Detector Grants

Fire destroys, but the smoke created from a fire takes more human lives than many generally suspect.

Smoke, Fire, and Carbon Monoxide

Fire destroys, but the smoke created from a fire takes more human lives than many generally suspect. According to various fire officials, more that 75% of all dwelling fires start by smoldering cigarettes in upholstery and bedding, between 9:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Consequently, people are more likely to be fatally injured in a fire due to smoke inhalation or gases rather than severe burns incurred from the intense heat. Most building codes require smoke detectors in new and existing structures, including fraternity houses. Carbon monoxide can be odorless, and can therefore attack the human body without the person knowing it. Thousands of people die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping or relaxing in poorly ventilated areas that are supplied with this gas from a poorly ventilated or malfunctioning furnace, boiler, water heater or other type of flame operated equipment.

The Grant Program

The Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity, through consent of the Housing Commission, offers a grant program to reimburse any chapter up to a total of $100.00 for the purchase and proper installation of smoke/heat detectors and/or carbon monoxide detectors in the chapter house. All detectors purchased must be installed. The grant shall equal the exact amount of receipt(s) from the supplier(s), not to exceed $100.00 per chapter. The Housing Commission budgets an annual amount for this grant program and may suspend it if the budgeted amount is reached annually (Notice will be given in this event). Early participation is encouraged.


Complete the grant form with certification from chapter advisor or a house corporation officer. If your chapter has previously purchased detectors, and those detectors are not in working order, or if you feel additional detectors are needed, you may still qualify. Attach receipt(s) evidencing the purchase of the detectors. Send to the Memorial Headquarters, 8347 West Range Cove, Memphis, Tennessee, 38125, Attention: Real Estate Department. A check representing the grant reimbursement will be sent to the chapter within five working days upon receipt of a properly completed form.

Purpose of the Grant Program

The Housing Commission is offering this program as a service to chapters and house corporations. Every house should be equipped with a properly installed danger detection system. Several documented cases exist in the fraternity world, and some of our chapters in particular, where detection systems prevented bodily injury to fraternity members. The Housing Commission is not responsible for direction or enforcement of safety regulations in the chapter house. The Housing Commission is simply offering financial assistance in this critical area. It is the responsibility of each chapter and its house corporation to determine if the house meets local safety codes and cure any violations that may occur. We strongly encourage participation in this grant program and hope it is of assistance. Following is some helpful information about heat and smoke detectors.

Types of Detectors

  • Photoelectric: responds faster to a smoldering-type fire
  • Ionization: responds faster to an open flame

Both are equally effective in a residential application.


Several important factors should be considered when choosing a safety detection device. Make sure that the detector is listed by the Underwriters' Laboratory (UL). This will assure that minimum standards have been met in the manufacture of the product. The ionization detector requires less maintenance and there are no photoelectric bulbs to replace. To minimize false alarms, the ionization smoke detector should employ a dual sensing chamber. One chamber senses smoke, while the other is a sealed reference chamber that measures humidity, temperature, pressure and compensates for any variations by making continuous adjustments in sensitivity. Most detectors can be connected to normal house currents or are battery operated. A fire detection system that utilizes both the ionization and photoelectric detectors is recommended. There is a better chance that one of the types will activate should the other type fail. Carbon monoxide detectors are relatively new in terms of public awareness and, as they are affordably available to the public, it is recommended that consumer product publications be consulted to determine the best performing devices at the best value.


Location of fire and carbon monoxide detectors is the single most important aspect of any good alarm system. Detectors will have placement information included with installation instructions. An excellent source for additional placement recommendations is the local fire department. Generally, detectors are placed on the ceiling of a corridor or hallway just outside bedroom doors and within 10 feet. Additional fire detectors should be placed at the top of stairways and in the general living quarters, near stairways if possible. This means a number of detectors will be needed for an average or large chapter house. Fire detectors near bedrooms should be the battery operated ionization models. Detectors in the general living quarters could be plug-in photoelectric models, thereby having both types in the house in case either fails. In general, carbon monoxide detectors should be placed sufficiently close to carbon monoxide prone areas (i.e. near equipment and appliances that require a flame or pilot for operating) so that gases would be detected before doing harm, yet in a location where the alarm could be sufficiently heard. Gas and smoke can take unusual paths, therefore, please consult your local fire department for the best placement in your chapter house.

Makes & Cost

The local fire department could be consulted to recommend a brand of either detector. The choice among photoelectric models is not clear-cut. There is a difference in the ionization detectors. Quantity purchasing could allow for a significant discount. (Note: Chapters may realize further savings through quantity ordering by uniting all Greeks, perhaps through the Interfraternity Council, to purchase detectors from the same distributor at the same time. Local distributors should be contacted for exact pricing and delivery.) Since smoke detectors have been a proven savior of fraternity members' lives in recent years, it is strongly recommended that every chapter install an adequate smoke and carbon monoxide detection systems along with other fire protection devices.