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.
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 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.
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.’
Fire investigator Dave Coss 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 the 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.