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Survey of Field Experience with Smoke Detectors in Health Care Facilities. Final Report.



Richard W. Bukowski, S M. Istvan


A survey of health care facilities in eight states was conducted to gather data on experience with smoke detection systems. Requested information included detector manufacturer and model number, number of detectors and time in service, detector locations, numbers of false and real alarms and the methods and frequency of cleaning and testing the detectors. The results of the survey indicate that about 70 percent of the detectors were ionization type, and 30 percent were of the photoelectric type. Fourteen percent of the total number of detectors were single-station, battery-operated, residential-type detectors, most of which were installed in health care facilities in only one of the eight states surveyed. Almost 80 percent of the detectors were installed in corridors and the average age of the detector installation was about five years. The detection systems were found to experience approximately 14 false alarms for each real fire detected with the highest false alarm rate occurring in detectors installed in laundry areas, storage areas, and kitchens. While over 88 percent of the systems were tested that least annually (55 percent tested monthly), almost half (45.7 percent) were never cleaned. Almost 11 percent of the installed systems were maintained under an outside service contract.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) -


smoke detectors, false alarms, health care facilities, hospitals, ionization detectors, maintenance, NFPA 101, nursing homes, photoelectric detectors, surveys


Bukowski, R. and Istvan, S. (1980), Survey of Field Experience with Smoke Detectors in Health Care Facilities. Final Report., NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed June 22, 2024)


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Created October 1, 1980, Updated February 19, 2017