Families wanted for new smoke alarm study

Evidence suggests some children do not wake to commonly used smoke alarms.

Evidence suggests some children do not wake to commonly used smoke alarms.

Researchers are seeking hundreds of families across Scotland to help them trial a new smoke alarm sound aimed specifically at waking children.

The number of lives lost as a result of fires has fallen by half since home usage of smoke alarms became widespread. However, there is evidence to suggest that some children do not wake to commonly used smoke alarms.

This has prompted a research study by Professor Niamh NicDaeid of the University of Dundee’s Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification (CAHID) and her research student Dave Coss, a fire Investigator and Watch Commander with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service. The research showed that children respond to different tones and frequencies of alarm than adults and that boys and girls are wakened by a different combination of sounds.

The research team investigated different sounds and found that a low frequency intermittent bleep-rest-bleep pattern followed by a recorded spoken message appeared to be effective in waking up both boys and girls, with preliminary tests indicating a 90 per cent success rate.

Professor Niamh NicDaeid said: “We know that smoke alarms are vital in making our homes and communities safe in the event of a fire. Our research has demonstrated however, that the current smoke alarms used do not always wake children from sleep.

“The first stage of the project tested 34 children, both boys and girls, of varying ages, to see if they woke when a smoke alarm was activated. The tests were carried out in the family home and 80 per cent of the children, including all of the boys slept through the alarm. Protecting our children in the event of fire is so fundamentally important that we want to involve parents and their children in expanding this research.

“We want to involve parents and their children in expanding this research. Most work in the area has been carried out using relatively small numbers of children and usually in sleep laboratories. We want to make this much more relevant to the real world and undertake the tests in the familiar environment of the child’s home and so we are appealing for volunteers to help us. I can’t think of a better way of bringing University research and public interest together.”

Professor NicDaeid added: “We are looking for 500 volunteer families to work with us on this project and become part of our CAHID research community. We will send volunteers full instructions on how to get involved and will help them to run the tests and explain how to send us their results.”

Anyone interested in taking part needs to have children under 16 years of age. Visit: www.derbys-fire.gov.uk/keeping-safe/smoke-alarm-study/.