Light Leads to Safety in Home Fires

By Jan Norman, The Orange County Register

A near-fatal home fire led Sonja Zozula to invent a product that she hopes will save lives. The San Clemente resident will receive this week her first shipment of LightSaver devices that illuminate doorways when a smoke alarm goes off.

“Between 3,000 and 4,000 people die in a fire every year and 85 percent of these deaths are in homes,” Zozula says. “It only takes two minutes for smoke to become deadly in a fire and the doorway is often very quickly screened from view because of that smoke.”

In 1998, Zozula was living in Ocean Beach. She had two daughters aged 4 years and 4 months. She had been so tired that she had fallen asleep with the baby bottles, pacifiers and teething toys boiling on the stove. She woke with a house full of smoke. For a decade she regularly woke in the middle of the night, frightened that she and her daughters wouldn’t be able to find the doors in order to escape the fire. Zozula was working for a developer and told a colleague, Jerry Anderson, about her recurring dream. The next day, Anderson was on a flight when the attendant instructed passengers that in case of an emergency to follow the lights to the exits. Zozula and Anderson decided lighted exits would help in home fires too, and started researching for patented solutions in 2006. They didn’t find anything, so they started developing the LightSaver on their own. Their patent is currently pending. They moved the company, LightSaver Technologies, to San Clemente to be closer to product engineers and other companies that have helped develop the product. The resulting battery-operated device fits in the palm of a hand. It mounts to the wall above a door by adhesive squares on the back of the device. Wires 1.2 millimeter thick are placed around the doorway and baseboards. It is set to the frequency of the alarm that most home smoke detectors emit, Zozula says. “We’re working on a version that will use a voice recording. Young children might not know what to do when they hear the smoke alarm but they will respond to a parent’s voice,” she explains. The device sells for $89.99 from the company website, The company is working with Lowes to sell LightSaver from the building supply retailer’s website The company is also making a direct response television commercial that Zozula expects to air in April. Zozula and Anderson have invested more than $1 million so far to develop the LightSaver and get it to market. LightSaver Technologies recently had the opportunity to test the device in a fire that the Sonoma Fire Department was using as a training exercise. “It was new, so before the test I was thinking, ‘I hope this works’” Zozula says. “Then every firefighter came out and said he could see the doorway and told me, ‘You’re going to save lives with this.’ I was thrilled. Friends told Zozula in 2008 that she was crazy to start a business in the recession. “But I have a social and moral obligation because I really believe this will save lives,” she says.

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