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The first signs of an impending fire outbreak are the plumes of smoke that billow as the inferno starts. Humankind has continually developed technologies and capabilities in combating/preventing fires. One of such interventions is the smoke alarm. This device works by sending loud, screeching noises such that individuals are alerted to the presence of a fire, thereby taking actions necessary for their safety and wellbeing.
A major concern in the response of people to smoke alarms centers on children. Sleeping kids often display a marked tendency for being impervious to the warnings of a smoke detector. Research showed that it took roughly 5 to 8 minutes for kids aged between 5 to 8 to wake up to the promptings of a standard alarm. In real life situations involving a fire outbreak, such response times could prove consequential.
But it seems there is a silver lining in getting kids to respond quicker to fire alarms. And it might entail using the sound of their mother’s voice as the alarm tone. A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics showed that children took all of four seconds in waking up to a fire alarm set up in the voice of their mothers.
Speaking on the dramatic difference, the study’s lead researcher, who also doubles as the Director Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, Dr Gary Smith, stated: “The thing that was most remarkable to us was to see a child sleep five minutes through a very loud high-pitched tone, but then sit bolt upright in bed when their mother’s voice sounded through the alarm.’
The actual procedure involved tested 176 children, aged between 5 and 12, who were brought into a sleep laboratory. The rooms in the laboratory were set up to mirror a typical bedroom.
The children’s brain activity was monitored with electrodes on their scalp and face, and they were caused to fall into the deepest stage of sleep. Then one of four types of simulated smoke alarm was sounded and researchers measured how long it took for a child to wake up and follow a previously rehearsed escape plan.
The experiment was performed for a total number of 4 times, a week apart but this time using their mother’s voice with instructions like “wake up” and “get out of bed,” the mother’s voice calling the child’s name, and the mother’s voice saying the child’s name and then giving fire drill instructions.
Results were stunning, depicted by the differences in response rates. They showed that maternal voice alarms woke 86 to 91 percent of children, prompting 84 to 86 percent to successfully perform the escape procedure within five minutes of the alarm’s sounding. This numbers dwarfed the 52 percent of kids who responded to standard fire alarms, with a 51 percent rate of escape.
The researchers note that standard fire alarms work, and they can awaken adults, who in turn can get to take their kids to safety. They also posit that further research is needed to gauge the effects of a mother’s voice on a child other than her own, as well as determine how children’s responses are affected by the content of the voice alarm message itself.