Smoke Detectors and Kids: A New Solution?--Part II - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/01/04

Smoke Detectors and Kids: A New Solution?--Part II

If your smoke detector goes off in your home, will your children wake up? Chances are, probably not. We've been trying to find a solution for more than a year, ever since we found out that kids sleep right through smoke detector alarms. In fact, just a few weeks ago we tested the latest technology--a smoke detector that allows parents to record a voice message to wake children--and discovered it didn't work either.

The company didn't send us any instructions. And the owners insisted that we tested the detector incorrectly. So we decided to do it again. We got the directions and help from a Kidsmart Vocal Smoke Detector company representative, Katie Brock.

"It's very important to say the child's name specifically," she told us. "Speak loudly, use their name and provide very specific escape instructions."

With our new messages recorded, we set up our night vision camera in the room of Lisa Colbert's twins. Then we set off the alarm. This time, within a minute, Kailyn woke up and got out of bed. She walked straight to her mother. She was noticeably dazed, in a deep sleep.

After a couple minutes of asking her what she would do if there were a fire, she slowly answered a few questions. Her sister Osha didn't get up, but she did wake up, raise her hand and join in the conversation.

Then we went to Mia's room, the hardest sleeper in the house. When we tested this detector a month ago, she didn't wake up even after we held the alarm right next to her ear. We even did our interviews in her room, speaking very loudly, and she never even flinched.

We were worried this time would not be any different. So we set up our camera and turned on the alarm. Within moments, Mia was awake. She asked us if this was the real thing. When we told her yes, Mia hopped out of bed and took off. She went down the stairs, out the door and would have gone to the mailbox if we didn't stop her.

These are the results the company guarantees.

We asked Brock why she thought it worked this time. "It was really the fact that Mrs. Colbert said their names and was so emphatic and provided the girls with specific instructions. 'This is what you need to do. This is important.' It sounded urgent, so the girls realized they needed to listen."

Of course, the girls' parents were relieved the Kidsmart device worked this time. "It makes me more comfortable," said dad EJ Colbert. "But being honest, I am a parent, so I think if we had a fire, my first instinct would be to run upstairs, but it would be nice for them to be up and moving already or if I couldn't get there for them, they would be down."

"I think what we need to do now is practice the drills and make sure they know what to do," added Lisa.

That's what every family should do.

When we asked the Kidsmart why the sample message didn't correlate with the correct way to program the detector. They said there are some language barriers since the alarms are being made in Japan.

If you want to know more about the Kidsmart detectors, you can check out their website.

Reported by: Dawn Baker, dbaker@wtoc.com

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