Smoke detectors are becoming a standard and mandatory fixture in all new houses and apartments. While standard smoke alarms serve a majority of the population, they do not necessarily work for everyone. Nearly 36 million Americans are hearing impaired, a number that is growing as the general population ages, leaving a large percentage of people more vulnerable to house fires.
The ability to detect and escape from a fire is a major part of independence. New fire safety systems have revolutionized the way the vast majority of the population is alerted of fire danger, particularly the hearing impaired.
What Options are Out There?
Classic smoke alarms have come a long way since the 90’s, and each technological innovation has continued to vastly improve outcomes for those who are hearing impaired. Some of the most common fixtures include:
Extra Loud Sound
If you only suffer from partial hearing loss, a louder-than-normal alarm may suffice. It’s recommended that Smoke Detectors and other Fire Safety devices be equal to or louder than 90 decibels (dB) to work effectively for all individuals, whether they suffer from hearing impairment or not. Typically, with that level of noise coming from a device, it’s not uncommon for a person to actually feel the vibration of sound waves. It is unlikely that you will be able to test this system prior to purchase which presents the dilemma of the system not being loud enough. This, essentially, leaves you at the mercy of the seller’s return policy. So make sure you confirm what theirs is. Plus, hearing loss tends to be degenerative, and what is loud enough now may not be so a couple of years after your purchase.
Vibrating fixtures are small gadgets that are usually placed beneath your pillow or mattress and will vibrate if the smoke or CO2 detectors are activated. These systems are usually linked to the typical sound produced by your fire alarms offering an additional layer of alert to those in your home who may not be hearing impaired. They work well as long as your bed is not too big, you don’t have too soft of a foam mattress, or you don’t make a habit of napping on the couch.
Flashing or police-siren-like light alarms are easy to install as an add-on to standard sound alarms. It is easily noticeable if you are awake or asleep, offering a visual indicator of emergency as well as an auditory indicator. While this may seem problematic if you are asleep, the flashing lights have proven to be decently effective at waking people.
Smart Home and App Synchronization
This high-tech option allows you to connect your smoke or CO2 detectors to a “smart home” network, which then sends the alert to your smartphone. Depending on how you program it, these systems can then trigger a VERY LOUD sound, a vibrating alarm, or even an emergency text message to a loved one.
Combined with a reliable emergency alert system, some apps (such as Rescu) will then allow you to directly contact emergency services.
Can You Trust any Single Type of Fire Alarm for Deaf People?
A thorough emergency system needs to cover all vulnerabilities, bases, and therefore relies greatly on redundancy.
For example, vibration alarms by themselves could leave you unprotected during half the day while you’re not in your bed. Louder smoke detectors designed for the hearing-impaired should also be applicable for anyone in the house, who may be expecting the characteristic high-pitched beeping of a sound alarm.
The best system is likely going to work in cohesion with the current standard for fire detection. Effectively covering your bases means offering solutions that all residents of your home will be protected in the event of a disaster or emergency, including loved ones with hearing disabilities.
There’s a Fire! What Comes Next?
Most effective fire alarms are designed to make sure all occupants leave the house and get to safety. That is rarely the end of the story: you still need to alert the fire department. For the hearing-impaired or deaf people, getting on the phone is not always a viable option.
Rescu: a Mobile App for all Emergencies
To optimize the process, initiating the steps that immediately follow your evacuation has become easier via next generation mobile apps designed for you to take action during an emergency. This technology automates your call for aid and connects you directly with emergency responders instead of lengthy phone calls with 9-1-1. With Rescu, you can dispatch emergency services immediately, shaving valuable minutes off the response time because you will not need to verbally communicate your emergency information and your location. The Rescu app can be easily used with your smart home smoke, CO2 and other life safety sensors; and once the alarm has been triggered, you’ll be able to send the police, fire truck or ambulance with just a tap of your finger, no words needed.
This is the perfect add-on to tie together a comprehensive fire protection system for the hearing impaired.