Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Optimizing Emergency Awakening to Audible Smoke Alarms: an update

By Dorothy Bruck and Michelle Ball


This review examines research on what types of emergency signal will be the best to awaken most individuals and what can be improved. Four key areas are reviewed: (a) the characteristics of four signals; (b) how human characteristics alter arousal to different signals; (c) research comparing the effectiveness of different alarms in different sleeping populations; and (d) acoustical, methodological and theoretical implications

Topics: 290000 Engineering and Technology, Centre for Environmental Safety and Risk Engineering (CESARE), School of Biomedical and Health Sciences, 370000 Studies in Human Society, ResPubID14453, ResPubID13302. fire prevention, smoke alarm signals, human characteristics
Year: 2007
DOI identifier: 10.1518/001872007X215674
OAI identifier:

Suggested articles


  1. (2004). A tour d’horizon of government fire policy and the role of fire research.
  2. (1995). A user-centered approach to the design and evaluation of auditory warning signals: 1.
  3. (1996). Acoustic profiles in vocal emotion expression.
  4. (1981). Acoustic spectral characteristics of household smoke detector alarms.Fire Journal,
  5. (1970). Architectural acoustics.
  6. (1989). Aspecialization for speech perception.
  7. (1966). Attention, discrimination, and arousal during sleep. Archives of General Psychiatry,15,523–528.
  8. (1998). Auditory affordances in the intensive treatment unit.
  9. (1979). Auditory arousal thresholds of good and poor sleepers with and without flurazepam.
  10. (1976). Auditory frequency sensitivity in the neonate: A signal detection analysis.
  11. (2000). Auditory processing across the sleep-wake cycle: Simultaneous EEG and fMRI monitoring in humans.
  12. (1990). Auditory warning sounds in the work environment.
  13. (2004). Comment on Proposal No. 72-372. In Report of the Committee on Signalling Systems for the Protection of Life and Property (National Fire Protection Association 72 National Fire Alarm Code,
  14. (2005). Date accepted:
  15. (1960). Discriminative responses to stimulation during human sleep.
  16. (1987). Dose level effects of triazolam on sleep and response to a smoke detector alarm.
  17. (1984). Effects of age on auditory awakening.
  18. (2004). Fatalities in home fires where smoke alarms operated.
  19. (2004). Fire detection, warning, control and intercom systems – System design, installation and commissioning. Part 1:
  20. (2005). from Sekizawa,
  21. (1984). Human awakening and subsequent identification of fire-related cues.
  22. (1991). Improving auditory warning design: Relationship between warning sound parameters and perceived urgency.
  23. (2002). Injuries and fatalities in apartment building fires.
  24. (1987). International Organisation for Standardisation.
  25. (2001). is completing her Ph.D. through the School of Psychology and completing a coursework program in clinical neuropsychology at Victoria University, where she received a BA(Hons) with first-class honors in psychology in
  26. (1998). Listener’s understanding of warning signal words. In
  27. (2005). Male and female voices activate distinct regions in the male brain.
  28. (1995). Non-arousal and non-action of normal sleepers in response to a smoke detector alarm.
  29. (1999). Non-awakening in children in response to a smoke detector alarm.
  30. (2004). Occupants, ignition and fire outcomes.
  31. (2001). On the use of voice alarms. In
  32. (1994). Ontogenic variations in auditory arousal threshold during sleep.
  33. (1982). Performance during sleep. In
  34. (1998). Prevalence of hearing loss in older adults in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin: The epidemiology of hearing loss.
  35. (1975). Protection Association (NFPA) 74.
  36. (2001). Recognition of fire cues during sleep. In
  37. (2003). Recollection, identification and perceived urgency of the temporal-three evacuation signal.
  38. (1992). Relationship of age to power spectrum analysis of EEG during sleep.
  39. (1964). Responses to auditory stimulation, sleep loss and the EEG stages of sleep.
  40. (1991). She received her Ph.D. in sleep research from La Trobe University in
  41. (1971). Signaling devices for the hearing impaired.
  42. (1981). Sleep loss in young adolescents.
  43. (2000). Sleeping children and smoke alarms. In
  44. (1985). Sound transmission through building components (Building Science Insight ‘85 Noise Control in Buildings, Institute for Research in Construction, Research Council Canada). Retrieved
  45. (2004). Statistical analysis of response to fire cues.
  46. (2005). Statistical modelling of the effect of alcohol and sound intensity on response to fire alarms.
  47. (2004). Summary health statistics for U.S. adults: National Health Interview Survey,
  48. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception.
  49. (2004). The effect of alcohol upon response to fire alarm signals in sleeping young adults.
  50. (1999). The effect of sleep inertia on decision making.
  51. (2004). The effectiveness of different alarms in waking sleeping children.
  52. (2002). The perceived urgency of speech warnings’ semantics versus acoustics.
  53. (1972). The psychophysiology of sleep.
  54. (1978). The reliability of arousal threshold during sleep.Psychophysiology,
  55. (2007). The salience of fire alarm signals for sleeping individuals: Anovel approach to signal design.
  56. (2001). The who, what, where and why of waking to alarms:
  57. (1991). To prevent panic in an underground emergency; why not tell people the truth?
  58. (2004). US experience with smoke alarms and other fire detection/alarm equipment.
  59. (1998). Victims and survivors in fatal residential building fires. In
  60. (1995). Vocal expression of emotion: Acoustic properties of speech are associated with emotional intensity and context.
  61. (2005). Waking effectiveness of audible, visual and vibratory emergency alarms across all hearing levels.
  62. (1981). Waking effectiveness of household smoke and fire detection devices.
  63. (1978). Will your smoke detector wake you?

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.