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Smoke Alarm Featuring Mother's Voice Better At Waking Children Than Traditional Tone - Study

HuffPost UK logo HuffPost UK 25/10/2018 Isabel Togoh

An eighteen month old baby girl is cuddled by her mother while asleep in bed together. Photo Tim Clayton (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images) © Getty An eighteen month old baby girl is cuddled by her mother while asleep in bed together. Photo Tim Clayton (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images) A mother’s voice works better than a fire alarm at waking children up and could save lives if a recording is added to devices, US scientists found.

Traditional devices are notoriously difficult at waking children up.

But researchers at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio found children left their rooms much faster with modified alarms - in under 30 seconds - compared with nearly five minutes when roused by a traditional alarm.

The team studied 176 children, aged between five and 12, in a sleep laboratory.

While they were in the deepest phase of sleep, researchers played three different “voice alarms” to each.

They also tested a commonly used tone.

The children were about three times more likely to be woken by one of the voice alarms than by the shrill smoke detector, researchers found.

The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that alarms using the mother’s voice roused up to nine in 10 children, compared with just over half for the tone alarm.

The study’s co-author, Dr Mark Splaingard, director of the hospital’s sleep disorders centre, said the findings could help save lives in the future.

“Children are remarkably resistant to awakening by sound when asleep,” he said, noting they sleep more deeply than adults.

“We were able to find a smoke alarm sound that reduces the amount of time it takes for many children … to wake up and leave the bedroom.”

Lead author Gary Smith added: “This study confirmed that a maternal voice alarm is better than a traditional high-pitch tone alarm for waking children and prompting their escape.”

Tests also showed that the mother did not have to say the child’s name for the voice alarm to be effective.

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Researchers tried including first names in the voice alarm messages, but no significant differences were found between tests with or without them.

“This means one alarm could work for multiple children sleeping near each other in a home,” Smith said.

Children under the age of five were not tested because they are considered too young to rescue themselves in a fire, while teenagers do not have the same difficulty in waking up to smoke alarms.

But researchers now want to explore how modified alarms could impact adults.

Rick Hylton, from the UK’s National Fire Chiefs Council, told the BBC he was looking forward to seeing how the research panned out.

He said: “People shouldn’t be concerned about the effectiveness of their current smoke alarms.

“We know smoke alarms save lives so we ask that people ensure they have installed smoke alarms.

“They will alert occupants early if working, fitted and installed in the correct location. This gives adults, parents or guardians the opportunity to wake children, and leave the house.”

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