Smoke alarms don’t always wake a sleeping child

During the cold, snowy Wisconsin winter nights, I like to enjoy a cozy fire in our fireplace, sip hot cocoa and bundle up in a warm sweater. Sadly, winter also means a higher risk of home fires.

Did you know that over half of home fires happen late at night when people are sleeping? A nighttime house fire can be devastating, but knowing a few facts may protect your family if you wake up in the middle of the night and smell smoke.

Kids sleep more deeply than adults, and that may make it more difficult to wake them during an emergency. I recently read a study that said young children often sleep through normal smoke detector alarms or respond so slowly that they can’t escape within the critical three-minute time period. This makes it easier to understand why more than 50 percent of child deaths from fire occur when children are sleeping.

This is national Burn Awareness Week. As you review your family’s fire escape plan, consider these tips:

  1. Always have a working smoke alarm on each floor of your home.
  2. Hold a late night fire drill to see how your kids would react to the sound of the smoke alarm.
  3. Don’t assume a smoke alarm will wake up our kids during a fire. Make sure your escape plan includes a way to help get them up and out safely. This could include shouting their first name and giving simple directions such as, “Get out of bed. There’s a fire. Go outside!”
  4. Kids wake up more quickly and respond better if they hear a familiar voice. Smoke alarms that let you record an emergency message are available.
  5. Never leave a young child at home unsupervised.

Megan Grekowicz, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC- Megan Grekowicz, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, pediatric nurse practitioner, Sleep Center, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

The Sleep Center at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin is the only sleep center in the state dedicated solely to the care of children and teens. The center has two locations (Milwaukee and New Berlin) both accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and staffed by four board-certified pediatric sleep specialists.

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