NewsChannel 11 set up six cameras throughout the Shirley's home. We wanted to find out how kids these days respond to screaming smoke detectors. And what we found out, was a wake-up call to the parents.
"My kids know if they hear the smoke alarms to come get mom and dad," said Kenneth Shirley.
"I think she's (12-year-old Taylor) going to be the one whose hysterical. If she wakes up," said Lisa about her daughter.
Later that week, we simulated a fire drill inside the Shirley's home. Lisa Fittz is a friend of the Shirley's and brought her daughter to experience the mach test.
It was the middle of the night and the three girls, age 12, 7, and 4 were sound asleep in their rooms. NewsChannel 11 set up two camcorders in each bedroom. Two other cameras were rolling to make sure we got the parents' reaction.
The Lubbock Fire Department loaned us a fog machine and with it, we filled up both rooms with the harmless smoke. Amy, the mother of the seven and four year old, was standing by at the front of her house and was extremely nervous.
We set off one of the smoke detectors. As you know it, smoke detectors make a piercing noise. Our hidden camcorder caught every movement of the girls in both rooms. The seven year-old takes her giant teddy bear and puts it over her head. In the other room, the four year doesn't make a move.
Two minutes later, the parents were still waiting in the entry way of the home and no children came running for their help.
Lieutenant Mark Ethridge was keeping track of time on his watch. At this point, "four minutes." Amy, the mother very concerned. "Oh my gosh," she said. "I'm going to have to start crying in a minute," said Lisa, the mother of the 12-year-old. "How can they not be hearing that?," said Amy.
In that four minutes we look to see what the kids are doing. The 7-year-old is hearing the smoke detectors, but chooses to ignore the warning. She sits up in bed, looks around, and lays back down and puts her fingers in her ears!!
Lt. Ethridge continued to watch the time closely. "Five minutes," Ethridge informs the parents. Still, no children 'looking for mom and dad'. That's because they're in bed sleeping.
Frustrated, Kenneth takes the smoke detector and holds it one foot away from his 4-year-old's face. She doesn't even budge.
Finally, after eight minutes, no movement. The kids are still lying in bed. And the parents are stunned. "That's frightening though, they didn't get out of bed," Amy said.
But after eight minutes, when the smoke detectors quit screaming, the 7 and 12-year-old did get out of bed. "Do you know how long it went off? Eight minutes," said Amy. "You are dead," said a concerned Lisa. "Did you not hear the smoke alarms?" asked Amy. "I thought you were trying to get us up," replied Taylor, the 12-year-old. "No, the whole house was filled with smoke," said Amy. "Did you not notice that?" said Lisa. "No," said Taylor. "You didn't notice the smoke or the smoke alarms going off?" asked Lisa. "No," said Taylor.
And the 4-year-old? "Hey, Kelsi, wake up. Did you hear the smoke alarm?" said Kenneth as he tried to get his daughter up. But, she never woke up, in fact, she grunted, waved her hand in the air, and tossed over on her other side still sleeping.
"Courtney, do you know what you're supposed to do?" asked Lisa of Courtney, Amy's 7-year-old daughter. "Are you supposed to find mom?" Courtney, replied "yeah." "Is that what you did?" Lisa asked. "No," said Courtney as she stood there nervous. "Did you put the pillow over your head so you could go back to sleep?" Lisa asked. "Yes," answered Courtney.
"You want to hear what you slept through?" said NewsChannel 11 as we sounded the two smoke detectors. The 7-year-old plugs her ears, and the 12-year-old hides her face.
Now everyone's awake and slowly realizing, ignoring the warning can be deadly. "Just one breath of smoke is enough to kill you," said Ethridge to the children.
"Given this situation and other families this might happen to in a real life event, how do you prevent kids from sleeping through a smoke detector?" asked NewsChannel 11's Cecelia Coy. "I don't know what we need to do to keep the kids from sleeping through. We've just got to have enough smoke detectors to wake parents up so we can get our kids out," Ethridge said.
This story has a happy ending because it was only a test. A test with many lessons learned. This test showed these parents how crucial time can be in a fire emergency. Ethridge says parents must act fast and not rely on their children to wake up if a fire were to happen.
Keep in mind that a typical three bedroom two bathroom home should have at least six smoke detectors, depending on the floor plan. Deputy Fire Marshal Garett Nelson says the best place to mount your smoke detector is on the ceiling. However, the second best place is on the wall, mounted six inches from the ceiling.