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Code Changes

Changing the Building Codes

Pearsall quickly learned that a labyrinth of hurdles lay ahead in the journey toward actual retail sales of his Smokegard line of battery-operated detectors. First was the mark of approval from a recognized testing laboratory, Underwriters Laboratories. The next discovery was NFPA Standard No. 74 Household Fire Warning Equipment did not allow the battery-powered device. Additionally, opposition by many local, state and national fire service leaders had concerns that would have to be overcome. And the problem of state and local building and fire code requirements, they did not recognize the battery power concept. Nor did they require detection systems in residental dwellings. 

Duane Pearsall with SmokeGard smoke Detectors

Pearsal holding a melted Smokegard

Pearsall tackled these problems by first concentrating on the western US region through the International Conference of Building Officials. ICBO was the first model code to incorporate requirements for smoke detectors in the hallways immediately outside the bedrooms. With additional advocacy nationwide, more changes in building codes followed between 1973 and 1975. Eventually, state and local governments started adopting new codes for new contruction. 

Pearsall Standing in Behind a Table

Pearsall Consulting

CODE REQUIREMENTS

With support from the likes of Wilson and Degenkolb, Pearsall first concentrated on the western U.S. region through the International Conference of Building Officials. ICBO was the first model code to incorporate requirements for smoke detectors in the hallways immediately outside bedrooms. With additional advocacy nationwide, others followed: [note 1]

  • 1973 - International Conference of Building Officials*, ICBO Uniform Building Code
  • 1975 - Building Officials and Code Administrators*, BOCA Basic Building Code
  • 1975 - Southern Building Code Congress*, SBCCI Standard Building Code
  • 1975 - Council of American Building Officials, CABO One- and Two-Family Dwelling Code
  • 1976 - National Fire Protection Association, NFPA 101, Life Safety Code (Tentative Interim Amendment issued in 1973)

*Later merged to form the International Code Council

Pearsall depended heavily on Lyman Blackwell for his key role in technical design and had help from a host of other engineers, code advisors, public officials, and people of good will. But he brought the vision, the passion, dogged comitment, resources, diplomacy, and entrepreneurial skills to the cause. He was the point man who did more than anyone to bring about this 20th Century breakthrough in life-saving technology. [note 2]

  1. Lucht, David A., "Legal Requirements for Fire Alarms in Ohio Dwellings," Fire Journal, NFPA, March, 1972.
  2. Lucht, David A., "The Most Important Technological Breakthrough of the 20th Century," Fire Protection Engineering, January 2015.