August 10, 2006 – While the use of smoke alarms and signaling systems is associated with a reduction in fire fatalities in the general population—reducing the chances of dying in a fire by 40 to 50 percent when present, a recent study suggests older adults (those 65 years of age and over) may not fully benefit from conventional smoke alarm systems, particularly during sleeping hours.
The results showed that under comparative test conditions, the high pitched signal typical of that used in U.S. smoke alarms performed the most poorly of the alternative signals tested. The results also indicate that a male voice alarm is not suitable for older adults.
The study concluded that the high frequency alarm signal that is typically used in current smoke alarms should ultimately be replaced by an alternative signal that offers significantly better waking effectiveness across the general population, once the nature of the best signal has been determined. The Research Foundation is currently undertaking additional research on this topic. While this research is ongoing, the study recommended the use of interconnected smoke alarms in bedrooms to provide the maximum potential benefit. The report further stated that proper use and maintenance of smoke alarms is also critical to realizing the benefits of smoke alarms.
The Fire Protection Research Foundation plans, manages and communicates consortium-funded research on a broad range of fire safety issues in collaboration with scientists and laboratories around the world. The Foundation is an affiliate of NFPA.
NFPA has been a worldwide leader in providing fire, electrical, building, and life safety to the public since 1896. The mission of the international nonprofit organization is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training and education.
Contact: Lorraine Carli , Public Affairs Office: +1-617-984-7275