There are calls to overhaul home smoke alarms after Australian researchers revealed the sound would fail to wake up most children.
The world first study has prompted American authorities to change their standards but nothing has changed here.
In a world first study, parents were asked to trigger alarms while their children were sleeping and monitor their response.
123 children between five and 15 were tested with only 27 waking up. Of those 27, just 16 recognised the noise as a smoke alarm, and only 13 knew to get out.
"The parents were very surprised they said ‘gee we wondered if there was a problem but it's so loud why didn't our children wake up?'" Dorothy Bruck from Victoria University said.
Frank Stockton from the Metropolitan Fire Brigade believes authorities in Australia should act as soon as possible, before it’s too late.
"I'm not surprised at all," he said.
"Not only children but the elderly or people affected by alcohol or drugs or even just medication - prescribed medication - it affects their ability to hear those sound."
Professor Bruck also discovered a lower frequency sound would be much more effective than the high pitch Australian alarms.
The Victorian research has already prompted U S authorities to make low frequency alarms compulsory for the hearing impaired, but the standards committee in Australia is yet to act.