Telly Today Special: Watchdog Live on smoke alarms, this Thursday September 12th.
Watchdog Live, BBC One at 8pm
BBC One’s flagship consumer rights series Watchdog Live returns tonight broadcast live from Salford, the first episode of the new series reveals the concerning truth that the majority of young children may not wake up to the sound of a standard smoke alarm.
Watchdog Live carried out a test on eight children under 10 years of age, to see whether they would wake up to the sound of a standard smoke alarm. Long after the children were fast asleep, their parents tested their existing smoke alarms for one minute. All but one child slept right through the alarm. The only child that showed any sign of being woken by the alarm got out of bed to get a teddy before going back to bed and falling asleep.
The test was supervised by fire investigator Dave Coss from Derbyshire Fire and Rescue. On the results of the test, Coss said: “The two things for me is first off the shock, the genuine shock on the face of the parents when they realise their kids haven’t woken up and two, in a fire situation, time matters.”
Coss has also worked with the University of Dundee on a study of 644 children aged 0-16, which found that only 28% were woken by a standard smoke alarm.
Packaging on current smoke alarms do not carry any warning that children may not wake up if the alarm is sounded, but after both her children slept through the alarm during Watchdog’s test, Jo Leigh told presenter Steph McGovern: “It is absolutely essential that the packaging makes parents aware that the smoke alarm might not wake your children up. It’s not something that’s guaranteed to wake up the whole house”.
A solution to the problem is an interlinked smoke detector that combines a standard alarm to wake adults, with a separate device placed inside a child’s bedroom that uses a voice warning – which studies have shown is much more likely to wake them. Dave Coss told the programme: “Currently in legislation, one smoke alarm fits all. So there’s no requirement to make a separate one for children or a separate one for adults.”
In March 2018, a fire tore through Karen and Jon Martin’s home while they and their two daughters were fast asleep. At around 1am in the morning the smoke alarm was sounding and the couple could see smoke and flames downstairs. Speaking on the programme to Steph McGovern, Karen revealed “I would have expected with the commotion and the smoke detector going off that they would have heard it but they were both fast asleep. I picked Elena straight up and grabbed Ingrid. Fortunately everyone managed to get out of the house in time but Jon described it as ‘the worst thing that’s ever happened to me.’”
On packaging not having a warning label Steph added: “If there’s a label on the box saying a standard smoke alarm might not wake up your children, then all of us can do something about it and have a better plan, should something awful like a fire happen in your home. It’s simple.”
The full story can be seen on BBC Watchdog Live, tonight at 8pm on BBC One.