Children sleep through fire alarms

27th Sep 2019
Children sleep through fire alarms

(Photo: Smengelsrud/Pixabay Commons)

Three-quarters of children are likely to sleep through the sound of a standard smoke alarm because their sounds are the wrong frequencies, a study by the University of Dundee has warned.

The study, carried out in collaboration with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service and featuring 644 children, found participants responded better to different tones and frequencies than in standard alarms.

Only 28 per cent of children in the study woke to the standard alarm, while an alarm tested using a lower frequency sound combined with a voice recording woke over 75 per cent of children.

Professor Niamh Nic Daeid who led the study said: “We would ask manufacturers of existing smoke alarms to alter their packaging so that they reflect the outcomes of our work. We have now identified an alarm sound which is much more effective at waking children and our next aim is to develop innovative devices which will link to existing smoke alarms to improve fire safety for children.”

The BBC’s Watchdog team repeated the experiment on eight children under the age of 10. Long after the children were fast asleep, their parents tested their existing smoke alarms for one minute. All but one child slept right through the alarm. The only child that showed any sign of being woken by the alarm got out of bed to get a teddy before going back to bed and falling asleep.

The packaging on current smoke alarms does not carry any warning that children may not wake up if the alarm is sounded but parents whose children slept through Watchdog’s test joined Professor Nic Daeid in calling for manufacturers to make it clear that the smoke alarm might not wake children up. “Smoke alarms are vital life-saving tools but manufacturers, fire services, local authorities, regulatory bodies and others with responsibility for fire safety must assert the message that they do not always wake young children and, as such, people must be advised to wake their children if their fire alarm sounds,” added Daeid.

Elham Asaad Buaras

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