Smoke Alarms Fail To Wake Children

28 June 2013, 06:00 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50

Capital's been told 80 per cent of children under the age of 13 years old don't respond to smoke alarms.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue carried out the research after numerous house fire across the region where children had died, despite smoke detector alarms being activated in the house, the most recent case being the death of the six Philpott children on Victory Road in Derby last year. 

East Midlands Regional Fire Investigation Dog Handler and Watch Manager, Dave Coss attended that fire and began to conduct research as part of a Master of Science dissertation in collaboration with Professor Niamh Nic Daeid at the Centre for Forensic Science at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. 

During the research project, a total of 204 tests involving the activation of smoke alarms were conducted on 34 children. The children, (20 girls and 14 boys), were all aged between two and 13 years and the tests were undertaken in the children's homes using standard domestic smoke alarms fitted within the property. 

The parents activated the 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:

  • 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.
  • None of the male children woke during any of the tests.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue told Capita that: "While the value of smoke alarms as a means of alerting people to fires is not in question and there is no doubt that smoke alarms can save lives, the research results highlight an apparent inability of the children under test, and in particular the male children, to wake up on activation of standard domestic smoke alarms."

Fire Tips: 

  • Ensure you have at least one working smoke alarm in your property and ideally one in EVERY room
  • Have a pre-planned and practised escape route/plan that everyone in your home, whether a family member or overnight guest, is aware of - this plan must account for waking, alerting and evacuating all children in your home.

Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service say they will also use this study to continue to campaign and work towards domestic sprinklers being fitted into all new homes and the homes of those most vulnerable to fire, as and where appropriate.

For more information about keeping safe in the home and planning an escape route please visit