Monday, February 23, 2004
Carmel on the Case: Cause For Alarm
So many people install smoke detectors thinking they will warn us in an emergency. But would you hear the alarm in your sleep? Would your children here the alarm? Don't bet your life on it. Here's investigative reporter carmel cafiero with our special assignment report - cause for alarm.
But her parents are terrified by what they see...Or rather what they don't see.
We set off the smoke alarm outside Rebekkah's bedroom to see if she'll wake up.
For two solid minutes the alarm shrieks but Rebekkah doesn't move.
Paul Campbell: "It is disturbing."
Here's what parents need to know.
If you rely on a smoke detector to wake your sleeping child it could
Be a fatal error.
More than half of young children who die in home fires are asleep.
One possible reason, the detectors just don't wake them up.
Lt. Bob Servaes: "Your first job is to get out... and stay out."
In our experiment, we decided to test the detectors on five children - all of them belonging to firefighters.
There's Lucy Walsh, age three... Sister Hannah, age five... And sister Olivia, age seven.
Then there's three-year-old Wyatt Campbell and his big sister Rebekkah, age 12.
We made sure all the kids understood the basics.
Then a week later, we set up night vision cameras and set off the smoke alarms.
Just look at Wyatt in his crib -- not a flinch.
Lucy, Olivia, Hannah and Rebekkah -- all sleeping soundly.
Now, we let the alarm ring for two minutes because after that, experts say your chances for survival are critically diminished.
But look at what happens.
Wyatt and Rebbekkah, completely oblivious.
Their parents, completely astonished.
Debbie Campbell: "I feel sick... physically ill, that she may not have even moved."
At the Walsh home, we even let the alarm ring for a minute longer.
Lucy, still no reaction.
At one point, Olivia sits up, then pulls the covers over her head to drown out the noise and goes back to sleep.
Their parents watched in dismay.
"It doesn't work. It doesn't work."
The Campbells are even more concerned because when Rebekkah baby sits for Wyatt, the two children are home alone.
Debbie Campbell: "If they were home without us, I think they would be dead."
Paul Campbell: "Yeah, something has to be done."
Some researchers say this may be the answer.
"Chelsa - wake up."
A smoke alarm that adds a familiar voice to the wakeup warning.
"Tyler this is Dad wake up."
But would it wake our sleeping kids?
One company allowed us to test the voice alarm.
Little Lucy Walsh reacts immediately with fluttering eyes to her dad's voice.
Twelve seconds later, she's sitting up.
"Olivia, wake up."
Olivia is out of bed in 14 seconds.
Hannah's up in 26.
Parents say that's a huge difference.
Carolyn Walsh: "Life or Death."
"Wyatt, it's Mommy. You have to get out of bed."
Three-year-old Wyatt Campbell takes longer, but in less than a minute, he's awake and then crying.
Sister Rebekkah, hearing her mother's voice, is awake in six seconds.
"Rebekkah, wake up, it's Mom, it's a fire drill)."
She fights to get back to sleep but she just can't ignore that voice.
"Rebekkah, wake up, it's Mom, it's a fire drill."
In thirty seconds she's out of bed and into her father's arms.
Paul Campbell: "It worked."
Experts emphasize smoke detectors are essential in every home. And parents can run home fire drills to see if their children wake up.If they don't, that means its time to adjust the family's escape plans. Experts say adults will wake up to a normal smoke alarm because they have different sleep patterns. Those voice alarms should be on the market in the coming months.
For more information or if you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE.