- 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, parents are urged 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.
- 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. Install smoke alarms inside bedrooms as well. For additional protection from fire, consider installing an automatic fire sprinkler system in your new or remodeled home.
- Child-Locator Window Decals
Many groups, including some safety organizations, offer adhesive "child locator" window decals to be placed on the window panes of rooms where children sleep. The decals are intended to aid firefighters in more easily locating children in a fire; however the Home Safety Council DOES NOT recommend the use of child-locator window decals. Firefighters are very systematic in their response to home fires and they thoroughly perform search and rescue operations as standard procedure.
- Decals signal an area of vulnerability
Parents and caregivers should be aware of a potential safety concern about using child-locator decals. They may signal to intruders an area of vulnerability in the home, highlighting where children are asleep. That unintended possibility outweighs the questionable value the decals may have to firefighters who are trained to perform thorough searches of homes involved in serious fires, regardless of window markings.
Another concern is that window decals can be misleading. An old decal could potentially lead a firefighter on a dangerous, yet needless, prolonged search for a child who isn't there. Many fire departments do not recognize the decals as legitimate markers because they often remain affixed to windows long after a child has out-grown the room or families with children have moved away.
A proactive home fire safety program
Rather than using decals, concentrate on a home fire safety program. It is essential for everyone in the family to take a proactive role in fire safety, including children, who should be taught how to quickly and properly respond to the sound of smoke alarms and how to safely escape if fire breaks out. Firefighters agree it is counterproductive to teach children to wait to be rescued.
- To survive a fire, every home needs:
Working smoke alarms on each level and protecting every bedroom
A carefully developed home fire escape plan
Regular family fire drills so everyone can practice getting out
Quick and decisive response in an emergency
For additional protection from fire, consider installing an automatic fire sprinkler system in your new or remodeled home.
- Change Your Clock/Change Your Battery
Each year, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) sponsors a campaign to help keep household smoke alarms working: Change Your Clock/Change Your Battery.
According to research studies, 97% of American homes have at least one smoke alarm installed, but less than one in five tests the alarms at least quarterly. Safety experts recommend testing home smoke alarms monthly and replacing the batteries once a year or when they chirp, signaling low battery power.
When you change your clocks back in the fall, replace the batteries in all your smoke alarms, and then hold a family fire drill.
- Home Fire Sprinkler Systems: The Ultimate in Home Fire Protection
Every home needs early warning if there is a fire. The sound of the smoke alarm provides extra time to follow your escape plan and get out safely. For additional protection from fire, it is recommended to install automatic home fire sprinkler systems. Fire sprinklers save lives and prevent injuries. They also protect your valued belongings and other property. But many home owners aren't aware that they can have sprinklers installed in their homes. In fact, only about 2% of U.S. homeowners have taken advantage of this life-saving technology.
If you are renovating your home or planning to build a new home, consider having a fire sprinkler system installed by a qualified contractor.
- Fire Sprinklers: A Proven Technology
Home fire sprinklers are based on the same technology as the sprinklers you have seen at work, in high-rises and in hotels. But residential sprinklers are generally a lot less conspicuous. A network of piping installed behind the walls keeps water at the ready in case of fire. Sprinklers are located on the ceiling or wall at various junctures along the piping, protecting the rooms of your home. The sprinklers are specially designed to react only to the high temperature of a fire. When they activate, they douse the flames below with water. The sprinkler(s) closest to the fire will open; usually only one sprinkler is needed in home fires.
The sprinkler's quick response to the fire suppresses or extinguishes the blaze and limits the amount of toxic smoke that is produced by the fire. By the time the fire department arrives, the sprinkler has typically extinguished the blaze, and firefighters turn off the water supply. Automatic fire sprinkler technology is more than a century old. Today, fire sprinkler systems have been uniquely adapted to suit home environments.
- Don't be taken in by sprinkler myths
There are many myths about home fire sprinkler systems. Here's the truth: Sprinklers slow a fire's dangerous growth and spread, giving you and your family the time you need to safely escape and call the fire department. Although their primary role is life safety, sprinklers also protect property.
Because they react while the fire is still small, sprinklers dramatically limit the fire and smoke damage to a home. As a result of this quick response, sprinklers also put far less water on the fire, typically only 25 gallons of water per minute. When firefighters arrive several minutes after a fire has grown and spread, they typically have to put 10 times that amount of water on the fire. The result is far greater water damage.*
Sprinklers do not activate in response to smoke; only the high temperature of a fire will trigger the sprinkler to open. Despite what you may have seen in movies, sprinklers do not all go off at once, and burned toast or cigar smoke will not trigger a sprinkler. Home fire sprinklers can be concealed under ceiling plates and painted by the manufacturer to blend in with your decor.
Residential fire sprinkler systems are affordable. According to the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC), sprinklers add about 1-1.5% to the overall cost of new construction for a system that can save your loved ones and irreplaceable family treasures. That's often less money than you would pay to upgrade your kitchen cabinets or carpeting. The cost of installation is higher when installing sprinklers as part of a renovation project.
Learn More: The Home Safety Council is a member of the Steering Committee of the nonprofit Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition. To learn more about this powerful fire protection technology and to watch animated clips of how home fire sprinklers work, log on to HFSC's site: https://www.homefiresprinkler.org/.