News 3 Investigates: Smoke Detector Safety For Kids

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BRYAN, Texas A fire sweeping through your house in the middle of the night.

It's something you hope and pray never happens.

In the event that it does, you may already have a game plan.

But will your kids wake up if the smoke detector goes off?

News 3 has a special investigation on smoke alarm safety and we were surprised by the results from the experiment.

Fire departments have warned parents for years about the dangers of children sleeping through the blaring sound of traditional smoke alarms.

Well, there's a way for you to record a personalized message on smoke detectors that could get your kids' attention better. We tested out both types of alarms on a Bryan family and the results are something every parent should see.

This sound is one you never want to hear, especially during the middle of the night.

Eight years ago, a smoke alarm warned the Hamilton Family of Bryan at 2 A.M.

Four family members made it out alive.

Sadly, their 7-year-old son Brandon Hubbard and niece Gabrielle Banks did not.

The family's twins Victor and Vikia were badly burned too.

Victor would later die.

We still don't know why they didn't get out in time.

"They didn't know that when they went to bed Friday night they might not wake up or have such a tragedy," said Beverly Nutall, a family member, on February 5, 2006.

Christina Seidel, the College Station Fire Department's Public Education Officer, says it's not unusual for kids to sleep through alarms.

"Some children especially younger children will sleep straight through it. The older kids it tends to work a little bit better on," Seidel said.

Andrew and Joclyn Duncan of Bryan have two boys; 6-year-old Tristan and 2-year-old Alex.

They've discussed as a family what to do in a fire before and agreed to let us test the boys.

Andrew says Tristan is a deep sleeper.

"I'm kind of curious to see how he's going to respond to the fire alarm so hopefully it'll do the trick. Alex you know he's just a little older than two and he's probably not going to understand what's going on," said Andrew Duncan.

After the boys had been in bed for about an hour we set up a smoke detector in the hallway by both closed bedroom doors, like it normally is for them. Cameras in each bedroom were rolling as well.

Then a constant ear piercing sound of the smoke alarm blared in the hallway but Alex and Tristan didn't even budge.

This went on a full five minutes before we gave up.

"I figured they would both wake up it's a pretty loud alarm," said Joclyn Duncan.

"I thought at least one of them would wake up. I guess I'm surprised neither one of them did," said Andrew Duncan.

Next we showed the Duncans a device firefighters recommend.

For $40 on we bought a programmable smoke alarm where mom or dad can record a message.

"Tristan and Alex come outside immediately there's a fire in the house there's a fire in the house come outside. Tristan and Alex come outside there's a fire in the house," recorded Joclyn Duncan into the smoke detector.

It got close to 11:30 P.M. at the Duncan's house. While the boys slept through our first test we then wanted to try a programmable smoke alarm with Joclyn's voice on it to see if they wake up.

"I'm hoping so. I figured they would waken more so with the loud alarm but we'll give this one a chance," she said.

"I guess I'm kind of just really curious to see how it's going to work out. We had the alarm the first time the alarm didn't work. I really want to know if this one's going to do a better job," said Andrew Duncan.

Mom stands by in the hallway while we test the alarm.

"Tristan and Alex come outside!" the alarm yelled.

But once again another five minutes passes and no movement

We took it a step further and did one more test this time with both of their bedroom doors open so it would be even louder.

But to our surprise that didn't work either after another full five minutes.

"I'm thinking if this was a real fire they would have slept through it. That's kind of scary to think of it that way," Jocyln Duncan said.

While we didn't have the results parents would hope for in our experiment other tests have shown a better response.

For the Duncan Family our test has them reevaluating their fire escape plan.

"It just really makes you think about what you can do, or what you should do for fire safety," said Joclyn Duncan.

And unlike in our test, firefighters recommend having smoke alarms in every bedroom of your house, and the bedroom hallway.

They also suggest you have your kids' room's doors closed at night to potentially buy them more precious time from smoke and heat in a real fire.

While our tests with the programmable smoke alarm were not successful, firefighters in Bryan and College Station still highly recommend them as an option to consider.

Fire officials also recommend you have a fire drill for your kids at least twice a year.

One test during the day and the other at night.