Smoke alarms don’t wake children – advice

Kent Fire and Rescue LogoNews that sleeping children are not woken by smoke alarms has prompted Kent Fire and Rescue Service to advise parents to wake children as part their fire escape plan.

Kent Fire and Rescue Service Community Safety Manager Colin King has said:

“Working smoke alarms save lives and their use has significantly contributed to the long-term downward trend in fire fatalities. They can provide valuable early warning of a fire, allowing families to get out, stay out and call 999, but it is also crucial that people test their smoke alarms once a week.

“However as this research indicates that some children may not wake to the sound of a smoke alarm; parents, guardians and responsible adults should ensure that they prepare an escape plan that includes waking and evacuating children as part of their plan.”

The University of Dundee have written:

“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 Nic Daeid 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 project is also supported by Derby Housing and smoke alarm manufacturer Ei Electronics.

“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 partners have emphasised that current smoke alarms remain a valuable part of protecting against the dangers of fire and have saved thousands of lives.

“They added that:

  • Children should never be in a house without a responsible adult being present.
  • As part of any Fire Exit Plan, the adult should wake the children
  • Ei Electronics, a sponsor of this Research, is developing a low-frequency(520Hz) sounder which can be accompanied by a recorded voice warning, ideally that of the mother.”

Smoke alarm research may help to save children’s lives, University of Dundee 23 February 2017

Smoke alarm and children research: Derbyshire FRS, Chief Fire Officers Association, 23 February 2017

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