victims will have to explo.-
and enforcing it) take legal action against that government, such defensive measures.
and recover that expenditure on the basis that the government



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