Smoke alarm and children research: Derbyshire FRS

Following national coverage on children and smoke alarms, based on research from Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service, in conjunction with the University of Dundee, Derbyshire FRS issued the following press release, ahead of the research being released.  

In 2013 Watch Manager Dave Coss from Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service commenced a field of study looking into children not waking to the sound of working smoke alarms.

This research was triggered by a terrible tragedy whereby six children from the same family, sadly lost their lives in a house fire in Derbyshire in 2012. WM Coss is now continuing with this research, as part of a PHD with Dundee University, and is launching the next phase of his study which will see a new alarm sound tested.

During the initial study, a total of 204 tests were conducted on 34 children (20 girls, and 14 boys aged 2-13 yrs.) in their own homes, using standard domestic smoke alarms (2500-4000hz) fitted within the property.

Parents activated their smoke alarms continuously for one minute after the children had gone to bed and then recorded the time taken for each child to wake. The children were given no prior warning of any tests and each child was tested six times.

The results obtained were that:

  • 80% of the children slept through the alarms on all six of the tests they were exposed to.
  • Only 7 children (all girls) woke at least once during the six tests.
  • Of these 7 children, only two, both girls aged 10 years, woke each of the six times the alarm was sounded.

You can read the full findings on Derbyshire’s website.


Mark Cashin CFOA Lead for Prevention said: “”The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) know that working smoke alarms save lives and their use has significantly contributed to the long-term downward trend in fire fatalities.

“They can provide valuable early warning of a fire, allowing families to get out, stay out and call 999. But it is also crucial that people test their smoke alarms once a week and as this research does indicate that some children may not wake to the sound of a smoke alarm; parents, guardians and responsible adults should ensure that they prepare an escape plan which must account for this.

” Children must be woken and evacuated as part of this plan. CFOA welcomes any research that adds to our knowledge and that can allow people to be best prepared in the event of a fire incident.”





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