Talking smoke alarms better at waking, saving sleeping kids

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PHOENIX – When it comes to protecting your family from a house fire, the best thing you can do, after removing hazards, is install working smoke alarms in your home.

“We know smoke detectors save lives,” said Capt. Scott Walker of the Phoenix Fire Department.

The newest smoke-alarms unit not only monitors for smoke, it can detect carbon monoxide, as well. What’s more important, the new devices talk, telling your family in no uncertain words that they need to evacuate and find a way to safety.

Walker said kids between 5 and 10 years old respond better to the voice commands than the traditional beeping. Not only are the voice alarms better at waking kids, they are better at keeping them calm during an emergency, especially if the devices allows the recording of a familiar voice, studies show.

“They tend to sleep through those beeps for some reason,” he said.

The talking alarm is more likely to wake them up, giving them the opportunity to get out.

Because a house fire doubles in size every 30 seconds, time is of the essence for those inside. Once a fire starts, you have less than five minutes to get everybody out safely. Having a working smoke alarm can give you that time.

Having a smoke alarm isn’t enough. You need to make sure they are installed in the right places.

“We want these in each sleeping area. We want one outside the sleeping are in the hallway,” Walker explained. “We want [at least] one on every floor of your home.”

It’s also important to check your smoke alarms every month and replace the batteries every year.

New homes are required to have smoke detectors that are hard-wired into the electrical system. Those hard-wired alarms have a battery backup.

Older homes rely on battery-driven alarms, which is why regular tests are essential. According to the Phoenix Fire Department, missing or dead batteries are the most common reason that smoke alarms do not work as intended.

The alarm units themselves should be replaced every 10 years. By then, the unit has worked more than 87,000 hours.

In addition to having the smoke alarms, Walker says you also need to have an escape plan. Make sure there are two ways out of every room in the house and a safe place to meet. Practice the plan so your kids know what to do when those alarms sound.

To learn more about various smoke alarms and detectors, including the new talking models, visit,, and

If you have questions about smoke alarms, call the Phoenix Fire Department at 602-534-3919.

October is Fire Prevention Month. The Grand Canyon Chapter of the Arizona Red Cross says its volunteers respond to a house fire every 16 hours, providing assistance and support to all who are affected.

For more information about Fire Prevention Month, including tips to keep your family safe, visit