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February 5, 2003

Smoke Alarms: Sounding the Warning Part 3

From:, OR - 05 Feb 2003

Smoke detectors are good for making an extremely loud sound when smoke is nearby.

But in a deep sleep, kids might not hear the sound.

If the smoke detector does not work for waking children then you might go in search of a better smoke detector.

Apparently, the Federal Government may also begin a similar search.

As KATU's Paul Bukta found, maybe the better alarm provides another stimulus to wake children up.


Parents may need to have a smoke detector that emits light as well as sound.

Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue assisted KATU during a test in January, finding that a hearing impaired smoke detector might get a sleeping kid's attention.

When Louie Haas was asked what woke him up after using a flashing hearing impaired alarm, he responded saying that the light did.

He did not mention the sound. This simple test illustrated that a standard smoke alarm might not be enough for kids.

"The piece of this - that as a firefighter is kind of frightening, is the knowledge that smoke detectors of this type (not flashing) have been in use for about 25 years," said Tim Birr of Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. "Roughly the equivalent of my career in the fire service, and it's only in the last few months that we've realized that there's a problem with at least a significant number of kids not waking up."

Try the test on your kids: Set off your smoke detectors, then check your kids and see what happens.

The KATU/Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue tests showed that standard smoke detectors, even at peak decibel readings didn't work with kids.

The Haas family had been conditioning their children with smoke detector drills since KATU's November tests, the results in January were similar but noticeably better.

"It was a lot easier because we'd practiced," said Cassie Haas.

The findings, along with tests done by other television stations spurred the Federal Government to do an official study.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which oversees 15,000 consumer products, will study smoke detectors for the next two years.

"What's important for consumers to know is that in the first year we are going to be doing tests in a home setting, looking at other research that's out there on this issue," said Scott Wolfson of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. "In the second year we will take a look at that data, analyze it and try to put together some conclusions and recommendations."

Regardless of the findings, firefighters recommend smoke detectors in every room of the house and a fire safety plan that relies on adults not kids, to hear smoke alarms and take action.

KATU found a few hearing impaired smoke alarms that were sold over the internet and at local fire safety businesses. The models that we found were around $100 each.

© 2003