Specialist fire alarms for the hearing impaired


Fire alarm
© JackValley - iStock

Technology is now helping to improve fire detection systems, including those for people with difficulty hearing. Newsroom New Zealand reports on the importance of these devices.

New Zealand is reported to have over 880,000 people who are deaf or hearing-impaired, and they would have to rely on seeing or smelling smoke to alert them to a fire. When we take into account the fact that one in three people may be affected by fire in their lifetime, it’s very important to make sure these people are rapidly alerted to any fire outbreak.

The technology has come a long way and specialist smoke alarms now include visible systems with strobe lights, systems that vibrate beds or pillows, and even pager-based systems. There are also alarms available that operate at a high or low sound frequency for people who are able to hear certain frequencies.

Senior Fire and Emergency Officer, Quin Webster from Takapuna, North Island has been improving fire safety for deaf and hearing-impaired people for over 12 years. Originally, the Ministry of Health only provided the devices if no one in the house could sound the alarm. “At the time, [families] didn’t get funding for alerting devices because if they had a five-year-old child who could hear, the argument was that the five-year-old child could tell you the fire alarm is going off,” Webster explains. “The fire service at the time argued the point that you shouldn’t really be relying on a five-year-old to make you aware, it should be the other way around.”

Source: Newsroom New Zealand