Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

John P. Woycheese, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Kathy A. Notarianni, Department Head


Daniel T. Gottuk




Post-fire reconstruction often includes the analysis of smoke alarms. The determination of whether or not an alarm has sounded during a fire event is of great interest. Until recently, analysis of smoke alarms involved in fires has been limited to electrical diagnostics, which, at best, determined whether or not a smoke alarm was capable of alarm during the fire event. It has subsequently been proposed that evaluation of the soot deposition around a smoke alarm horn can be used to conclude whether a smoke alarm has sounded during a fire event. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of using enhanced soot deposition patterns as an indication of smoke alarms sounding within a fire event, four test series were undertaken. First, a population of smoke alarms representative of the available market variety of horn configurations was selected. This population was subjected four test series. Test Series 1 consisted of UL/EN style experiments with fuel sources that included flaming polyurethane, smoldering polyurethane, flaming wood crib, and flaming turpentine pool. In Test Series 2, alarms were exposed to "nuisance" products from frying bacon, frying tortillas, burnt toast, frying breading, and airborne dust. Test Series 3 exposed the alarms to the following fire sources: smoldering cable, flaming cable, flaming boxes with paper, and flaming boxes with plastic cups. Test Series 4 included new, used, and pre-exposed smoke alarms that were exposed to two larger scale fires: a smoldering transitioning to flaming cabinet/wall assembly fire and a flaming couch section. The results from all four series were used to generate a hueristic for use in evaluating alarms from fire events. These criteria were blindly tested against the population of alarms to develop a correlation between the criteria and the previously tested smoke alarms. The results support the evaluation of soot deposition on smoke alarms exposed to a fire event as a viable method to determine whether or not an alarm sounded, without false positive or negative identifications.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Fire Protection Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





acoustic agglomeration, smoke detector response, enhanced deposition, soot deposition, Fire alarms, Soot, Sedimentation and deposition