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June 21, 2003

Woman fears for deaf son in fire

From: The Daily News, New Zealand - Jun 21, 2003


A New Plymouth woman has grave concerns for the safety of her profoundly deaf nephew in the event of a fire.

Maureen Hepburn was frustrated trying to find a vibrating smoke detector after reading about them in The Daily News a few weeks ago.

Fire safety officers advised deaf people to use the alarms, which can be placed under their pillow, after the death of an elderly man who was believed to be deaf.

Mrs Hepburn said she contacted The Deaf Association, The Hearing Association, the Fire Service and a number of electrical stores, but no one was able to tell her where she could buy one.

"I am very concerned about Calvin and his flatmate. They are both deaf and live in an old house in Christchurch. They would have no chance if there was a fire," she said.

The vibrating smoke alarms cost about $170.

Mrs Hepburn is upset that deaf people should have to pay so much to keep themselves safe.

"The Deaf Association provides interpreters and other services for people. Why not smoke alarms too?

"When a human life is at stake it should not have a price," she said.

"This is something that many deaf people may never think of sourcing for themselves."

Tony Swindale, whose Christchurch company, Deaf Quip, supplies the smoke alarms, said they should be included in disability funding.

Carol Searle, Deputy Director-General of Health Disability Services at the Ministry of Health, said funding was available on a case-by-case basis for equipment which allows people to "be mobile and safe in their home and to undertake training or employment."

David Guest, manager of policy and professional advice at Enable, which distributes Ministry of Health funding, said if the needs of an individual matched the assessment criteria funding should be available.

"Funding for a smoke alarm is possible, though rare," he said.

Fire safety officer Sam Bennett said standard smoke alarms were available from about $8.

©Independent Newspapers Limited 2003.