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Comparison of the effectiveness of female voice, male voice, and hybrid voice-tone smoke alarms for sleeping children

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Abstract

Background

To test whether children awaken from slow wave sleep and perform an escape procedure better in response to a smoke alarm that uses a male voice, female voice, combination of a low-frequency tone plus a female voice (hybrid alarm), or high-frequency tone.

Methods

Using a randomized, non-blinded, repeated-measures design, 188 children aged 5–12 years were exposed during stage 4 slow wave sleep to four smoke alarms.

Results

Among study subjects, 84.6%, 87.2%, 88.8%, and 56.4% awakened and 84.0%, 86.7%, 88.8%, and 55.3% successfully performed the escape procedure within 5 min of alarm onset in response to the male voice, female voice, hybrid, and high-frequency tone alarms, respectively, while the median time-to-escape was 12.0, 12.0, 13.0, and 96.5 s for these four alarms, respectively. All pairwise comparisons between the high-frequency tone alarm and each of the other three alarms were statistically significant for the proportions of subjects who awakened or escaped and for time-to-awaken and time-to-escape. There were no significant differences in these outcome measures between the latter three alarms.

Conclusions

Use of the male or female voice or hybrid alarms in children’s sleep areas may reduce residential fire-related injuries and deaths among children old enough to perform self-rescue.

Impact

  • The male voice, female voice, and hybrid alarms were each significantly more effective than a high-frequency tone alarm in awakening children aged 5–12 years from slow wave sleep and prompting their performance of an escape procedure.

  • There were no significant differences in the effectiveness of the male voice, female voice, and hybrid alarms when compared with each other.

  • Use of these alarms in children’s sleep areas may reduce residential fire-related injuries and deaths among children old enough to perform self-rescue.

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Fig. 1: Cumulative probability of awakening by type of alarm.
Fig. 2: Cumulative probability of escape by type of alarm.

Change history

  • 03 September 2020

    Following publication of this article, the authors noticed that a grant number was inadvertently omitted. The Acknowledgements section has now been updated to include the grant R43CE002638 to G.A. Smith. This has been corrected in both the PDF and HTML versions of this article.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by grants from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (grants # R49CE002106 and R43CE002638; principal investigator: G.A. Smith). The interpretations and conclusions in this article do not necessarily represent those of the funding organization. The funding organization had no involvement in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

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Each author has met the Pediatric Research authorship requirements. G.A. Smith contributed substantially to the conception and design of the study, acquisition of data, and analysis and interpretation of data; he drafted the article, approved the final version to be published, and agrees to be accountable for all aspects of the work. T. Chounthirath conducted data analyses and contributed substantially to interpretation of data; he revised the article critically for important intellectual content, approved the final version to be published, and agrees to be accountable for all aspects of the work. M. Splaingard contributed substantially to the conception and design of the study, acquisition of data, and interpretation of data; he revised the article critically for important intellectual content, approved the final version to be published, and agrees to be accountable for all aspects of the work.

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Correspondence to Gary A. Smith.

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Smith, G.A., Chounthirath, T. & Splaingard, M. Comparison of the effectiveness of female voice, male voice, and hybrid voice-tone smoke alarms for sleeping children. Pediatr Res 88, 769–775 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41390-020-0838-1

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