Almost all fire safety organizations and codes require the use of smoke alarms in new business and residential construction. The idea is that they save lives, as mentioned in this article from FEMA.
This article from Freakanomics calls into question their actual efficacy in saving lives, compared to other trends which have reduced fire deaths.
If the ionization smoke alarm was responsible for most of the decrease in fire deaths in the last part of the 20th century, shouldn’t the rate of decrease have been greatest over the time period that smoke alarm usage increased the fastest? Yet over the time period of 1977–1987, when the use of smoke alarms skyrocketed, the trend line remained relatively constant. The death rate was trending down before smoke alarms and continued to trend down after they saturated the market. It does not appear that ionization smoke alarms affected the trend line. NIST inexplicably ignores the trends in better building codes, reduction in smoking, better firefighting equipment, and better emergency medical care as likely reasons for the reduction in fire deaths.
Is there actual credible evidence that fire alarms reduce deaths from fire? Is all of the time and effort going into installing, maintaining, and dealing with the false alarms when they are set off by cooking just safety theater?