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May 17, 2007

Fire dangers for the deaf

From: Northumberland Gazette, UK - May 17, 2007


SAFETY and security are being promoted this week as Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service has teamed up with the Royal National Institute for the Deaf during Deaf Awareness Week.

They are raising awareness of special smoke alarm systems that could save the lives of people with hearing loss if there is a fire.

In June last year Ronald Black, 77, of Lesbury, who is hard of hearing, did not hear his regular smoke alarm when a pan caught fire in his home. Luckily a passing cyclist saw smoke and alerted him.

Mr Black said: “I was reading alone in the living room with the door closed and was completely unaware of what was going on outside. Because I am hard of hearing I didn’t even hear the smoke alarm.”

Since the blaze the Fire and Rescue Service has carried out checks on Mr Black’s home and has installed a smoke alarm with vibrating pads and flashing strobe lights to alert him if there is another fire.

A third of people with hearing loss say they would have difficulty waking up to a normal smoke alarm, especially as most remove their hearing

aids at night.
People who are deaf or hard of hearing need additonal ways of making them aware that an alarm has been activated.

Chief Fire Officer Brian Hesler said: “It’s really important that people have working smoke alarms and more specifically, for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to have special smoke alarms.”

Brian Grover, head of technology and research at RNID, said: “Fire can strike at anyone’s home, but not everyone is equally protected because deaf people cannot rely on hearing an ordinary alarm.

“We encourage deaf and hard of hearing people to think about their personal fire safety and ensure they have the right alarm for their needs.”

Fire and Rescue personnel are available throughout the year to carry out home fire risk assessments and to provide and fit specialist smoke alarms for deaf and hard of hearing residents. Contact them for free on 0800 7311351.

© 2007 Northumberland Gazette