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October 16, 2004

Miss. School for Deaf to receive free strobe fire alarms

From: Jackson Clarion Ledger, MS - Oct 16, 2004

Safety devices will be installed in rooms of children 14 and under

By Camille C. Spencer

The Mississippi School for the Deaf is one of seven schools in six Southeastern states receiving free strobe alarms for students as part of a federal grant to curb high fire injury death rates in the region.

The school will receive 80 alarms for children 14 and younger Wednesday after a Jackson Fire Department fire safety education presentation, said Deputy Fire Chief Willie Owens. Fire Department officials will install the alarms in the students' homes, Owens said.

Roger Tullos, residence education director at the Mississippi School for the Deaf, said dorms and classrooms already are equipped with the alarms.

"I think for our kids in particular, it's going to be outstanding for them to be able to have a smoke or fire alarm with a flasher," Tullos said.

The placement of the strobe alarm in the house doesn't matter because the brightness of the light is effective throughout, Tullos said.

The Gentex model 7109 LS alarms light up and have a 95 decibel horn, compared with an 85 decibel horn on the average smoke detector, said Michelle Destino-Moran, president of the S.A.F.E. Foundation.

A $78,000 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the National Smoke Alarms for Every Home Foundation Inc. and the Children's Fire & Burn Fund allowed 583 strobe alarms to be distributed to deaf schools in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi.

All of those states have high fire death rates.

Mississippi had the highest fire death rate in the country for 2000, the most recent statistics available, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

The fire death rate per million was 36.9 in Mississippi. Hawaii had the lowest with 4.1 fire deaths per million.

Owens said the reason for such high statistics varies.

"(It's) Economic factors and the way buildings are built," Owens said. "A lot of these kids are from areas where they can't afford smoke alarms.

"The main thing I hope it accomplishes is preventing loss of life."

For James Westmoreland, a residence education parent at the Mississippi School for the Deaf, the high cost of a strobe alarm deters him from purchasing one.

The strobe alarm is about $169 compared with about $10 for a standard smoke detector.

Westmoreland, who is deaf, has one smoke alarm in his home — in his daughter's bedroom, who is not deaf.

"The ones at school are strong and have very bright lights and loud buzzers," he said. "They are extremely bright and loud.

"Maybe later, I'll look into something like that."

Destino-Moran said she hopes the alarms will encourage fire safety among deaf people.

"The deaf and hard of hearing in this country aren't getting the education they need on fire safety," she said.

Copyright © 2004, The Clarion-Ledger.