WILL THE KIDS WAKE UP? Putting smoke detectors to the test

MILAN, Illinois – We're told time and again that smoke detectors save lives.

The high pitch, obnoxious alarms are hard to ignore.  Unless you are a child.

Studies have found four in five children won't wake up after a smoke alarm goes off.  That's 80%.

We put that to the test thanks for Dominique Hutchins and her two beautiful children:  three year old Jassiah and one year old Jalayah.

"She's a princess. But she's busy, she's busy."

On this night, it's almost bedtime and these kids need to get some sleep.

Dominique lives in a Milan apartment complex equipped with smoke detectors and a sprinkler system. She thinks her family is protected.

"I usually keep like a fire extinguisher somewhere in the house," she says.

We're about to put that peace of mind to the test.

But before we do that, let's talk about fire safety.

"The lack of notification works against everyone," says Lt. Zach Soliz from the Davenport Fire Department.

Lt. Soliz has heard about the studies and knows children can be tough to rouse.

"Kids need their rest and they typically sleep hard," he explained.   "They'll sleep through all kinds of things. Parents, we know this."

But he says any type of early alert will save lives, because the risk of a house fire turning deadly increases with every passing minute.

"The technology will affect the prices, but it's just so important to have something."

But which are the best?

  • Battery-operated alarms are good, but homeowners need to change the batteries and not tamper with the device by leaving batteries out
  • Hard-wired are often the best because a single alarm can set off other alarms to awaken everyone in the house

"The hard-wired ones do give you that advantage where they're interconnected and they communicate to each other throughout the house," said Lt. Soliz.

There are studies that show an alarm that uses an alarm and also a human voice  can be even more effective.  And tests are continuing to see if  voice alarms with a mother's voice saying "Wake Up!  There's a fire!  Get out of the House!" are even more effective.

That brings us back to Dominique, Jassiah, and Jalayah.

"I think that the kids will sleep through it."

She puts her kids to sleep.  Jassiah in his bed, Jalayah in her crib.

Once they're asleep, we hand Dominique two alarms.  The first has the shrieking noise followed by a voice command.

She stands within 10 feet of her children as the alarm goes off.

They don't stir.

We try the other alarm, even walking within inches of the children's beds.

Jassiah stirs, but never wakes up.  Little Jalaylah remains sleeping, never even blinking an eye.

"It's kinda scary," says Dominique.   "Just a little bit. Yeah."

Though Dominique predicted her children would sleep through the alarm, she's still amazed by our test.

Her only consolation: she thinks she'd wake up in time to save her children.

"I always have one eye open just because I'm a mom, you know, so when I am asleep, I'm not asleep, you know."