Would Your Children Get Out Alive? - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

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Would Your Children Get Out Alive?

Would Your Children Get Out Alive?
By: Amy Jacquin

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO --You rely on smoke detectors to wake your family in case of fire. Experts know they save lives. But before you count on them to save your children, you want to see the results of our Heartland News test.

We found two families willing to help test just how quickly smoke detectors wake-up children. But how many will get out alive?

Most fatal fires happen at night, when everyone is sound asleep. And all too often children end up dying. They sleep more soundly than adults and are programmed to sleep through distractions.

We give the Strong family a good distraction. Late one night, Cape Girardeau Fire Fighters set-up their smoke machine and fire it down the hall... right toward 7-year-old Morgan and 6-year-old Ben's bedrooms.

Kim and David Strong's family sleeps with bedroom doors open, which is not recommended. Within 30 seconds, both hallway smoke alarms start to shriek.

Our camera catches the fake smoke swirling across the beds as Ben comfortably stays curled up.

And the fire department's heat-sensing camera shows the real story in Morgan's room. The detectors continue for several minutes, yet the kids are oblivious. Mom and Dad realize they have cause for alarm.

"They didn't even flinch!," Kim says. "It didn't phase either one of them," David agrees.

Two cameras and four people crowd into Morgan's room, talking about this wake-up call. Yet the 7-year-old barely moves.

"It's going to start up high and keep banking down in layers, and that's what gives them time to get low an go, that's what we always teach," says Capt. Quentin Gaither with the Cape fire department.

Morgan and Ben would be in serious trouble. The first couple of minutes are critical. And each minute that passes dramatically decreases your chance of survival.

"Hopefully the adults will awaken and they have the responsibility to wake the children," adds Battalion Chief Fred Vincel.

"It just kind of opens your eyes," agrees David Strong. "You need to look at the safety of your home and spend some time with your kids so they know what's going on."

The same test at another Cape Girardeau home. Pam and Chuck Groshong's family sleeps with doors closed. That slows-down the smoke, but also cuts-down on the alarm volume. Plus, background noise like air conditioning or fans can cut-down the volume even more.

Maggie half-way wakes up when our photographer opens her door, she even sits up, but then settles back down. It's only when her Mom walks in and talks to her that she fully awakens. But her and confusion are short-lived as her Mom immediately comforts her.

"It was kind of scary," the 7-year-old admits.

Confusion when a child does wake-up is often the cause of fire deaths. They don't recognize the sound, and in fear hide under the bed or in a closet. A fear Pam can understand.

"They filled the house with smoke," she explains. "I went upstairs. As I was walking up the steps to try and comfort them, I almost became disoriented going up my own steps that I do daily!"

Nine-year-old Ethan and 3-year-old Grace still don't budge even after we open the door and turn-on a light.

"And I was sure everybody was awake," Chuck shakes his head. "There was no doubt in my mind that they were all awake. The more it sits in, the more shocking it gets."

Schools teach fire safety, and after we wake-up Ethan, he and Maggie recite what they've learned.

"First you get out of bed and crawl to the door," Ethan starts.

"Because if you walk, you get smoke in your eyes and face and stuff like that," Maggie helps out.

"And feel the door with this part of your hand. If it's hot, then you open a window and throw something out," Ethan finishes.

But first they need to wake-up! And that's where parents come in. Here are some ways fire fighters say you can prevent an alarming situation from developing in your home.

* You need working smoke detectors on every level, and may want to put one in each bedroom... It's best to hard-wire them to go off simultaneously.

* Sleep with the doors closed, and teach children how to test for heat before opening the door.

* Make sure they know how to open the window and remove the screen so they can either climb out, or throw a clue outside to fire fighters.

* Practice fire drills using actual smoke detectors, so kids learn what the sound means.

* Reinforce the need to crawl out to avoid the smoke.

* And know which parent is responsible for rescuing which child.

You may also want to invest in a new product, a vocal smoke detector. It allows you to record your voice giving directions to the kids. A test out of an Australian university shows most kids wake-up in less than a minute with the talking detector.

Do your own test to see if your kids wake-up to traditional detectors. If not, try your voice. That'll help you decide whether to invest in the $70 product. You can order than at www.kidsmartcorp.com, or buy them at Radio Shack.

But pediatric experts warn you'll always have the confusion factor, and suggest parents quick action may still be the best chance to get out alive.

One more, but expensive, way to make your home safer is to install sprinkler systems. You can find more information on fire safety at:

www.usfa.fema.gov/
www.ou.edu/oupd/fireprev.htm

www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/556.html
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