'Get Out Alive': A WGEM News In-Depth Report - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

'Get Out Alive': A WGEM News In-Depth Report

Luke Zimmerman, with the American Red Cross, maps out the Quincy area Home Fire Campaign. Luke Zimmerman, with the American Red Cross, maps out the Quincy area Home Fire Campaign.
A chart shows the ideal placement for smoke alarms throughout a home. A chart shows the ideal placement for smoke alarms throughout a home.

It's a parents worst fear, and one often not thought of until it's suddenly a reality. Everyone's asleep and a fire breaks out in your home. You might assume when a smoke alarm goes off, everyone wakes up and makes it out to safety. But is it really that simple? The answer may come as a shock when two minutes could be all your family has to get out alive.

"On average, you have two minutes once a working smoke alarm goes off to get out," Hannibal Fire Department's Mark Kempker said. "We can be on scene in three to four minutes, so we're not there in that prime time when you need to get out." 

To most parents, a smoke alarm is the sound of a guardian angel. But when we put it to the test with local families, the outcome lined up closer to a nightmare.

"It's really shocking that they didn't even wake up for it," local mom Angela Sloan said. "There wasn't any kind of stirring, I went and checked on them and they were just sound asleep."

With our cameras in place and Sloan's three children fast asleep down the hall, we sounded the alarm. As minutes passed, she looked on in disbelief. 

One of the boys popped his head up just a moment, but didn't get up. The other two were sound asleep. In the end, not one child got out of bed.

"With something that loud and that consistent of a noise, I would've been wide awake," Sloan said. "It's very scary." 

"[You need a smoke alarm] in every bedroom," Kempker said. "Absolutely every bedroom. You need to have one in the hallway. You need to have one downstairs. We just don't think about our own safety."

Josh and Lindsey Brownlee put their three kids to sleep in the same room, just 10 feet from a smoke alarm. Four-year-old Taylor woke up as it sounded and walked out in less than a minute. One-year-old Caitlyn followed, but two-year-old Jacob was fast asleep.

"You think you're always going to be there, but in the case of a fire, maybe they're at a friend's house," Warsaw dad Josh Brownlee said. "Maybe you're at work. Maybe you don't wake up. You just want them to be aware in cases that are life threatening and be somewhat capable without you."

That mindset is a good start, and the next step, according to Quincy Red Cross Home Fire Campaign Director Luke Zimmerman, is simplifying your escape plan.

"Part of our program is that we give them a laminated board to draw out their first floor, their second floor and then draw out their routes," Zimmerman said. "They can put that on their fridge so they can see it every day."

Being able to put that plan into action can be the difference between life and death.

"Practice this with your children," Kempker said. "Practice, practice, practice. We really want to hear you say, No one's in the house.' It's a great feeling when we show up there."

The American Red Cross says 70 percent of families with children don't have a home fire plan. 

The U.S. Fire Administration reports that having working smoke alarms reduces the chance of dying in a fire by 50 percent.

If you're unsure about installing smoke alarms or feel like you need more, there are options.

The Red Cross Home Fire Campaign is putting smoke alarms in home across the U.S. with a goal to reduce deaths and injuries from home fires by 25 percent.

Luke Zimmerman says the Quincy Red Cross has seen this program already have an impact locally.

"We've documented saving a young family of five here in Quincy, Illinois because of smoke alarms that we installed," They had a furnace fire, they went outside, and they dialed 911. The fire department was able to respond so quickly because of that, and they didn't lose any damage to their home."

To learn more about the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign, click here.

If you are interested in signing up to for to have free smoke alarms installed in your home, click here.

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