There's a very good reason to be particularly fearful of a home fire while you're asleep. Almost half of all fatal home fires PDF 773 KB during the years 2014-2016 occurred between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Previous research also shows that while auditory tone alarms wake most adults, they are less likely to wake up children.
The auditory stimulus needed to wake a child from sleep is greater than that for adults.
Researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital (NCH) in Columbus, Ohio recently re-visited their findings from a previous 2006 study comparing parent voice and conventional tone smoke alarms. They used a larger sample size in the second study to confirm that a personalized maternal voice alarm is more successful in waking children than the conventional tone signal. They also examined whether using the child's name in the personalized voice alarm contributes significantly to waking a child.
Study results 1
The team from NCH and Ohio State University compared the effectiveness of three maternal voice alarms and a conventional high-pitch tone alarm in waking 176 children between the ages of 5 – 12. They also tested whether the children could perform a self-escape procedure.
The results showed that a maternal voice alarm was about three times more likely to wake a child than a tone alarm. Also, 85 percent of the children woken by a maternal voice alarm had enough time to escape, compared to just 51 percent for the tone alarm.
I think one of the most remarkable things that we saw were children that would sleep up to five minutes through a very loud, high-pitched tone alarm, the type of alarm that's in most households, and yet the next time they fell asleep and we sounded the mothers voice in the smoke alarm, they woke up almost immediately and immediately left the room.
- Maternal voice alarms outperformed a conventional high-pitch tone smoke alarm in waking up children in a home.
- Most of the children who awoke within 5 minutes of the voice alarm were also able to perform the escape procedure within the 5 minutes. Maternal voice alarm use may be able to reduce fire injuries and fatalities among children old enough to perform self-rescue.
- Using the child's first name did not increase the alarm effectiveness. A single voice alarm using the mother's voice can be effective for waking multiple children.
Questions that remain
Future research needs to look at whether another female or male voice can be equally effective compared to the mother's voice. Another question is how does a maternal voice alarm compare with a low-pitch tone? And finally, are these voice alarms equally effective for waking all other age groups?
Learn more about this research
Summary information for this article was provided by the NETC Library. You can find this article in our library.
1Smith, G. A., Chounthirath, T., & Splaingard, M. (2018). Effectiveness of a Voice Smoke Alarm Using the Childs Name for Sleeping Children: A Randomized Trial. The Journal of Pediatrics. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2018.09.027
This summary is for informational purposes only. As such, the content does not reflect any official positions, policies, or guidelines on behalf of the sender, the U.S. Fire Administration, FEMA, DHS, nor any other federal agencies, departments or contracting entities. Similarly, this summary does not represent in any manner an official endorsement or relationship to any private or public companies, organizations/associations, or any authors or individuals cited or websites associated within the article.
Preparedness Month and fire safety
Severe weather can happen at any time, in any part of the country. That's why it is important for your community to be ready for severe weather events and to understand the fire risks that can come with them.
Respiratory Protection Week 2020
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has assembled informative webinars and other content to help you make the best decisions about respiratory protection and to keep you safe.
A pictograph is worth a thousand words
Our pictographs can help you reach everyone in your community with fire and life safety messages.
Hurricane Isaias shows why storm fire safety matters
Despite making landfall as a weak Category 1 hurricane, the wind and storm surge from Isaias caused significant fire safety problems for Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina.
New graphics highlight wildland firefighter safety messaging
Graphics for wildland firefighters that depict the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders and 18 Watch Out Situations are available for download.
Minimizing the effects of wildfire smoke during COVID-19
Inform your community about these actionable steps they can take to minimize the respiratory effects of wildfire smoke.
Retrofitting homes with lower cost sprinkler technologies
USFA is working with the UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute on research to reduce home fire sprinkler retrofit complexities.
Doing the little things makes a difference in wildfire safety
Learn about simple and low-cost actions that homeowners can take to protect their homes from wildfire.
First responders: know your fire investigation role
This year's Arson Awareness Week (May 3-9) highlights the crucial role that first responders can play in a successful fire investigation.
Fire onboard: safety tips for boaters in your community
Resources you can use to make people in boating communities aware of onboard fire dangers and how to prevent boat and marina fires.
WUI fire evacuations: how national address point data helps
A national address point database can be of value to officials during wildfire evacuations by allowing for more precise mapping and improved information sharing.
Mitigating the risk and impact of assaults on EMS responders
The SAVER checklist helps departments assess and implement training, policies and practices to mitigate assaults on EMS responders.
Helping assaulted first responders during legal prosecutions
Recommendations to overcome common obstacles to the legal prosecution of people who assault first responders.
How organizational factors affect firefighter cancer screening
Having two or more health and safety officers influences the availability of firefighter cancer screening.
Teach your community about the dangers of fire
A recent survey shows that many in your community probably don't understand the life-threatening risks from heat and toxic smoke produced in a modern home fire.
Community paramedics helpful in treating home-bound patients
A community paramedicine program, integrated with an advanced illness management program, can be effective in treating frail, older adults in their homes.
Mitigating wildfire vulnerability: one community's success story
Learn how the Montecito Fire Protection District used a socio-ecological mitigation approach to successfully fight the Thomas Fire.
