MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Families rely on a smoke alarm to wake them up in case of a fire at night, but will everyone hear the beep? That blaring sound of a smoke alarm may be loud and audible to an adult, but parents know, at times, kids can sleep through anything.
If you can’t get to your kids to save them during a fire: Will they wake up on their own, and know what to do? The Velsor family allowed WCCO into their home to put their family to the test.
The Velsor kids are 10-year-old Logan, 4-year-old Mason and 2-year-old Easton. The kids, especially the older two, know fires are dangerous. They’ve had fire drills at school, and they’ve heard the smoke alarm go off in their home. The family has talked about a plan in case of a fire, but they’ve never put it to the test.
We put see-in-the-dark cameras in each of the kids’ rooms to capture how they react when the smoke alarm goes off. The youngest kids sleep upstairs. Logan is downstairs.
“In a perfect world, they’re going to follow the plan that we put together 3 or 4, 5 years ago, and they’re going to meet us in the neighbor’s driveway and leave everything behind,” mom Amy Velsor said.
Once the kids are fast asleep, we sounded the fire alarm. After a minute, Easton was out of bed and heading for his door.
Mason stirred after a few minutes, but the 4-year-old laid back down and put the pillow over his head. At that point, 10-year-old Logan still hadn’t moved.
“Children’s sleep is different than adult sleep,” Dr. Keith Cavanaugh with Children’s Minnesota Sleep Center said.
While adults may jump out of bed, sleep experts warn children often won’t hear or respond to the sound of a smoke alarm.
“Children get a tremendous amount of this deep sleep, and it’s during this deep sleep when the body doesn’t like to be bothered, and it really avoids or doesn’t respond to outside stimulants and as a result that’s a time when a child becomes very difficult to awaken,” Cavanaugh said.
Fire doubles in size every 30 to 60 seconds. An entire room can be engulfed in flames and full of smoke in minutes. This troubles the Velsors, as their older kids sleep through the noise.
“It’s concerning,” Amy Velsor said.
Mason moved a bit more. Six minutes go by before he starts yelling.
“Stop it! That hurts,” Mason Velsor said.
“He put his leg up in the air. I’m sure he’s awake, it’s just, bedtime, I’m supposed to be sleeping,” dad Phil Velsor said.
He yelled at the alarm repeatedly for about 3 minutes until he finally comes out of his room.
“It’s in my ear,” Mason Velsor said.
“I know it’s a loud sound. It’s supposed to be there to wake you up,” Phil Velsor told Mason.
Meanwhile downstairs, Logan got up a few times, rubbed his eyes, but never left his room. Eventually, he pulled the covers on his bed, and went back to sleep. He was still in bed after 15 minutes of the smoke alarm sounding.
“I’m a little disappointed that he went back to bed, because if this was an emergency we would have needed him out in the driveway,” Amy Velsor said.
State Fire Marshal Bruce West says it’s crucial for families to practice their escape plan, and to make sure kids know, and are familiar with, the distinct sound of a smoke alarm.
“It comes down to the practice so it’s second nature for them. They hear it, they get out of bed, they get outside and they stay outside,” West said.
West also said it’s important to test a plan at least twice a year, and at different times of the day and night.