Deaf Fire Alarms Save Lives
According to the U.S. National Fire Protection Agency, smoke detectors decrease the risk of death by more than 50%. Unfortunately, most fire alarms rely on sound – leaving nearly a quarter of Americans with hearing loss unaware and at risk during an emergency.
Bed shaking alarm systems are life-saving devices that can combine audible alerts, visual aids and strong vibrations to warn such individuals when smoke is detected.
Connect Direct, a subsidiary of Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD), trained American Red Cross (ARC) agents on how to include the deaf communities in their fire alarm safety initiative and support with monitoring and evaluation of existing deaf-friendly detection systems. ARC’s Home Fire campaign began in 2014 with the goal of reducing the number of resulting casualties by 25% by 2019 through safety and prevention initiatives. Through their Sound the Alarm. Save A Life. program, volunteers install a limited number of free alarms for those who are physically unable to install one and include specialized bedside alarms for individuals with hearing loss.
“We were proud to support the American Red Cross in their efforts to decrease fatalities in home fires. Providing direct access to information in American Sign Language is not only possible, it’s the right thing to do. Access literally saves lives,” explained Craig Radford, Director of Strategy and Business Development for Connect Direct.
“It says fire, get out, call 911. It also vibrates the entire house.”
Jennifer Johnson, a hard of hearing woman from Virginia, received her device from the VA Fire Marshal who partners with the ARC on their Home Fire Campaign. When a fire broke out in her apartment complex, her smoke detector wouldn’t stop going off. “It says fire, get out, call 911. It also vibrates the entire house,” she said. She was able to escape with her boyfriend and dog – and get to safety.
Fire alarms for the deaf and hard of hearing that vibrate save lives – you might be able to get one for free.
These specialized smoke detectors may be the deciding factor between life and death for deaf people, yet lack of awareness of these devices and their exorbitant costs can prevent people from getting them. Deaf and hard of hearing individuals from across 14 states and counties can apply for a free device via getasmokealarm.org/. If your location is not listed, contact one of the numbers on the site and ask to be put in touch with a Connect Direct trained representative to find out more information about the fire alarm safety initiative.
Aside from training, Connect Direct has supported efforts to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the bed shaker units, aiding the ARC’s risk assessment and reporting.
Over the course of 3 months, Connect Direct conducted community outreach and distributed surveys to deaf consumers which helped them identify consumers with defective alarms. The data collected was used by the ARC to facilitate the replacement of nearly 300 devices, as well as identify others within the community in need of support.
Kevin Kelly, Sr. Director of Community Preparedness Programs noted the impact of this work in his thank you letter to Connect Direct:
“In our work we occasionally receive first-hand accounts from our clients and from first responders who share how the Home Fire Campaign has positively impacted their lives and communities. […] one of our clients, who is hard of hearing, was able to escape a home fire thanks to her working bed shaker device. It’s stories like these that help remind us of how important working smoke alarms and other types of alert devices truly are.”
For Connect Direct, promoting safety and educating the community is just one part of their widespread portfolio.
The organization aims to help public and private organizations hire and train deaf employees to improve access to customer support for the nearly 3 million American Sign Language users in the United States. By offering one-to-one customer service in ASL, businesses open the door to enticing an untapped market to use their products, and the deaf community receives accurate and easy resolutions when they need customer support.
Deaf consumers can communicate directly in real-time with their support teams in ASL to get answers to questions regarding products, functionality or even billing. Programs like these are the first of their kind and further address the digital divide for Americans with disabilities by ensuring that members of the deaf community can get connected without barriers.
Hearing loss is an unseen disability and there are many cultural and linguistic challenges that result from it. Connect Direct is proud to do work that improves the quality of life of these underserved communities through life-saving and game-changing partnerships with organizations like the American Red Cross.