Nightly News   |  March 22, 2013

Kids can sleep through smoke alarms

Kids sleep more soundly than adults and smoke alarms may not be a match for a sleeping child. NBC’s Jeff Rossen reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> tonight we have a story that deserves everybody's protection about protecting children in the event of a fire in the home. there is an emerging body of science telling us what a lot of us parents already know -- kids sleep more soundly than adults. it can take a lot more to wake them up and smoke alarms may not be a match for a sleeping child. we get our report tonight from our nbc national investigative correspondent jeff rossen . [ alarm ]

>> reporter: it's the sound we rely on to wake us up in a fire. but children will sleep right through a smoke alarm . could that really be true? we set up a test at this house in connecticut. parents michelle and josh and their three boys. we installed infrared cameras in the kids' bedrooms and in the middle of the night had a local fire captain set off the smoke alarm . would they wake up?

>> there it goes.

>> reporter: we are watching with their parents on a monitor down stairs. seconds go by. then a minute. then two minutes. the boys keep sleeping.

>> this could be a real fire right now.

>> they would sleep right through it. it's scary the kids can sleep through this.

>> reporter: fire officials say the boys should have gotten up and out to safety by now.

>> did you hear that alarm going off? not at all? did you hear that fire alarm ?

>> no.

>> didn't hear it at all. it was beeping so loud right outside your room. our results are disturbing but sleep researcher gary smith said he sees it all the time.

>> it would astound you how loud the sounds can get and children continue to sleep through them.

>> reporter: why do kids sleep through the alarms?

>> they are not just snmall adults. children spend more time in deep sleep . that's why it is difficult for them to awaken in an emergency.

>> reporter: that's why he says families need an escape plan. make sure each parent has a designated child to wake up in a real fire. meanwhile researchers are are trying to find a sound that works better than the beeping. dr. smith is experimenting with a new alarm prototype. it allows parents to record their own voiceses as the alarm telling their kids to get up. he says it seems to be working. right now these alarms aren't on the market and it could be at least another year before they are. jeff rossen , nbc news, new york.