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What is a fire alarm for Deaf and hard of hearing people?
12 million people in the UK is d/Deaf or has hearing loss. That’s a staggering 1 in 5 people, at risk of missing a fire alarm.

Although it is common knowledge that conventional fire alarms work by delivering a loud siren when either smoke is detected or an alarm has been activated, it is often overlooked that those who are d/Deaf or hard of hearing, may need an alternative method to notify them of an alarm being raised.

Alternative procedures in emergency evacuations

The most traditional option is the ‘buddy system’. Owing to its low-cost and clear convenience, this is often the most popular method. However, the buddy system can only ever be as reliable as the buddy – the method wholly depends on circumstantial factors – the buddy needs to be entirely present at the time of the emergency, while this might work in theory, it completely ignores eventualities where they may be absent, use the bathroom or not be in close proximity.

PEEPs (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan) are often used to help resolve these issues. By providing the d/Deaf or hard of hearing person with a bespoke ‘escape plan’ and clear instructions on how to safely evacuate without the support or assistance from others. Again, this is an extremely valuable procedure to have in place, but it doesn’t consider the measures needed to notify people of an alarm being raised.

Alternative methods for raising an alarm

Again, Visual Alert Devices or ‘Beacons’ have been favoured for many years. When an alarm is activated, these beacons provide a visual aid with supplementary flashing lights. Great in principle, but nonetheless often used incorrectly. These devices should be installed thoroughly throughout the building to provide maximum security but placing them in specific areas relies on the d/Deaf or hard of hearing person to be in that exact location during an emergency situation.

Another factor to consider is how likely the person is to actually see the flashing light. “In the UK annually, there are approximately 200 fire-related deaths. The majority of these occur within the home between 10pm and 6am when people are asleep”. For incidents in hotels, halls of residence and residential homes, relying solely on flashing beacons poses a serious threat not only to the individual but to others who may need to recover them.

Mass notification systems, like mobile phone text messaging services, are increasingly being used as a form of communication during an emergency. They connect to a pre-existing alarm panel, sending out an emergency text, email, WhatsApp, or voice message in the event of an emergency. Once more, a terrific concept – almost everyone has a phone – but while it may be cost-effective, it’s unreliable and ultimately, doesn’t meet the British and European safety standards. Weak vibrations, inconsistent signal and a poor battery life all run the risk of significant danger.

Deaf Alerter is a radio-based emergency fire alarm and messaging system. Using a unique roaming system, it allows users to receive emergency messages and communications in any building displaying the Deaf Alerter symbol.

Day-time Protection – With a very strong vibration, a battery life of between 4-6 weeks and constructed to withstand everyday use; the Alerter is a small, robust and conveniently portable receiver. Designed to meet International Roaming Standards and maintain full compliance with The Equality Act and the British and European safety standards, the system is reliable, consistent, and easy to use.

Night-time Protection – For protection during the night either in hotels, halls of residence and residential homes, the Night Cradle is a perfect addition to any fire safety plan. The vibrating pad sits comfortably under your pillow as you sleep and if the fire alarm is activated, not only does the pillow pad vibrate but the accompanying light will flash continuously, providing you with 24-hour a day safety while you are in your room.

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