Smoke detectors compulsory in Japan
Tuesday 30 March 2010, 3.00pm HKT
Updated 25 Jan 2013 (with photo)
All Japanese homes are now required by law to have a smoke detector in every room by this Thursday (1 April).
For a number of years, the Tokyo Fire Department has carried out campaigns in many shotengai, or commercial shopping street malls, to get people to install smoke alarms and equip fire extinguishers in homes.
Smoke detectors in Japan are called kasai keihou ki (火災警報器 or かさいけいほうき) and are available in most department stores or electronics shops for about ¥2,500 to ¥3,000 each (US$21 to US$32).
Some countries that require compulsory installation of smoke or fire alarms for residential premises include Australia, Canada, Indonesia and Sweden, and some states in the USA, such as Arizona, California, Florida and Ohio.
Those countries that do not have such a legal requirement are Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
All countries require smoke or fire alarms for commercial and semi-commercial premises
Smoke alarms use one of two different technologies for detection.
About 90% of all smoke alarms are ionisation smoke detectors, which uses a small amount of radioactive material between two electrically charged plates to detect smoke. Ionisation detectors are responsive to flaming rims such as those involving inflammable liquids, newspapers and paint-cleaning solutions.
Photoelectric smoke detectors use a light source and a sensor to detect when smoke scatters the light beam and they are more responsive to fires. These light-scattering type of detectors was invented around 1983 and most closely associated with Jun Miyama, a researcher at Sophia University in Tokyo. Light-scattering detectors are known to give off fewer false alarms than ionisation-chamber detectors.
A major problem with smoke alarms is that they are less effective in use for people with hearing loss, especially when they are sleeping. Audio smoke alarms are useless for the hearing impaired, who have to rely on visual or vibrating smoke alarms. In May 2008, an American by the name of Colello invented a gizmo that detects the high-frequency shrill made by most smoke and carbon dioxide detectors and delivers it to the bedside of users in deep, 520-hertz tones that will wake the deepest sleepers.
In the USA, the new National Fire Alarm Code 2010 issued by the U.S. National Fire Prevention Association includes a provision that will require use of a low-frequency (520 hertz) square-wave signal for fire alarms installed in residential bedrooms of people with mild to severe hearing loss by January 2010.
In Japan, scientists at Shiga University of Medical Science have invented a smoke alarm for the deaf that works by spraying smells of wasabi to wake sleepers. Wasabi is a pungent-smelling spicy horseradish commonly used as a condiment in Japanese cuisine. The product will be out in the shops by 2012 and priced around US$520.
© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2010.
Updated 25 Jan 2013 with image via Lane Rural Fire/Rescue.
Updated 02 Feb 2013 with extra tag.