Smoke Alarms Do Not Always Wake Children Up
June 28, 2013

Sleeping Children Don’t Always Hear Smoke Alarms

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Standard-issue smoke detectors might not be enough to keep your children safe during a fire, as new research is casting doubts on their ability to wake up youngsters during an emergency.

Researchers from the University of Strathclyde's Centre for Forensic Science in Glasgow, Scotland and the Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service in England conducted a study of 34 children (20 girls and 14 boys) between the ages of two and 13.

They found 80 percent of them slept through the smoke detector alarms. Each child was tested on six occasions, and only seven of them woke up during any of the tests. In addition, only two of the youngsters (both female) woke up on every occasion.

The investigators note they do not intend for their study to cast doubts on the value of smoke alarms when it comes to alerting people to fires. Likewise, they do not call into question the ability of the devices to help save lives. However, they believe their inability to awaken kids is cause for concern.

"While the results of this study remain preliminary given the number of children involved, they do highlight concerns that cannot be ignored about the effectiveness of smoke detectors in waking children," lead researcher Niamh Nic Daeid, a professor at Strathclyde's Centre for Forensic Science, said in a statement.

"Further research is required to build on the findings to date and investigate robust solutions to the issues highlighted," she added. Nic Daeid was assisted in the research by Dave Coss, East Midlands Regional Fire Investigation Dog Handler and Watch Manager with Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service.

Coss conducted the study as part of his Masters degree studies at the University of Strathclyde.

Officials at the Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service emphasize that it is extremely important to have a working smoke detector in each level of a home. Furthermore, they said the results of the research reinforces how important it is to have a pre-planned, practiced escape route that everybody in the house - including all children and temporary guests - are aware of.