Using Smoke Detectors to Protect Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
Invented in the 1890s, the very first smoke detectors were extremely basic and unreliable. But thanks to countless advancements over the next 100+ years, the technology has continuously evolved – saving millions of lives. The introduction of the single-station smoke alarm in the 1970s, for example, cut residential fire fatalities in half.
Despite these improvements, however, the core function of smoke alarms hasn’t changed much. Whenever heat or smoke is detected, everyone in the vicinity is alerted by a loud, blaring alarm. In fact, smoke detectors are often the first (and only) line of defense most people have against fire.
But what happens if those in the vicinity are deaf or hard of hearing?
Conventional smoke alarms can’t fully address the needs of those with hearing challenges – particularly young children. And the potential danger is even greater at night since most people remove assistive technologies like hearing aids and cochlear implants to sleep.
Fortunately, a growing number of safety device manufacturers now offer smoke detectors for the hard of hearing that use a combination of sensory alerts, including both audio alarms and strobe lights. Some smoke detectors for people who are deaf even come with vibrational pads that users can place under their pillows.
Installing Smoke Detectors for Deaf Children and Kids with Hearing Challenges
If you rent your home, most states now mandate that landlords must supply you with properly functioning smoke detectors. In California, for example, this regulation is overseen by the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also requires that landlords install multi-sensory smoke detectors for deaf tenants.
If you own your home, installing smoke detectors becomes your legal responsibility. Under California’s Health & Safety Code 13113.8, these alarms must be placed outside of every bedroom in the home. But ideally, you should install detectors anywhere that family members and guests sleep – including living rooms or dens.
However, simply installing smoke alarms won’t be enough to keep your family safe – especially if you have children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
To understand why, keep reading.
Fire Safety Tips for Children Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing
Installing multi-sensory smoke detectors for deaf members in your family is a good first step. But to truly protect everyone in your home, it’s also important you cover fire safety tips like:
- The dangers of playing with fire and matches and keeping incendiary materials locked up and away from tiny, curious fingers.
- Having an escape plan for the home – including rendezvous points. It’s best to run periodic practice drills to make sure everyone is on the same page.
- Educating your children on the “Stop, Drop, & Roll” technique for smothering flames when caught in a fire.
- Learning basic first aid to provide immediate, stabilizing care in the event that someone in your family gets burned.
The more your children understand and appreciate the above tips, the more soundly you’ll be able to sleep at night.
However, there is one final tip you should explore. And unfortunately, it’s one that far too many families overlook.
One Final Fire Safety Tip to Keep Your Loved Ones Safe
Many believe that smoke detectors are “set it and forget it.” And this is understandable since the average smoke alarm is quiet and inactive 99.99% of the time (which is a very good thing).
But there’s a hidden danger in this silence.
Because smoke detectors are always in a perpetual “standby” mode, they eventually lose their charge making it difficult to know whether your own smoke alarms are working or not.
This is why it’s important to regularly test your smoke detectors. Most experts agree that you should do an inspection every month.
Equally important, you should change the batteries periodically. This is true even if your smoke alarms are hardwired to your home’s electrical network. You still need battery backups since fires can occur when the rest of the grid is down. This is especially true in California, where wildfires and power outages frequently go hand in hand.
Experts recommend that you change your batteries every 6 months – perhaps even more frequently if you have multisensory smokes detectors for deaf children or those with hearing challenges.
If you’re not already on this 6-month schedule, New Year’s is the perfect time to start. So set calendar reminders for the first week of January and July to ensure everyone in your home benefits from this powerful life-saving technology.
And from all of us at CCHAT, have a Happy (and Safe) New Year’s.