Philpott children 'slept through alarm', Derbyshire Fire and Rescue says

Duwayne Philpott, 13, Jade Philpott, 10, and brothers John, nine, Jack, seven, Jesse, six, and Jayden, five
Image caption Five of the children died on the morning of the fire and the eldest died three days later

The six Philpott children who died in a house fire started by their parents slept through the sound of smoke alarms, according to the fire service.

The children died in May 2012 in a fire started by their parents, Mairead and Mick Philpott, and friend Paul Mosley.

The alarms at 18 Victory Road in Derby did activate, Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service said.

Officers have carried out research into children and fire alarms and concluded many do sleep through the noise.

'Massive impact'

Dave Coss, watch manager with Derbyshire Fire and Rescue, conducted the research along with the University of Strathclyde, following the Philpott blaze.

He said the Philpott case had had a "massive impact" on him.

Jade Philpott, 10, and brothers John, nine, Jack, seven, Jesse, six, and Jayden, five, died on the morning of the fire and Duwayne, 13, died three days later in hospital.

Mick Philpott was jailed for life for manslaughter in April, while his wife and Mosley were both jailed for 17 years.

"I couldn't understand why none of the children had woken up," Mr Coss said. "The forensic engineer was adamant the smoke alarms were working."

Study on children

Mr Coss, who is doing a masters degree at the university, worked in collaboration with Professor Niamh Nic Daeid on the study.

They conducted 204 tests involving the activation of smoke alarms. The tests were undertaken on 34 children, aged between two and 13, in the children's own homes.

"The parents activated the smoke alarms continuously for one minute after the children had gone to bed and then recorded the time taken for each child to wake," said Mr Coss.

"The children were given no prior warning of any tests and each child was tested six times."

The research found:

  • Twenty-seven children slept through the alarms on all six of the tests
  • Seven children (all girls) woke at least once during the six tests
  • Of these seven children, only two, both girls aged 10, woke each of the six times the alarm was sounded
  • None of the male children woke during any of the tests

Mr Coss said there were a few different theories as to why children did not wake, which were in the process of being tested.

"The research identified children under the age of 13 appear to be unable to wake when a smoke alarm activates," he said.

The service recommended people install smoke alarms in children's rooms and consider installing sprinklers.

Professor Daeid said 'While the results of this study remain preliminary given the number of children involved, they do highlight significant concerns that cannot be ignored."

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