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Talking smoke detectors wake sleeping children better than shrill, beeping alarm

Media contact:

Robert E. Thomas
Information Specialist
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group
Phone: 573-882-2480
Email: thomasr@missouri.edu

Published: Thursday, Feb. 21, 2008

Story source:

Karen Funkenbusch, 573-884-1268

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The piercing 85-decibel alarm from smoke detectors will wake most adults with a start, but small children might sleep right through them.

That’s why parents might want to consider an alarm that talks to their children in case of a fire, said Karen Funkenbusch, a University of Missouri safety specialist.

“Don’t rely on smoke detectors to wake up your child. That may be a fatal error. Research has shown that many children do not wake to the shrill beeping of an alarm, but they will respond to the recorded sound of their parents’ voices,” said Funkenbusch.

A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed that 96 percent of children woke up to the sound of their parents’ voices within five minutes, with half the children waking up within 20 seconds. Only 58 percent woke up to conventional smoke alarm tones within five minutes.

“The key to surviving a fire is getting out of your burning house in two minutes or less,” Funkenbusch said. “That means every second is precious.”

Using many inexpensive talking models on the market, parents can not only call their child by name but also give them a quick set of instructions on how to escape safely, she said.

More than 40,000 children are injured and hundreds are killed in house fires in the U.S. each year.

In addition to installing talking smoke alarms, parents should practice an escape plan with their children that identifies two exits from every room, especially bedrooms, she said.

If your house has more than one story or you live in an apartment, make sure there is a window exit with an escape ladder.

“Practice your plan with your children and repeat the lesson throughout the year,” Funkenbusch said.