More than half of children that die in house fires are asleep at the time of the fire. A startling new report may shed light on why - it says many children don't respond to even the most piercing alarm.
Siblings Brady, Eliana, Liam and Brenna all sleep peacefully in their home. They don't realize, at this moment during a test, Mom Joanne Bohan would do anything to wake them up.
We set off the smoke alarms in the Bohan home to see if the children would wake up. The alarm screeched for two solid minutes. Three of the children didn't budge at all. The youngest - 6-year-old Brenna - wakes up at one point, yelling for it to stop, but she doesn't get out of bed.
Even scarier? According to the National Fire Protection Association, one in three people dies in a house fire because he or she just didn't wake up.
Bohan wanted to test the children because when she was young, a similar situation scared her dad. A neighbor's house went up in flames, and she and her siblings slept straight through the entire ordeal.
"My dad was shocked. My whole family slept through it, except for him. He was outside. It was 2 or 3 in the morning, and we didn't know anything about it until we woke up in the morning," said Bohan.
History has a tendency of repeating of itself, so we helped the Bohan's prepare their babies. We stopped by late one night, set up cameras and set off alarms.
You may think that piercing sound would wake anyone - but audiologists say adults, yes. Children, no.
"The children actually did hear the alarms. It's that they didn't respond to the sound. It's very common for children not to respond to sounds that are a dull tone signal. That doesn't have much meaning behind it. Children are much more likely to wake up to a speech signal," said pediatric audiologist Maggie Kettler.
We let the alarm go three more minutes - still nothing. Six minutes later, Bohan used a smoke detector with a recorded voice that said "Fire! Fire!" - but still nothing.
At eight minutes, we had mom yell the children's names outside the door. Eliana tosses and turns, sits up, but then she laid back down. After a minute of yelling, Mom went inside the rooms.
A few seconds later, the children finally got up.
Fire experts say that during a fire, every second counts. We asked a firefighter how long is too long once a smoke detector goes off. He responded, "When a smoke detector goes off, within the first five to ten seconds you should be planting your feet on the floor and starting to work your way out. Get down low if there's smoke. Get down and get out of the house, because for every second that you stay there sleeping, that fire is multiplying itself and building."
Bohan says, "You still gotta get them up, though. If there were a fire between their room and my room, and I could not get to them, that's scary because I don't think they'd get up and run outside."
The CPSC has the following tips when it comes to fire safety in your home:
- develop a home fire escape safety plan
- practice fire escape plan with your kids
- test smoke alarms once a month
- replace smoke alarms batteries annually
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