“While 96% of American homes have at least one smoke alarm, no smoke alarms were present or none operated in two out of five (41%) of the reported home fires….”* So said the National Fire Protection Association when previous concerns about this were raised, and now they are saying it again. The difficulty of waking some children with smoke detectors in no way negates the safety they offer, and the NFPA is again ‘reaffirming their value’.
The Same Recommended Response by Parents
Recent reports and new studies are far from the first to indicate this problem for a small number of families. If it helps to refer people to fire professionals for good advice, that is a good thing. If it causes people to conclude that their family is not helped by smoke detectors, that is a huge mistake and potentially a really bad outcome.
Years ago, news broadcasts and magazines reported that some children can sleep through the beep of a smoke alarm. Rightly, this did not alarm many parents who already knew that the shrill sound of a fire or smoke alarm was simply not enough to wake their child out of a deep slumber. Many of those parents had already responded appropriately by designing a family escape plan making another family member responsible for checking on the children who seemed undisturbed by these alarms.
A New Response from Smoke Detectors
That is doubtless true now, too, but what has changed in response to those reports is smoke detector technology. It may be possible to wake the same children who sleep through beeps and buzzes with the voice of a parent, for example. Comparative studies have shown that a parent’s voice can shorten a child’s waking time from 3 minutes to 20 seconds.
In addition to keeping smoke detectors up, their wiring needs to be checked annually and batteries should be replaced when clocks are re-set. It is important to note that the NFPA states “or none operated” in its citing of missing smoke detector participation in house fires. Make sure yours work, and keep up with more than technological changes to be sure of their timely performance.