The Philip J. Dinenno Prize Awarded to the Affordable Home Smoke Alarm

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) today announced that the affordable home smoke alarm is the technical achievement to receive the inaugural Philip J. DiNenno Prize . The award and $50,000 in prize money was presented today at NFPA’s Conference & Expo to Lyman Blackwell who co-developed the smoke alarm with the late Duane Pearsall.

The prestigious DiNenno Prize recognizes important innovations that have had a significant impact on public safety, including building, fire, and electrical safety. The prize is named for the late Philip J. DiNenno for his extraordinary contributions to fire safety.

The affordable home smoke alarm was developed in the 1960’s by Pearsall and Blackwell who recognized a need for an inexpensive and easy-to-install smoke detector that could bring fire safety to every household. Assisted by many team members, they realized their goal when the new, battery-powered home smoke alarm entered the marketplace in 1972. The percentage of U.S. homes with smoke alarms increased from 22 percent in 1977 to 96 percent in 2010.

“The affordable home smoke alarm is one of the most important fire safety inventions of our time, helping save tens of thousands of lives in home fires,” said Jim Pauley, NFPA president. “With the inaugural DiNenno Prize, we honor this essential innovation and all those who helped realize the vision for the affordable home smoke alarm, and we honor Phil DiNenno who was one of the greatest leaders in fire and life safety.”

The vast majority of fire deaths are caused by fires in the home. According to NFPA, following the introduction of the affordable home smoke alarm, U.S. home fire deaths have been reduced by 53 percent over the past three and a half decades, with nearly 5,900 deaths in 1977 dropping to 2,755 in 2013. When factoring population growth over this time, the home fire death rate per million people was cut by two-thirds. While the decline in fire deaths can be attributed to a number of factors, the home smoke alarm has clearly had a major impact. According to NFPA statistics, the risk of dying in a home fire is 55 percent lower in homes with working smoke alarms than in homes with no smoke alarms at all or no working smoke alarms.   

In honor of the late Philip J. DiNenno, the highly regarded former CEO of Hughes Associates who passed away in 2013, NFPA established the DiNenno Prize in 2014. A prize committee considers nominations submitted from around the world. More information can be found at

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
Founded in 1896, NFPA is a global, nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards. The association delivers information and knowledge through more than 300 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach and advocacy; and by partnering with others that share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. For more information visit All NFPA codes and standards can be viewed online for free at

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