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February 4, 2003

How to wake a child when there's a fire - Part 1

From:, OR - 04 Feb 2003

PORTLAND - It's late at night, fire erupts inside your home. The smoke alarms sound, but the people with the best ears, children, don't hear them.

What can parents do to make their kids more secure in the event of a fire?

Most home fire plans call for smoke detectors in every room of your house.

But, as an earlier KATU News investigation discovered, kids might not hear them.

Maybe there's a way they can, and maybe they don't need to hear smoke alarms. They need to see them.


At a quarter past 11:00 p.m. 10-year-old Louie Haas is out like a light. So is his friend and Louie's little brother Henry.

Down the hallway 5-year-old Ally is just a few feet from her big sister Cassie.

In another room, the youngest child, Cass sleeps. They fell asleep at a quarter past 11 p.m., which is the perfect time to test a fire safety plan.

With the help of the Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue, KATU filled the hallway with thick harmless smoke.

After the alarms went off for 10 seconds and the kids were checked with a night camera, only 11-year-old Cassie stirred.

Which is a good change. Two months ago when KATU conducted the test Cassie never moved. Since that time, the parents Tom and Linda Haas have run two fire drills with their kids.

During this test, Cassie moved and may look awake but isn't. At the one-minute mark she still has not left the bedroom.

When KATU's Paul Bukta asked if she was awake when the alarms went off, she said "I don’t think so, 'cause I know I woke up and just sat there."

In the boys' bedroom, there's activity.

The fact that they're moving is progress, because two months ago they never flinched. Two minutes in, Louie opens his eyes and rolls over.

Afterward, when asked if he was awake, Louie said that he wasn't and that he couldn't remember the alarm.

Two and a half minutes into the test, the girls Cassie and Ally are not in the room.

11-year-old Cassie led her little sister out of the room.

Contrast this to the November test when both girls slept through their alarms.

Four minutes later we return to the boys' bedroom. Louie's sitting up on his bed, but he's not fully awake.

At the six-minute mark we turned on a hearing-impaired smoke alarm.

This alarm doesn't just emit a beep, it flashes a brilliant light and it gets Louie's attention.

On this night KATU might have made two important discoveries: first, kids may be trained to hear smoke alarms.

"Yeah, I think it was different, 'cause it was a lot easier because we'd practiced," said Cassie.

"Even Alexandra responded. She didn't wake up on her own but she responded to Cassie waking her up and knew what to do and got out," said Linda Haas. "So I think they're getting conditioned a little bit. It'll take more tests to do it."

Another discovery: hearing-impaired smoke alarms make a difference.

"Contrary to what they're saying, they were still sleeping with the beeping but when they lights started going off they were sitting up," said Tom Haas

Maybe kids need to hear and see the detectors to respond appropriately in an emergency.

© 2003