Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Blogging Against Disablism Day (BADD): Fire safety tech for the deaf

""I suck at this regular blogging lark.  

Today is blogging against disablism day #BADD.  I retweeted this article about accessing services when using the phone is different, difficult or impossible but was failing to think of anything to blog about myself for today.

Until our doorbell went and I ended up with three firefighters in my front room... 

The other day the local fire service leafleted our area to say they would be coming round to offer fire safety and smoke alarm checking. I highly approve of this as it's a student area prone to burnt toast style fires.

As a deaf person I have all manner of flashing, vibrating, noisy gizmos in my house to alert me to the doorbell, telephone ringing, and alarm clock for the morning to name three but I've never lived anywhere I've not had to rely on other humans for fire alerting.  I would easily sleep through a smoke alarm - they're not that loud and I'm really quite deaf. 

And as ever, I've been meaning to get around to sorting this out for ages... 

So when the friendly Firefighter asked if we had smoke alarms and commented that he could see some that looked like their installations I took this chance to say "we do have them, but I can't hear them" and told him that I'm deaf.   I asked if they had any flashing ones or similar as that's what I don't have. 

His reaction was great, he not only started speaking even more clearly, but he knew about fire alarms for the deaf and described one to me as having a loud noise, a bedside unit with a flashing white or blue light and a circular thing to go under my pillow which vibrates.  He wasn't quite sure how to describe the vibrating pillow pad but I knew what he meant and said I had similar for my alarm clock. 

He then called to the Bossfirefighter and remembered just in time not to shout to the entire street that I'm deaf *thumbs up*, and waited for him walk over to my doorstep before explaining that I had a hearing difficulty.  Bossfirefighter also knew about fire alarms for the deaf and talked his colleague through the registration process and how to make a note so they could order in a deaf alerting alarm.  At some point a third firefighter joined the party - the more the merrier. 

Firefighter then went onto the filling in the forms, spelling out my name, and I'm waiting for the inevitable question....

Firefighter: "What's your phone number?"


Me: "I don't use the phone, can we do it by email?"
Firefighter: *flounders* a little looks to Bossfirefighter for guidance
Bossfirefighter: "Yeah, I don't see why not, they have an email address don't they". 
Firefighter: "OK, What's your email address"?
Me: *spells out email address* 

We then have a discussion about what the 15 minute smoke alarm and fire safety check involves with Firefighter correcting himself with every instance of "telephone" to email on the fly as he's evidently been thrown off a carefully learned script.  He even said I should hear back within 4 weeks and if I don't, that I should definitely come to the fire station round the corner and chase it up because it's important and while he hopes email will work, he doesn't want me to get left without.  

I'm really pleased with the outcome of tonight's chat and the attitudes of the local firefighters (thumbs up to West Midlands Fire Service) towards me telling them that I am deaf and hopefully I'll finally have independent fire alerting up and running soon.  It's nice to be able to blog something positive today. 

I shall hopefully update this poorly neglected blog in the next few weeks on this topic.  


  1. The summer between my first and second year at uni I stayed in a room in halls that had obviously been adapted at some point for a deaf student. No-one told me about this.

    Other students were forever setting fire alarms off in halls at 3am. But cos it was the summer and there were few people living on campus it was actually a couple of weeks before it happened to me in that building.

    I just remember the perplexity of being woken in the middle of the night by... disco lights. In my bleary state it took several minutes to work out what was going on. Excellent, but surreal if you're not expecting it.

  2. Ha! In replying to a post about deafness I got "earystab" for word verification.

    1. *giggles*

      Google really are quite evil. I don't believe in coincidence! :D

  3. I never did halls at uni although perhaps if I'd got sensible disability benefit advice when i was younger I'd have had the money to afford a university halls room close to campus with sensible fire alerting. I also believe it was common in the late 90s to do 1 size fits all accessible bedrooms. These days they do that a bit less but still have some which have all the features which is good cos it's entirely possible to have a deaf person who needs an adapted room for physical impairment reasons.

    One reason why I'm delighted the fire service deafie-alerters have vibrating pads as well as strobes (which I might turn off if possible) is that vibrations are more likely to wake me up properly. I also believe they make noise so going for the full range of options which is great for choice!

    I think I'd freak out if I woke up to strobes without expecting them. They're bad enough when I know they're there. I removed the strobes from my bedroom after I found they made it harder for me to wake up quickly than not. I ended up terribly disoriented and hallucinaty from them. All it needs is a sign saying "strobe alerters in here".

  4. Thanks for a very informative, off-the-cuff, article. Spontaneity is a great choice when you're having 'article-starvation'.

    Cheers! :-)

  5. If I was organised I'd write a stack of articles when inspired and upload them every now and then. But organisation's never been my strong point.

    I may do some more in this series though about phones and alarm clocks cos so many people don't know about them either and they don't have to be expensive.

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  7. Always nice to hear about municipal employees doing their jobs well. Great article!