Medal of Valor ceremony recognizes two Kansas firefighters
U.S. Fire Administrator Keith Bryant attended the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor ceremony at the White House on May 22, 2019.
Assessing cardiovascular disease risk with push-ups
Can a simple exercise like a push-up be an inexpensive way for fire departments to assess cardiovascular disease risk in firefighters?
Using nanotechnology to minimize fire damage
Nanotechnology, manufactured at scale and low cost while posing minimal health risks, may potentially point to a future with fewer fires that are less lethal and less damaging.
A better DC hot stick technology is on the way
New tool will help prevent first responder electrical injury.
Takeaways from a hoarding intervention strategy
A recent study of the City of Vancouver’s Hoarding Action Response Team provides key takeaways for fire departments.
Firefighter decon challenges? Try a communication intervention.
Learn about a communication intervention strategy designed by researchers to increase post-fire decontamination behaviors in firefighters.
Firefighter decon challenges: knowledge versus practice
Understanding firefighter beliefs related to decontaminating bunker gear is an essential first step to reduce exposure risks.
Dual dispatch to cardiac arrest: can it save lives?
Dual dispatch of EMT-trained firefighters shortens response time and increases survival chance for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest patients.
Waking children with maternal voice smoke alarms
A new study from Nationwide Children's Hospital shows that maternal voice smoke alarms are more effective in waking children than conventional tone alarms.
How one homeowner saved his house from the Carr Fire
Learn about wildfire mitigation measures one California homeowner took during construction and maintained over the years to make his home fire-resilient.
EMS Mobile Integrated Health during disaster response
How one community's MIH providers assisted with patient care during severe flooding.
Training helps EMS workers identify human trafficking signs
Learn about the key components of a human trafficking training and awareness program for EMS workers.
Reducing airborne contaminant exposure with fireground tactics
New study provides valuable insights into fireground exposure risks and ways to mitigate them.
Smoke alarm messaging: Facebook ads versus phone calls
Study shows automated calls were more successful than Facebook ads in getting residents to request a free smoke alarm install.
Fire and life safety concerns in peer-to-peer lodging
Fire departments and communities around the U.S. are starting to recognize and address the unique fire safety concerns that peer-to-peer lodgings, like Airbnb, present.
Circuit training impact on volunteer firefighters’ cardiovascular health
About 20 percent of volunteer firefighters meet the VO2 max fitness level recommended by NFPA 1582. So how might volunteer firefighters best improve their cardiovascular fitness? A study published this year explored how circuit training may help.
Mitigating fireground injury risks: Suggested interventions
Firefighting poses many hazards that come in a wide variety of work settings. A recent study focused on the scope and nature of fireground injuries to determine what steps fire departments can take to better mitigate hazards posed by certain risks.
Home fire safety canvassing: Achieving better results
Planning a home canvassing event? These research-based tips can help you to win maximum neighborhood participation.
Firefighter burnout and workplace safety
Are firefighters who show symptoms of burnout less likely to follow safety procedures? A team of researchers recently set out to learn if burnout impacted a firefighter’s ability to follow required safe work practices.
New Firefighter Cancer Registry will help to monitor cancer incidents
The voluntary registry will include the number and type of fires each firefighter attended.
Study reveals successful smoke alarm installation partnership
Find out what happened when Maricopa County, Arizona firefighters partnered with nurses from a home visiting program to get smoke alarms into homes of the “hard-to-reach.”
Fire sprinkler tax incentives for small businesses
Fire service officials: Here’s some news that you can share with local small business owners to encourage them to install fire sprinklers.
EMS prehospital documentation accuracy: Can body-worn cameras help?
This article discusses the results of a pilot study where EMS providers used body-worn cameras to see if they could help to improve the accuracy of their prehospital documentation.
Factors that contribute to preventable firefighter deaths
A recent study highlights the importance of SOPs in preventing firefighter fatalities.
Clear boarding creates a ”no ply“ zone
There’s a new alternative to plywood for boarding up vacant and abandoned buildings that can help prevent arson: clear board.
Clean gear is the new badge of honor
This article looks at firefighter perceptions of dirty gear and how Palm Beach County Fire Rescue promoted organizational resilience to combat the risk of firefighter cancer from dirty gear.
Clean your PPE and skin post-fire to reduce chemical exposure risk
Firefighting activities can lead to chemical contamination. This article presents research findings on cleaning personal protective equipment and skin to reduce chemical exposures.
Transforming cardiac emergency care with drone delivery of AEDs
Preliminary studies suggest that medical drones may make a life-saving difference in providing emergency care to cardiac arrest patients, especially those in a rural setting.
Turnout times: How important is time of day?
Research findings from a recent study into how station design of dormitory location and the time of day of the emergency affect turnout times.
The effect of repeated exposure trauma on firefighters
This article details findings from a research project that studied the impact of repeated exposure trauma on firefighters.
New report offers insights for emergency responders on chlorine releases
Multiagency chlorine release experiments were conducted in part to help emergency responders meet the planning, tactical and operational challenges of a catastrophic Toxic Inhalation Hazard release.