The sound of a smoke alarm can save your life. But what happens when you can't hear it? Smoke alarms save lives, but those who are deaf or hard of hearing cannot depend on the sound of the regular alarm to alert them to a fire. Most fatal fires happen when people are sleeping, and because smoke can put people into a deeper sleep, it is important to have the necessary early warning to ensure that they wake up and get out.
Special alarms are available for the hearing impaired. These special alarms may employ a strobe light or may vibrate and shake bedding.
Good News, Bad News
According to the article, "U.S. experience with smoke alarms and other fire detection/alarm equipment" in NFPA Journal, 94 percent of all U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm, but the 6 percent of homes without a smoke alarm account for 77 percent of all annual fire deaths.
But simply having a smoke alarm in the home is not enough. It needs to be a working smoke alarm. When smoke alarms don't work, it is usually because the batteries are missing, disconnected or dead. Many people remove or disconnect batteries because of nuisance activations.
Avoiding nuisance alarms
Alarms that go off because of burnt toast, steam or other non-threatening sources can be a nuisance and can discourage people from using smoke alarms. Don't install smoke alarm right outside of bathrooms or in kitchens where steam can activate the alarm. Or, use alarms with a silencing feature that can be pressed to delay the alarm for a short period time.
Alarms with 10-year lithium batteries eliminate the problem of having to change batteries. The batteries are designed to last the life of an alarm. Even with a long-lasting battery, smoke alarms still need to be tested at least once a month.
Some alarms are equipped with large, easy-to-push test buttons. Some alarms allow testing by using a flashlight or television remote. These are particularly helpful for people with mobility disabilities, people who are blind or have low vision, or for older adults.
Alarms for children
These are available for young children, which allow guardians to record escape instructions in their own voices that children will recognize.
Be sure, whatever kind of alarm you buy, that it carries the label of an independent testing laboratory.
Keep a communications device nearby. If you use a TTY/TTD device, place it close to the bed.