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Are smoke detectors effective at waking children?

July 3, 2013 | By Anthony Capkun

July 2, 2013 – Standard domestic smoke detectors may not always wake children in the event of a fire, according to research at the University of Strathclyde’s Centre for Forensic Science and Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service.

The study of 34 children—20 girls and 14 boys aged between 2 and 13—found that 80% slept through smoke detector alarms. Each child was tested six times and only seven of the children woke during any of the tests. Only two children woke on every occasion and none of the 14 boys in the research woke at all.

While the findings do not call into question the value of smoke alarms in alerting people to fires nor their capacity to help save lives, the fact the children failed so often to wake up on the activation of the alarms does raise concerns, say researchers.

Professor Niamh Nic Daeid of Strathclyde’s Centre for Forensic Science, who led the research, said: “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”.

“Further research is required to build on the findings to date and investigate robust solutions to the issues highlighted,” added Daeid.

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