Smoke detector legislation: Its effect on owner-occupied homes

E. McLoughlin, M. Marchone, S. L. Hanger, P. S. German, S. P. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Montgomery County, Maryland was the first major jurisdiction to pass a law requiring smoke detectors in all homes. Smoke detector coverage in the county was evaluated five years after the law's implementation and compared to the coverage in neighboring Fairfax County, Virginia, which has no such law. Firefighters visited 651 randomy selected owner-occupied homes and tested each detector. While a similar percentage of homes in Montgomery and Fairfax counties complied with detector codes (42% vs 44%, respectively), Montgomery County had a significantly lower percentage of homes with no working detectors (17% vs 30%) and with no detectors at all (6% vs 16%). In general, Montgomery County residents complied with what they believed the law required, but lacked knowledge of the law's details. New homes where building codes required detectors and homes where owners assumed that detectors were required by law were likely to have working detectors. Analyses of 12 years of fire data suggest that as a county approaches complete detector coverage, the risk of residential fire deaths decreases. An essentially unenforced law seems to be obeyed because it conforms to community values.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)858-862
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican journal of public health
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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