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Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Monday, October 2, 2006

Moms Voice Beats Out Beep

News of the slightly strange but helpful --- a new study demonstrates that "Children in deep sleep awoke to recordings of their mothers' voices -- calling them by name and ordering them out of their bedrooms -- even if they slept through the beeping sound a smoke alarm makes."  CNN reports,

The study of 24 children ages 6 to 12 found that 23 awoke to the recorded voice of their mother saying "(Child's first name)! (Child's first name)! Wake up! Get out of bed! Leave the room!" Fourteen of the children also awoke to the traditional tone alarm. One child didn't wake up to either.

The children who woke up to the voice did so at a median time of 20 seconds, compared with three minutes for those who woke up to the tone, according to the study by Columbus Children's Hospital researchers being released Monday in Pediatrics.

Both alarms were created using a large speaker and sounds measuring 100 decibels, about four times louder than levels used in standard home alarms, Smith said.

The next step, he said, is to determine why children responded to the voice alarm differently, whether they were responding to their names, their mothers' voices or the frequency at which the sound was delivered, which was lower than the frequency of a beeping alarm. . . .

A safety expert said the study was a start.

"We have a piece of the puzzle now and we're really happy someone has taken up this research and we hope it moves forward," said John Drengenberg, manager of consumer affairs for Underwriters Laboratories Inc., an independent organization that certifies safety for consumer products.

The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that 3,300 fatal fires killed 3,380 people (not including firefighters) in 2005, with 14 percent of victims younger than 10. Smoke alarms were not present in 42 percent of residential fatal fires; alarms did not operate in 21 percent.

I wonder if my next smoke alarm will be more like my telephone answering machine - allowing me to say something about getting out of the house quickly.  If so, I can say that when the battery runs down, the smoke detector will still be making some fairly annoying sounds although maybe not quite so annoying as the little beeps.

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