Hampshire firefighters have sounded an alert to parents after tests showed that many children fail to wake when a home fire alarm sounds.
They retweeted an alert by Derby Fire and Rescue Service after research found that of 34 children tested, 27 repeatedly slept through smoke detector alarms.
Experts from by Dundee University and Derbyshire Fire and Rescue have developed for testing an alarm with a lower pitch and a woman’s voice, which issues a warning: “Wake up, the house is on fire.”
Professor Niamh Nic Daeid, a forensic scientist at Dundee University, said: ‘Boys are especially hard to wake, and we think they will respond to a human voice.’
She said that standard smoke alarms had a frequency of around 3,000Hz, but the prototype new device was set at a lower pitch of 520Hz, to which it was believed young children were more likely to respond.
Reasearchers are seeking 500 families to take part in the trial, which follows tests of smoke alarms in the homes of 34 children aged between two and 13.
Each was tested six times and not warned that the smoke alarm was to be set off.
Researchers said that 27 children slept through the alarms on all six tests. Seven children, all girls, woke at least once.
None of the boys woke during the tests.
Rodney Mountain, of Dundee University’s School of Medicine, said: ‘Children’s hearing ability, brain function, sleep patterns and stage of brain development is very different to adults.
‘We are programmed to respond to human voices warning of danger, such as a mother’s voice shouting to warn a child.
‘Children are not born pre-programmed for our modern world of danger warning sounds from digital beeps and sirens - they have to learn, recognise and interpret these sounds.’