PAT FORAN, CTV CONSUMER REPORTER; ROB JONES-COOK, VANCOUVER FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICE
THOMSON: Having a smoke detector in your home might give you peace of mind of course but, chances are, you have been lulled into a false sense of security. Consumer reporter Pat Foran joins us to tell us why.
Kind of frightening.
FORAN: It is, Bev. They say that kids will sleep through anything. And we found out that that may be true. With help from our friends at CTV in Calgary, we conducted a test to see if kids really will sleep through a piercing fire alarm. And the results are really surprising. Take a look, Bev.
[Taped segment begins]
FORAN: It’s hard to believe that anyone could sleep through the shrill sounds of a smoke alarm. But look at these two children. Seven-year-old Riley and nine-year-old Mitchell are deep in slumber. Our CTV affiliate in Calgary conducted a test using nightvision cameras and a high-pitched smoke detector. The alarm went off for 4 1/2 minutes, but these kids didn’t budge.
MYRENE HAYES (Mother): I was very surprised. I would have thought that Mitchell would’ve woken up for sure. He’s nine, and he’s a very responsible nine.
FORAN: So, were these children just heavy sleepers? The same test was tried again with another family. The smoke detector was set off just outside 12-year-old James’s bedroom while Mom and Dad waited in the hall. At two minutes, James is still fast asleep. And his parents are surprised. Four minutes later, he is still asleep. His parents are now amazed and concerned. At 4 1/2 minutes, the alarm is shut off, and they check in on James.
Throughout it all, James never woke up.
JAMES (Test Subject): My mom just came into the kitchen and asked me, did you have a good sleep last night? I was surprised when she told me that I didn’t move at all.
FORAN: Many people have their smoke detector in the hallway outside of their bedroom. But if you’re a sound sleeper or you have young children, you really should have a smoke detector right over the bed.
It’s not just kids. Some adults will also sleep through a loud alarm. If there is a fire, you should be up and out of the house within two minutes. You can teach children to listen to the sound of the alarm when they’re awake and tell them what it’s for. If they recognize the sound, there’s a better chance they’ll wake up if the alarm goes off.
[Taped segment ends]
THOMSON: So, what in the world can parents do?
FORAN: Well, I think that’s really the most important thing that parents can do, is set the alarm off when the kids are awake and say, «Look, this is the sound of an alarm. And you have to get up when you hear it.» Because kids are so used to sleeping through, say, loud movies if the kids are in bed and you have the TV turned up. They just get so used to the noise that they really have to learn to recognize that sound.
THOMSON: And there’s some new technology, I guess, on the way?
FORAN: Well, there is. I’m going to set this off. The audio guys are not going to like this, but here we go. This is a new smoke alarm that uses vocal commands. So, I’m just going to set it off for a second.
THOMSON: Yeah, that’s loud. How can you sleep through that?
FORAN: Okay, and it’s going to go off again with the carbon monoxide command, I think.
So there’s a new one that’s coming out and what it will do is it will allow parents to put their own voice onto the smoke detector and say, «Okay, wake up, Johnny. Wake up, there’s a fire!»
THOMSON: So, that might help, too. Because it’s the parent’s voice.
FORAN: That’s right. So, when you use the parent’s voice it’s more likely that the kids will wake up. And that’s something that’s coming out this summer in Canada. It’s called KidSmart Vocal Smoke Alarms. And who knows if that might help to get your kids to wake up?
THOMSON: Yeah, and any idea how much it might cost?
FORAN: That’s about $100, Bev. And another tip is that you should replace your smoke detector every 10 years, because once they get old they won’t wake you up either.
THOMSON: And check it when the clocks go forward and back, right?
FORAN: Absolutely. Check your batteries.
THOMSON: Okay, thanks very much, Pat. Appreciate it.
With more now on fire safety, I’m joined by Captain Rob Jones-Cook from Vancouver Fire and Rescue Service.
Good morning to you.
JONES-COOK: Good morning.
THOMSON: Well, let me just ask you, what are some of the common mistakes that you see families making when it comes to smoke detection or fire safety?
JONES-COOK: Well, there’s a couple of very large things that concern us in the fire service. One is that those who use battery-powered detectors remove the batteries. And that’s because they think they’re a nuisance while they’re cooking or they need that battery for a different appliance. A very strong recommendation on our part is never, ever take the battery out of a detector. Change your batteries once, if not twice, a year.
The other real issue that concerns us that we talk a lot about is putting together a fire safety plan. We know people do it, but it is not enough just to put together your fire safety plan, your escape plan. You actually need to put that in practice. And this story that you’re doing now I think fully illustrates that you need to know how everybody in the house is going to react in a simulated — or in an emergency.
THOMSON: And you can’t just do that once. I mean, the fire plan and have your kids walk through what they need to do. I mean, you would presumably have to do that several times, you know, and update it.
JONES-COOK: Well, I think perhaps when you have young children and you are showing them all about fire safety, it certainly doesn’t hurt to do it a couple of times. But our recommendation is a minimum of twice a year.
THOMSON: Captain, how many smoke detectors — and, obviously, that would depend on the size of the home — but, you know, on what floor? How many would you need? One in the hallway that would be good for the three bedrooms? Or, you know, how many would you recommend?
JONES-COOK: Well, the rule of thumb is that there be one on every floor of the home. And it was alluded to the story about having one in the bedroom. What I would say to that is if you are going to have one in the bedroom be sure that is a hardwired, interconnected detector. And what that means is that if one detector in the home goes off all the detectors go off.
THOMSON: Captain, we certainly appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.
JONES-COOK: You’re welcome.