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Sleeping Children And Smoke Alarms

Bruck, D. and Bliss, Angela, 2000. Sleeping Children And Smoke Alarms. AOFST 4


A previous study found that 85% of children did not reliably awaken to a standard hallway smoke alarm received at 60 dBA. To ensure the safety of children in a fire emergency, one response may be to install smoke detectors in children's bedrooms. The aim of this study was to determine whether children will indeed awaken to a smoke alarm in their bedroom. Twentyeight children aged 6-15 years participated and were exposed, on two different nights in their own home, to an alarm which was received at 89 dBA. Sleep/wake behaviour was determined objectively by wrist actigraphy and confirmed by self-report questionnaires, which also asked about clearheadedness and sleepiness. It was found that 50% of the children (14128) slept through one or both of the alarm presentations. If only the 6-10 year olds are considered, 71% (10/14) did not reliably awaken. Where a child awoke, most (77%) awoke within 32 seconds of alarm activation. Subjective reports from the children suggest they did not feel very clearheaded or awake in the first three minutes after being awoken. It is recommended that all family dwellings install interconnected systems where detectors are placed in high fire risk areas and hallways and interlinked alarms are in living areas and bedrooms (especially adult bedrooms).

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