Fire Safety for People with Hearing Disabilities

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Fire Safety for People with Hearing Disabilities


It’s a fact that smoke alarms save lives. However, those who are deaf or hard of hearing may not be able to rely on a traditional smoke alarm to alert them to a fire. 

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Alarm Example 1

A traditional smoke alarm sounds at a frequency of 3100 Hz – a very high pitch. Unfortunately, it is also the range at which age-related or occupational hearing loss first occurs. This means that even a person with a relatively mild degree of hearing loss may not be able to hear a smoke alarm, especially when asleep.

Special smoke alarms and alerting devices are commercially available to assist in alerting persons who are deaf or hard of hearing. These devices typically have a flashing strobe light, a bed shaker device, a low-frequency alarm tone, or a combination of these alert types. Some equipment utilizes transmitters and receivers that operate using existing smoke alarms. Often, this equipment can be very easily installed without special tools. 

Early warning in case of a fire is critical! Every year in the United States there are an average of 366,600 residential structure fires, resulting in 2,570 deaths and 13,210 injuries. Don’t become a statistic, ensure that the smoke alarms in your home will wake you up in case of fire!

Have questions or need help? We offer special smoke alarms and alerting devices for the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as home consultation services. If you cannot afford to purchase a special smoke alarm or alerting device, we may even be able to provide them at no cost!

Bend Fire Department actively works with the deaf community to promote smoke alarms that can be heard or seen by those with hearing disabilities. To request a consultation about smoke alarms for those with hearing loss, please contact the Bend Fire Department at 541-322-6300.

Install and maintain smoke alarms Deaf or hard of hearing persons cannot rely on the traditional audible smoke alarm, but can rely on smoke alarms equipped with alternative alerting devices.
  • Install a strobe/flashing (visual) or shaker/vibrating (tactile) smoke alarm on every level of your home and in your sleeping area. Ideally, these smoke alarms would be interconnected so that if smoke is sensed in one area of the house, the person with hearing loss will be alerted in all areas of the house. Strobe/flashing smoke alarms are not recommended if you have a seizure disorder. 
  • Test all smoke alarms monthly. Your chances of surviving a home fire are far greater if you have the initial warning from a smoke alarm. 

For those visiting hotels and motels throughout Oregon, not just Bend: Oregon law requires the hotel/motel provide some sort of alarm for those with hearing disabilities. You may have to ask the front desk for a specially equipped room or a device to be installed in the room you stay in. Either way, you can have the same protection in your hotel room as you do at your home.

From ORS 479.255:

  • A hotel shall provide no fewer than one smoke alarm for persons who are hard of hearing and one door knock device for each 75, or fraction thereof, rooms of the hotel that are regularly used for sleeping.
  • If a person renting a room in a hotel requests a room with a smoke detector or a smoke alarm for persons who are hard of hearing and a door knock device, the landlord shall:
    (a) Install a portable smoke alarm for persons who are hard of hearing and a door knock device; or
    (b) Provide the person with a room in which a smoke detector or smoke alarm for persons who are hard of hearing and a door knock device have been permanently installed.
  • The landlord may require a guest to pay a refundable deposit if the landlord provides the smoke alarm for persons who are hard of hearing under this section.
  • A hotel shall provide a printed notice of the requirements of this section, posted conspicuously at the place of registration or in each guest room.