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Alarmed: A Report Every Parent Needs to See


(WGGB) — Smoke detectors. They are your family’s first warning of a fire. You may leap out of bed at the first sound of an alarm, but what about your children?

Tonight, we look at how the youngest members of your household react when the alarms go off.

It’s a report every parent needs to watch.

It’s the ear piercing sound that you never want to hear, especially in the middle of the night.

Avrah Foley, 9, has her eyes peacefully closed in her West Springfield home; her feet dangle off the bed.

The three Sullivan children in East Longmeadow are sound asleep too, they have been for a few hours.

“[Do they know what to do when the lifesaving alarms go off? Better yet, do you think she’ll wake up?] I hope so,” says mom Lisa Foley.

Two families agreed to let us come in their home, set off smoke detectors and test the game plan in an event of a fire. First is the Foley home, the young girl here is surrounded by public safety.

“We have a couple of firefighters in the family, cops, paramedics,” Foley adds.

Avrah and her mom sat down earlier in the day to make sure their plan is clear,

“You go directly to the mailbox and you wait for family members or fire fighters to show up in the engine right?” asks Lisa.

“Mmhmm,” Avrah responds.

Bedtime is 8:30 and we gave plenty of time to fall fast asleep before our arrival. Also joining us, Brina Fondi from the West Springfield Fire Department.

“It’s going to be the first time its ever happened in the middle of the night so it’s a true testament of what’s going to happen in the event of a fire,” says Lisa.

Firefighter Fondi set off the alarm in the house and we set a timer to see how long it would take Avrah to wake up.

A full minute goes by, then three minutes, and there are no small feet running down the stairs.

Lisa can’t believe it. It wasn’t until five minutes later that we go upstairs to find Avrah still sleeping like a baby.

In fact, she hasn’t moved an inch. We woke her up.

“[The fire alarm is a really loud sound; you didn’t hear it at all?] Not until I woke up,” Avrah admits.

“I think it’s scary. I think it’s very indicative of the fact that we need to consider other options to keep our kids safe if the traditional fire alarm isn’t working” says Lisa Foley.

Next stop, the Sullivan home, parents Jennifer and Shaun welcome us in. There are 3 kids here: Patrick age 14, Matthew: 9 and Haylee 2 years old.

They’ve learned about fire alarms in school, but there hasn’t been much discussion at home.

“We actually don’t have a plan if there is a fire, so this is good to do we can come up with a plan” says Jennifer.

Many times, a fire will start in the basement of a home, so at this location, we set off the alarms downstairs and worked our way up.

After two minutes, no response, so we set off the alarms upstairs too…and waited.

With a loud, screeching alarm right by their bedroom door, the children weren’t moving at all.

“Their bedroom doors are open and alarms literally 10 feet from their heads and they didn’t flinch. It’s scary,” says father, Shaun Sullivan.

4 out of 4 kids did not wake up.

So why is it that a child would stay fast asleep when a fire alarm goes off? Dr. Paul Walting, Sleep Medicine Doctor at Baystate Medical center explains.

“In children, it’s pretty common if they’re in stage 3 or slow-wave sleep that you really have to rouse them quite a bit to get them going. That’s why in children we see sleep walking and night terror,” Walting says.

Firefighters warn these results do not dismiss the importance of a fire alarm, but rather, we need to be more prepared.

“The key is that there needs to be a plan if the fire alarm goes off, now that we know kids are sleeping through it. We need to discuss who’s going to alert the kids and know they are getting out safely,” says Brina Fondi, West Springfield Fire Department.

The Foley and Sullivan family say they will be more alert now, if flames go up and the alarms go off.

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