Smoke detectors using a mother's voice, according to a new study, raise children better than the usual high tone.
Researchers said that the alarm with a woman's voice was nearly 40 percent more effective at raising children and 35 percent more effective at getting children to "flee."
Figures show that when residential fires occur at night, while people are sleeping, deaths are more likely to occur and that many small children do not wake up to traditional high-tonal alarms.
The team from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Ohio says their findings could help develop a more effective smoke detector that helps young children find their way to safety in the event of a fire – even when they're home alone.
Smoke detectors using a mother's voice are much better at waking little children up and getting them to escape a burning house than traditional beepers found new research
For the study, the researchers looked at the characteristics of four different smoke detectors to determine which were best for awakening children.
They tested three alarms that used the mother's voice, in addition to a high-tone smoke detector commonly used in homes.
The study included 176 children between the ages of 5 and 12 who visited a sleep research center.
The team stated that it chose this age group because children under five are considered by the Fire Protection Community to be too diligent to reliably carry out self-rescue in a household fire, and therefore rely on rescuing adults.
And teenagers, they said, do not experience the same difficulties as younger children when they wake up to a high-pitched smoke alarm.
Researchers found that a sleeping child was aroused three times more often by one of the three voice alarms than the sound alarm.
The mother's voice woke up between 86 and 91 percent of the children, forcing 84 to 86 percent to flee the bedroom.
In comparison, the sound alarm woke only 53 percent of children and caused 51 percent to "flee".
The study also looked at the effect of various alarms on the time it took the children to get out of the bedroom.
If a child wakes up in a real fire but takes too long to leave a burning building, he or she may suffer serious or fatal injuries.
The researchers said that the median time to trigger the high-pitch alarm was 282 seconds – nearly five minutes – while the median time for the voice alarms was 18 to 28 seconds.
Since the human brain also reacts differently to the sound of our own name during sleep, the researchers wanted to test whether the inclusion of the child's first name in the alarm message influences the alarm effect.
However, no significant differences were found between each pair of voice alarms, regardless of whether the child's name was included in the message.
"Children are remarkably resistant to the sounds of awakening when they sleep," study co-author Dr. Mark Splaingard, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
"Children sleep longer and lower than adults and demand louder sounds than adults, so children are less likely to wake up and escape night-time house fires.
"The fact that we could find a smoke alarm that reduces the time it takes many children between the ages of five and twelve to wake up and leave the bedroom could save lives."
Leading author Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at the Nationwide Children's Hospital, said the alarm is not only effective for the uproaring of children, but also "practical" for parents.
"[The study] showed that the mother's voice was sufficient to be effective without using the child's first name. This means that an alarm could work for several children sleeping close to each other in a house, "he said.
For future research, the team wants to conduct studies that assess the role of the mother's voice over a generic female or male voice.