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Mom's Voice Makes Better Smoke Alarm

Personalized Smoke Alarms Better Than Buzzer at Waking Sleeping Children

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 3, 2006 -- A parent's voice may beat the buzzer when it comes to waking children to warn them of fire.

A new study shows personalized smoke alarms featuring the voice of a parent telling the child to wake up and leave their bedroom were nearly twice as good at waking children from a deep sleep as a conventional tone smoke alarm.

Once they were awake, the children with the personalized smoke alarms were also better at performing a simulated escape procedure.

Researchers say the results suggest that personalized smoke alarms may help reduced fire-related deaths among children. The personalized smoke alarms are available commercially under the name SignalONE but cost about five times more than standard smoke alarms.

Parents Make Better Smoke Alarms

In the study, published in Pediatrics, researchers compared the effectiveness of a personalized voice recording of a parent to a standard tone alarm in waking 24 children aged 6 to 12 from a deep sleep.

The personalized alarm consisted of a recording of the child's mother's voice saying the child's first name twice followed by "Wake up! Get out of bed! Leave the room!" The voice or tone alarm was randomly played at the same volume (100 decibels), which is much louder than alarms currently available on the market, once the child reached deep sleep.

The results showed that 23 of the 24 children awoke to the parent voice alarm compared with just 14 who awoke to the standard tone smoke alarm.

In addition, 83% of the children who awoke to the personalized voice alarm were able to successfully complete an escape procedure within five minutes of the alarm vs. 38% who awoke to the tone alarm.

Researcher Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, of Columbus Children's Research Institute, and colleagues say this is the first study to compare the ability of two different types of smoke alarms to awaken sleeping children. The results suggest that the development of more effective smoke alarms for use in homes and other places where children sleep may provide a way to reduce fire-related deaths and injuries among children.

The personalized smoke alarms are commercially available but generally cost more than standard smoke alarms.

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