Three quarters of children would SLEEP THROUGH a standard smoke alarm ‘because they make the wrong tones’, study warns
- Just 28 per cent of children were woken by standard alarms during experiment
- Fire service said manufacturers should warn that children may stay sleeping
- Children were found to respond better to different tones and frequencies
Most children are likely to sleep through the sound of a standard smoke alarm because their sounds are the wrong frequencies, a study has warned.
Three quarters of youngsters were not woken up by an alarm in their home in an experiment by researchers and the fire service.
Watchdogs have now warned that manufacturers should be telling parents of the risks standard alarms pose in the event of a fire.
Most children are likely to sleep through the sound of a standard smoke alarm because they make the wrong frequencies, a new study has warned (stock photo)
The University of Dundee study, in collaboration with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, carried out the experiment on 644 children.
It found children respond better to different tones and frequencies than in standard alarms.
For example, an alarm tested using a lower frequency sound combined with a voice recording woke more than 75 per cent of the children.
The research will be featured on the BBC One show Watchdog tonight, with the experiments repeated on eight children under the age of 10.
Viewers will see parents test their standard smoke alarms for one minute while their children are asleep, with all but one child oblivious to the noise.
The only child that showed any sign of being woken by the alarm just got out of bed to get a teddy before going back to bed and falling asleep.
An alarm tested using a lower frequency sound combined with a voice recording woke more than 75 per cent of the children (stock image)
The original study was led by Professor Niamh Nic Daeid, director of the Leverhume Research Centre for Forensic Science at the University of Dundee.
He said it highlights the need for manufacturers of smoke alarms to put a warning message on their packaging about the risk of children not waking up in the event of fire, even when alarms are triggered.
Prof Daeid said: ‘Our research has shown that current smoke alarms are not very good at waking up children.
‘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.
‘We welcome any and all interest in helping us achieve this aim.’
The research will be featured on the BBC One show Watchdog with Steph McGover on Thursday, with the experiments repeated on eight children under the age of 10
The Watchdog Live was supervised by fire investigator Dave Coss from Derbyshire Fire and Rescue, who worked with Professor Nic Daied on the Dundee research.
Speaking to Watchdog presenter Steph McGovern, he said: ‘The two things that stand out for me are, first of all, the shock, the genuine shock on the face of the parents when they realise their kids haven’t woken up.
‘Secondly, in a fire situation, time matters.
‘Currently in legislation, one smoke alarm fits all. So there’s no requirement to make a separate one for children or a separate one for adults.’
Parents whose children slept through Watchdog’s test joined Prof Daeid in calling for manufacturers to make it clear that the smoke alarm might not wake children up.
Prof Daeid added: ‘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
The full story and experiment can be seen on BBC Watchdog Live at 8pm on Thursday on BBC One.
SLEEPING CHILDREN AT RISK FROM STANDARD FIRE ALARMS
With the number of deaths falling by around half since the use of fire alarms in homes became widespread, research has shown the devices do not always wake youngsters up.
Research in 2013 saw sleeping children exposed to the sound of industry-standard smoke detectors inside their homes.
More than 80 per cent of the 34 children aged between two and 13 who were tested did not respond to the alarm when it was sounding.
Only two children woke up every time and none of the 14 boys woke up at all.
Scientists at the University of Dundee and Dave Coss, a fire investigator and watch commander at Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, carried out the study.
Mr Coss said he started the academic study after six children died in Derby in a blaze started by their parents.
Mick Philpott was jailed for life with a minimum of 15 years after being convicted of manslaughter. His wife Mairead was handed a 17-year sentence.
The youngsters, aged between five and 13, who died from the effects of smoke, were asleep in their beds upstairs when the blaze broke out at the semi-detached house in the early hours.
Mr Coss told the BBC: ‘When we investigated this tragic case we thought the children may have been incapacitated in some way and prevented from getting up, as all were found in their beds.’
He told the broadcaster that since toxicology reports were negative, the only other explanation was that the children ‘did not respond to the smoke detector and just carried on sleeping’.
Source: University of Dundee and Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service
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