CMS issues rule requiring smoke detectors in resident rooms

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services last week issued a final interim rule on fire safety procedures requiring the placement of smoke detectors in the rooms of nursing home residents.

Per the rule published in the March 25 Federal Register, a nursing home that does not have a sprinkler system or a hard-wired smoke detection system installed throughout the facility is required to install battery-operated detectors in resident rooms and public areas.

The interim rule also spells out rules for the placement and maintenance of alcohol-based handwash lotions in nursing homes, hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Such facilities must make sure lotion dispensers are not placed near a heat or ignition source, that they are at least four feet apart, and that they are placed in corridors at least six feet wide.

CMS took "unprecedented action" regarding detectors in light of two nursing home fires in 2003 in Connecticut and Tennessee. Neither facility had smoke detectors in the patient rooms where the fires originated. Government reports concluded that the presence of smoke detectors would have alerted staff earlier and resulted in "a better outcome."

CMS and the National Fire Protection Association worked together to establish the new standards for hospitals and nursing homes. The interim final rule becomes effective May 24, and CMS will accept comments up until that date.