As we are now well into what is looking like a typical Australian summer, we should all be diligent that we are as fire ready as possible.
Even if you don’t live in an area that is at risk of bushfires, you should ensure that your smoke alarms have fresh batteries and are working correctly.
A smoke alarm provides early warning and time to escape in the event of a fire. Smoke alarms are compulsory in every home. It is the legal responsibility of all owners and landlords to install working smoke alarms.
For those with a hearing impairment however, there is an essential question you need to ask yourself:
Can I hear the smoke alarm if I am not wearing my hearing aids?
Think about this. When you are asleep you lose your sense of smell. A smoke alarm is your electronic nose. It will alert you if there is smoke from a fire.
A small fire can grow to involve an entire room in two or three minutes.
If you are unable to hear your smoke alarm without your hearing aids then you are reliant upon your senses of sight, taste or touch to wake you by which time, it’s probably already too late.
Smoke alarms for the hearing impaired
Thankfully there are specialised smoke alarms available which can, in addition to their normal function, wirelessly send a signal to a bedside alert system that can wake a hearing impaired sleeper via a bright flashing light and bed shaker. Unfortunately though, these specially-designed alarms can cost up to $500 each compared to a standard smoke alarm that costs about $50.
Smoke Alarm Subsidy Scheme
To offset the high cost of this specialised equipment for those who cannot hear a standard smoke alarm, most state governments have a subsidy scheme, administered by the organisations listed below.
New South Wales – The Deaf Society of NSW
Victoria – Vicdeaf
Queensland – Deaf Services Queensland
South Australia – Guide Dogs SA.NT
Tasmania – Tasdeaf/Hearing Link
Sadly, my many attempts to contact the above organisation for further information received no response.
While not a specific smoke-alarm program, the Independent Living Centre for WA Inc administers a Disability Equipment Grant program. Applicants can apply for funds for assistive equipment including smoke alarms.
A properly functioning smoke alarm can mean the difference between life and death
With specialised smoke alarm systems designed for the hearing impaired available at a subsidised price for those eligible, there should be little excuse to be unprepared.
Daniel Pistritto is an Audiometrist and Product Manager (assistive listening devices) at Blamey Saunders hears.