27 is not able to visit the forums this AM so he has asked that I post this here. It's an article that was in our morning paper. I think something along these lines has been posted before, but it never hurts to hear it again.
Smoke alarms may not wake children from sleep; regulators consider changes
Sunday, January 26, 2003
TORONTO (CP) - While many parents might expect their children to leap out of bed at the first sound of an alarm and immediately run to safety, experts say kids may actually be less responsive than adults when a smoke alarm sounds.
Fires are a big concern for safety officials at this time of year, with indoor heating, chimney fires and even plumbers trying to thaw out frozen pipes all contributing to winter fire hazards.
Children who have never heard the sound before may wake to the smoke alarm's high-pitched call confused and unsure of what to do. And because they sleep differently than adults, experts say some children may not even wake up at all.
"I think it's an important message for a parent to know, especially if the children are on a different floor, that they may not respond to a smoke alarm - they may not know what it is," said Dr. Shelly Weiss, a pediatric sleep expert at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.
Smoke alarms are required to sound at a standardized level of 85 decibels at a distance of three metres - roughly equivalent to the volume of a garbage disposal at close range - but experts say even that might not be enough.
Kids spend more time each night in the soundest, dreamless phase of sleep, so even a blaring smoke alarm won't always be effective in waking them, she said.
"Especially if a smoke alarm went off soon after the child fell asleep, they'd be less likely to hear it," Weiss said.
That's because children sleep particularly soundly in the hours soon after they first fall asleep. And the younger children are, the longer they typically spend in that deepest sleep phase throughout the night, she said.
This recent surge in concern over the way children react to smoke alarms has regulators considering a change to the rules that govern the devices.
Canadian representatives will be present at an upcoming meeting of the group that sets standards for American smoke alarms, Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.
"What we're going to do is bring this issue up and see if there is any more data available," said John Drengenberg, an electrical engineer who works with the company.
The standards north of the border are set by a similar committee that follows closely developments in the United States, he said.
While he has yet to see any scientific studies into kids' response to smoke alarms, the anecdotal evidence is troubling, Drengenberg said. But if changes prove necessary, the group would consider variations to any number of smoke alarm characteristics, including tone, volume or style of alarm sound.
"I have a three-year-old and I'll tell you she wouldn't wake up to a smoke alarm," said Bev Gilbert, a spokesman for the Ontario fire marshal's office.
Because most fatal fires occur between midnight and 6 a.m., when everyone is asleep, response to a late-night alarm is crucial. But Gilbert says most parents don't even know how their children would react in the case of fire.
"I would say they're probably not aware of just how well their children are going to respond," he said.
He says that is because many parents skip one of the most important fire-safety steps: the drill. Even though having a working smoke alarm can double the chance of survival in a housefire, children need to be prepared to react appropriately.
Fire officials universally cite horrific stories where frightened children crawl into a closet to hide from the sound of the alarm and smell of smoke - and from rescuers - instead of seeking safety outside.
"You've got to sit down with the kids and tell them what to do in case of a fire," said Ethel Archard, spokeswoman for the Canada Safety Council in Ottawa.
"It doesn't really come intuitively. It's the parents' job."
Her organization distributes educational materials across Canada, including an Elmer the Safety Elephant fire safety booklet targeted specifically at four- to six-year-olds.
She estimates some 95 per cent of homes in Canada have at least one smoke alarm. And while she admits there may be problems - improperly installed alarms, or lack of training, she says having them is half the battle.
"Anecdotally, you just have to look at the stories where kids die in fires. It's almost for sure that in a fire where children die, they'll say the smoke alarm didn't go off, or the batteries weren't in it or something," she said.
The lifeless bodies of two children were found the bedroom of a Trois-Rivieres, Que., apartment after a fire a month ago. The body of Alexandre Pall, 10, was found curled in a corner, clutching his dog. His 12-year-old sister, Vixy, was lying in bed. Investigators did not find smoke detectors in the wreckage.
Two more children were killed last week when fire gutted a suburban Toronto townhouse. Briann Maillet, 7, and her sister Kiara Charles, 2, were trapped when the fire broke out. Investigators were trying to determine whether each of the three of the smoke detectors found in the home was working at the time.
Typically about 400 Canadians are killed in fires each year across the country, the vast majority of those in residential blazes. When officials started mandating smoke alarms about 25-years-ago, fire fatalities were cut in half.
Safety experts recommend smoke alarms are installed on each level of the home and outside of sleeping areas.
© Copyright 2003 The Canadian Press
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01-27-2003, 11:44 AM #1
BEEP, BEEP, BEEP ....... *sigh* oh it's nothing, roll over and go back to sleep...To the world you might be one person, but to one person you just might be the world.
GO WHITE SOX!!!!!
01-27-2003, 02:33 PM #2
She estimates 95 percent of homes in Canada have smoke alarms.........
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- Nov 2001
01-27-2003, 03:13 PM #3
- Join Date
- Jun 2002
Although it's nice to see that Toronto is once again at the cutting edge of these stories, but the fact is that this is old news which has been making the rounds for the last year or so. I have articles dating back to last April on this and this very issue was featured as a front page article in the International Assn. of Fire Chiefs newsletter on November 15, 2002.
I too would be interested in hearing where this person got the 95% figure on smoke alarms, that sure doesn't match the numbers I've seen and when you include the line "working smoke alarms" the figure is much lower.
The bottom line is that although smoke alarms save lives, they don't do it by themselves and a solid plan is needed to augment the devices. A good plan takes in to account family members sleep habits, age and mitigating factors such as hearing disabilities etc. Many people, particularly elderly may have hearing loss in the range of the alarm and would not hear it even if they were awake. We as families need to take whatever steps are needed to protect our family and not rely solely on mechanical devices.
I will rest much easier knowing that TO's on top of things and I am certain that the cheque is already on it's way from Tequilla Sheilla's office as payment for this groundbreaking news item.
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