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Oklahoma Project Distributes Smoke Alarms

Oklahoma Project Distributes Smoke Alarms

By Cheryl Heppner

January 2005

Editor: Have you priced a visual smoke alarm lately? Unlike smoke alarms intended for the general population, visual alarms are expensive! So I’m happy to see that Oklahoma is distributing them at no cost to people with hearing loss.

Are other states doing this? Is your state? If not, why not? What can you do about it?

This article originally appeared in NVRC News, January 18, 2005. If you share this article with others, please be sure to credit NVRC News.


Last fall I spent some time in Oklahoma where I gave presentations on two days at a state-wide conference. One of the most interesting things I learned while at this conference was about a “Fire Safety Solutions for Oklahomans with Disabilities” project by Oklahoma ABLE Tech and Fire Protection Publications at Oklahoma State University. I found this project to be very well designed and a good model for others.

The Fire Safety project was funded through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for fire protection and safety. People who are blind or have low vision, deaf or hard of hearing, or have mobility impairments, if they qualified to participate, could get free smoke alarms that met their needs, and have them installed for free as well. The visual smoke alarms for deaf and hard of hearing persons that I saw on display were the hard-wired ones that are much safer than the stand-alone battery-powered units.

Individuals participating in the program got training on fire protection and safety as well. Installers worked with them to develop the most effective home fire exit plan.

I saw a copy of the application form, which was fairly simple and straightforward. Some kind of documentation of disability — vision, hearing, mobility — that would limit your ability to exit the house during an emergency is required. Naturally deafness and hearing loss meets that criteria because if you can’t hear the sound of flames, shouted warnings, etc. you will not be in any hurry to leave the house. Documentation can be provided by a doctor or licensed medical provider such as an audiologist, optometrist, or physical therapist. Oklahoma ABLE Tech estimated that they had funding to provide smoke alarms to 500 to 1,000 people, depending on how many smoke alarms were needed for each individual’s house.

For information:
Linda Jaco
Oklahoma ABLE Tech
1514 W. Hall of Fame
Stillwater, OK 74078