Smoke alarm research leads to prestigious shortlisting

University of Dundee research exploring how a new generation of smoke alarms could help save the lives of children around the world has been shortlisted for a prestigious industry prize.

A study by Professor Niamh Nic Daeid, Director of the University’s Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science, and her research student Dave Coss, a fire Investigator and Watch Commander with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service, demonstrated that children respond to different smoke alarm tones than adults.

Following their preliminary findings, they called for 500 families in a large scale citizen science project to help them trial a new smoke alarm sound aimed specifically at waking children.  More than four times that number volunteered for the trial in a single day.

The project has been shortlisted for the Knowledge Exchange/Transfer Initiative of the Year category of this year’s Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards (Thelmas). The prizes will be presented at an award ceremony in London on Thursday 21 June.

“I am absolutely delighted that our project has been shortlisted for this award,” said Professor Nic Daeid. “Thelmas are a gold-standard award celebrating excellence in higher education in the UK, so this is a great testament to the work we have carried out using an interdisciplinary approach across the team with academic researchers working hand in hand with external fire service partners to deliver the largest citizen science project ever attempted in this research area.

“What we have shown through the involvement of the public is that children and adults respond differently to conventional smoke alarms where on average only 20% of children under 16 years of age will wake up and that we have now produced a combination of sounds which wake up children 80% of the time.”

The number of lives lost as a result of fires has fallen by half since home usage of smoke alarms became widespread and an important take home message is that families should adjust their fire plan to wake their children rather than relying on smoke alarms to do so.

THE editor John Gill said, “The Thelmas are unique in shining a deserved spotlight on often unsung heroes from across the professional services and administration of our world-leading universities, and it’s an honour for Times Higher Education to organise an event celebrating their achievements.

“This year’s shortlist – once again featuring almost half of all UK institutions – shows that talent and dedication continue to abound, as well as a determination to find creative solutions to problems as and when they occur.”

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