​Children and Smoke Alarms

Did you know that despite a piercing 70-85 decibel signal, children often sleep through the sound of a home smoke alarm? A quick response is essential in a fire emergency, so if children don't waken to the signal, parents and caregivers must wake them. Interconnected smoke alarms can make a life-saving difference. Interconnected smoke alarms are hard-wired into a home's electrical system and each alarm is connected together so that when one alarm signals, they all signal, no matter where the fire starts.

With interconnected smoke alarms, you'll have early warning of the fire wherever you are, because the smoke alarm in your room will sound at the same time as the alarm in the room with the fire. If your children or someone else in the household isn't aroused by the smoke alarm, you'll be able to waken them, hastening their safe escape.

Danger: Even with interconnected alarms, emerging research has demonstrated that sleeping children may be able to tune out the blaring sound. Make sure your children wake and properly respond when the smoke alarms signal. Empowering children with basic fire escape skills is a very good idea - everyone should know to react immediately to the sound of the alarm and how to get outside quickly. But before assuming children will react appropriately to a late-night fire, parents must learn if their children will be roused immediately or sleep through the smoke alarm. Even those who awaken to the sound of the alarm may be groggy or move with indecision.

Learn if your children will awaken

To find out for certain, the Home Safety Council urges parents to hold regular family fire drills. Children can participate in the drills by helping to draw the fire escape plan. Once kids have mastered fire escape skills, hold a drill when children are sleeping to learn how they will respond to the sound of the smoke alarm. Push the "test" button on the closest alarm during the drill. If children don't readily waken and demonstrate the ability to move with decision, parents must make a contingency plan for awakening them in family drills and in a fire emergency.

Important: Children aren't the only ones who sleep through smoke alarms. Research shows that teenagers and even adults can tune out the loud sound while they sleep. Additionally, people with hearing impairments may not be able to hear conventional alarms; special smoke alarms with strobes and/or vibration are available for purchase online and through local fire equipment distributors. Make sure everyone in your family is protected by the early warning that smoke alarms provide.

Special smoke alarms are now available that allow parents to record their own voice message that may be more effective in alerting children.  Check at local hardware and discount stores for availability.

Every-level fire protection

Hard-wired, interconnected smoke alarms are now required in new home construction. If you are building or remodeling your home, hire an electrician to install interconnected alarms throughout your house. Every home should have working smoke alarms on each level, and protecting each sleeping area. The Anchorage Fire Department recommends installing smoke alarms inside bedrooms as well. For additional protection from fire, consider installing an automatic fire sprinkler system in your new or remodeled home.

For more information contact:  Community Safety - National Safety Council (nsc.org)

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