Craft & Design
Smell alarm for the deaf
wasabi_horseradish.jpg

Boingboing had an interesting bit posted regarding a new alarm technique being used to alert deaf people in case of emergency. The concept uses the pungent aroma of horseradish extracts.

Shiga University of Medical Science Hospital cooperated with the makers and carried out experiments to see if the horseradish smell can wake up people from a deep sleep.

Fourteen people, including those with hearing disabilities, took part in the experiments.

In the experiment, 13 out of the 14 subjects woke up in less than two minutes after the smell reached their noses.

The people with hearing disabilities were particularly quick to wake up, with one person emerging from sleep in just 10 seconds.

There are preexisting systems for awaking people with vibration but this could alert a larger area as it doesn’t depend on close proximity/physical contact. A comment on the originating news report page raises a good an interesting question, “Won’t the smell of the smoke mask the smell of the horseradish?” – Hmm, I’d assume that smoke he refers to would be then strong enough to wake someone, but perhaps too late.

Horseradish Fire Alarm – [via] Link

Update: Commenter Meryl provided additional info on vibration alarms – Thanks!

24 thoughts on “Smell alarm for the deaf

  1. Make the bed turn over and flip you out. That should wake you up. Other than that I would have used every spice under the sun and mixed it together. Add some vinegar to react with it all and you have a stinky mix to wake the dead. I know, I’ve done it.

  2. No, the smell of smoke isn’t enough to wait you. By the time it is you’re stuck on the wrong side of a fire and you’re about to add crispiness and dead to your list of problems.

  3. @John – Good point, but the quoted comment was proposing a circumstance where the fire was in close enough proximity to the person that it would compete with the strength of horseradish. Still, an interesting and debatable (if unclear) scenario.

  4. Imagine a college dorm room where the smoke detector goes off on the 1st floor and a hearing impaired person is sleeping on the 5th. You surely wouldn’t want to wait til that person can smell smoke before they evacuate. In my freshman dorm the school installed a super-powerful strobe light right over the bed of a hearing-impaired person. We never had a fire, thank god, but we had plenty of fire drills, so presumably it worked.

  5. No no… deaf people don’t have to wear vibrating alarms. We put them under our pillows. They’re strong enough — believe me. I often wake up in the nick of time because I don’t want the alarm to wake me up.

  6. @Meryl – Sorry for that assumption (see update)
    Wow, I could imagine a strong vibration against the head being a very unpleasant wake-up call(even with a pillow between). Here’s to sleeping late!

  7. An experiment consisting of only 14 people doesn’t seem like a very definitive, or reliable one.
    Especially not when the system is possibly going lull people into a false sense of security, over more reliable methods (as Meryl points out) of vibrating alarms.

    I admit I know nothing of aerosol propellants, other than the flammable nature of most house hold sprays… but isn’t the propellant used in aerosols flammable? If so I certainly wouldn’t want to be woken up by a device that sprays a flammable gas (consisting partly of a horseradish scent) into a room who’s occupant is in danger of a fire in close proximity…

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