Firefighters encourage alternate fire alarm for those hard of hearing

Posted at 6:31 PM, Feb 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-25 16:30:25-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - Hampton Roads firefighters are encouraging people who are deaf or hard of hearing to take extra steps to stay safe.

Hampton Division of Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Anthony Chittum says people who are heavy sleepers or have trouble hearing may not hear an alarm go off.

“Most smoke alarms are in hallways, in common areas of their home, not actually in their bedroom,” Chittum said.

A different type of alarm works to change that.

Related: Fire departments across Hampton Roads experiencing shortage of volunteer firefighters 

Joel Roark is the president of Lifetone Technology. The company created a bedside fire alarm and clock that works with a traditional fire alarm.

The device listens for the high-pitched sound of a traditional smoke alarm; then a loud, low frequency sound plays, the word "fire" flashes across the screen and a device vibrates under your mattress to help wake you up.

“In the City of Portsmouth, nearly 32 percent of our households have somebody over the age of 60 living in them, and once you hit 60 your hearing slowly decreases,” said Jeff Meyer with Portsmouth Fire Rescue & Emergency Services.

Firefighters say two minutes is all it takes for smoke to get out of control.

“The earlier you hear a smoke alarm, the more time you have to get out of a home, the more likely you are to get out uninjured and safely,” Chittum said.

Local fire departments will be able to assist anyone who needs a smoke detector and is deaf. Firefighters will provide those in need with an alarm and install it for free.