A D.C. fire department official was incorrectly identified in a story in Saturday's editions about smoke detectors. His name is Capt. Richard Clark.
J. Hall decided to buy three of them at Hechinger Co. at Bladensburg Road and Maryland Avenue NE yesterday because, he said, "My wife doesn't move too fast." Naomi and Henry Jennings argued about whether to buy an electrical or battery operated model. Mack Lockhard, who arrived at 11 a.m., missed the models on sale and opted for a raincheck guaranteeing him one of Saturday's expected shipment.
The concerned D.C. residents were trying to comply with a 1978 city ordinance that goes into effect today requiring the installation of smoke detectors in all District residences, whether homes, hotels, hospitals, dormitories, nursing homes, or jails.
The detectors cost from about $15 to $65 each.
The deadline for compliance with the Smoke Detector Act caused a rush on smoke detectors in local stores and many merchants are already out of the devices. THE Electric Inc. at 1135 Oakey St. NE has sold more than 2,000 detectors since June 1, said Ken Proctor, a store employe.
Ed Copenhaver, manager of Frager's Hardware Store at 1115 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, said he has been selling the detectors before they get to the stockroom. "The problem with this is that after June 20, it'll be a dog item," he said.
Violators of the Smoke Detector Act could face a variety of penalties, including losing certificates of occupancy, fines of up to $300 and imprisonment for up to 90 days.
The D.C. Fire Department does not, however, plan to begin private home inspection next week.
"We will not arbitrarily inspect homes at this time although it is being considered. We don't have the personnel to do it," said Capt. Richard Burke, in charge of the fire investigation division of the department. He added that commercial residences such as hotels will be inspected annually.
There have been 28 fire-related deaths in commercial and residential buildings in D.C. since last June. Though officials expect the new law to save lives, the smoke detector is not an absolute guarantee. On June 8, a smoke detector was operating when two people died in an apartment house fire on Varney Street SE.
For adequate protection, Burke said the department recommends electric or ionized smoke detectors. The ionized smoke detector differs from the more popular electric type because it contains a radioactive element that some consumer groups consider harmful, according to Burke. He added, however, that the department considers both types safe. The department approves the use of any alarm approved by the Underwriters Laboratories or Factory Mutual.
Although the department does not specify whether residents should use battery-operated or electrical models, Burke said the electrical device "would be more reliable." Even in the case of an electrical fire, the detector should work unless it is connected to the circuit involved in the fire. Battery-operated smoke detectors usually must be checked monthly.