Tuesday, March 22, 2011
When I Needed Help - Where Were You?
According to the Community Emergency Preparedness Information Network, “an increasing number of fire department’s have been trying to include the deaf, hard of hearing and deaf/blind communities in their fire prevention and safety plans. Many have applied for 2010 Fire Prevention and Safety Grants through FEMA. This will ensure that accessible smoke alarms are distributed to those that need them.
Tragically, there continue to be fire fatalities involving these underserved populations. Accessible smoke alarms will curb this trend, but these devices are very costly when purchased individually and they are only part of the solution.
Education and training programs continue to be a highly effective way to provide fire prevention and safety information to these individuals, but few fire education professionals know how to provide a truly accessible program.”
My experience in trying to figure out what type of smoke alarm to buy for my son who is Deaf is a perfect example of that lack of knowledge.
Several months ago, I emailed the fire department for my county. I asked for guidance on smoke alarms for the Deaf. Months passed and I got no response.
By surfing the Internet, I realized that a smoke alarm for someone who is Deaf is drastically different than a traditional smoke alarm, but I was still confused as to what to purchase. I knew I needed something with a strobe light, and something that could also offer vibration, to a bed for example, would be ideal. But, there is no one device that can do that. It appeared I needed to buy at least two things to accomplish my goals. Since those two things were quite expensive, I wanted to make sure I was ordering correctly. Thus, my email to my fire department.
Fortunately, the father of one of Ronnie’s wheelchair basketball teammates is a fire captain in an adjoining county. He used his influence and his contacts to get my county fire department to finally contact me with the information I needed. But it shouldn’t have worked that way.
What if another family or another Deaf person didn't have the contacts that I had? How would they get the information and support they needed?
So, the Community Emergency Preparedness Information Network is correct – few fire education professionals know how to provide a truly accessible program, and at least in my county, the fire department was not even responsive to a disability issue.