Research by Dundee University and Derbyshire Fire and Rescue found that of 34 children tested, 27 repeatedly slept through smoke detector alarms. They have developed an alarm with a lower pitch and a woman’s voice, which issues a warning: “Wake up, the house is on fire.” They now want 500 families to test the new alarm. Prof Niamh Nic Daeid, a forensic scientist at Dundee, said: “Boys are especially hard to wake, and we think they will respond to a human voice.”  Standard smoke alarms have a frequency of around 3,000Hz, but the prototype has a lower pitch of 520Hz, to which young children are more likely to respond. Dave Coss, watch manager at Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, got involved in the research after the deaths of six children in a house fire in Derby in 2012, which was started deliberately by their parents. The children, aged five to 13, all slept through the sound of smoke alarms.  Mick Philpott was jailed for life for manslaughter, while his wife, Mairead, and an accomplice were sentenced to 17 years. Mr Coss told me: “When we investigated this tragic case, we thought the children may have been incapacitated in some way and prevented from getting up, as all were found in their beds.” He said that toxicology reports proved negative, so the only other option was that “the children didn’t respond to the smoke detector and just carried on sleeping”. Mr Coss and Prof Nic Daeid conducted tests involving smoke alarms in the homes of 34 children aged between two and 13. Each child was tested six times in their own home and were not warned that the smoke alarm was to be set off.

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