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World wide about 100 000 children die each year in fires, most of which occur in the home.1 Smoke detectors, by giving early warning, can substantially reduce the risk of death in the event of a residential fire.2 Many countries and states have therefore enacted legislation in an attempt to increase the prevalence of smoke detector use. The form of legislation introduced is likely to reflect a range of practical, economic, and ideological constraints. Legislation might apply to all housing or only new housing, and in the case of rental accommodation, the responsibility for installation of detectors may lie with the owner or with the occupier. To learn more about the diversity of legislative approaches, members of the International Society of Child and Adolescent Injury Prevention (ISCAIP) and injury control colleagues were invited to prepare short summaries of the smoke detector legislation in their own country, province, or state (table 1).
The observation that many countries and states around the world have enacted smoke detector legislation suggests that governments and legislators take seriously their responsibility to protect the public from the hazards of residential fires. However, the form of legislation varies widely both between and within countries. For example, Norway and Victoria (Australia) require all homes to have detectors with the onus on the owner to install them. On the other hand, in England and Wales there is no direct requirement to fit smoke detectors even in new housing, and in some US states there are no state laws at all on smoke detector installation (although building codes for new construction may include requirements for smoke detectors). The implementation of effective smoke detector legislation has the potential to make a substantial contribution to reducing fire deaths and injuries and is a prevention issue worthy of further research and advocacy.
Collaborators (in alphabetical order) Responsibility for the accuracy of the data for the respective country, province, or state rests with the named collaborator. Finn Mørch Andersen (Norway); Carolyn DiGuiseppi (UK); Mavis Duncanson (New Zealand); Anne Gill (USA); Cathy Gladwin (Canada); Tracy Greenidge (UK); Marcus Jay Hanfling (USA); Mike Hayes (UK); Adrian Horth (Australia); Finn Jahr (Norway); Kyp Kypri (New Zealand); Karen Liller (USA); Colin Macarthur (Canada); Morag MacKay (Canada); Anna Mayer (USA); Rosie Mercer (Northern Ireland); Piet Heyn Michels (Netherlands); Elizabeth Parra (USA); Kjell Schmidt Pedersen (Norway); Katharina Purtscher (Austria); Ian Roberts (UK); John Sarwark and staff of the Center for Childhood Safety (USA); Ian Scott (Australia); Mark Stevenson (USA); Kathleen Southerton (USA); Lynne Warda (Canada).