On average, the American Red Cross responds to a disaster every 8 minutes. A majority of the responses are home fires, which are also the nation’s most common and deadly disaster.
People who are deaf or hard of hearing are particularly vulnerable because they may not be able to hear the sound of a traditional smoke alarm. Delayed notification reduces the chances of getting out of a burning home quickly and safely.
Faye Whitaker lives in Goose Creek, SC and is hard of hearing. She wears hearing aids but not when she falls asleep at night.
“I was at my friend’s house and her smoke alarm went off. I was in another room and couldn’t hear it and that really scared me,” said Whitaker. “A friend of mine, in my senior group, told me the Red Cross had installed a specialized alarm in her home. She is deaf in one ear also and I wear hearing aids in this ear.”
The specialized alarm, commonly referred to as a ‘Bed Shaker,’ is installed next to the bed, and alerts those in the home using a strobe light and vibrating pad that can be placed under the mattress or pillow. It’s activated when an accompanying traditional smoke alarm sounds.
“It is very important. It could save my life,” said Whitaker feeling her mattress vibrate during a test of the alarm.
“The disabled, more often than not, are overlooked and their needs are not met. This is a great program where we can meet their needs,” said Mary Mitchell, a Red Cross volunteer who installed Whitaker’s alarm.
Mitchell is on the Disaster Action Team which means she responds to house fires but also is very active in installing smoke alarms and educating the public on fire safety.
“It absolutely saves lives. It definitely saves lives,” said Mitchell.
Red Cross services, such as smoke alarm installations, are free of charge thanks to generous partners. Anyone who needs smoke alarms can make a request at getasmokealarm.org and a Red Cross representative will contact them to schedule free installation.
The installation of free smoke alarms and educational awareness is part of the Red Cross Home Fire Campaign which aims to reduce home fire deaths by 25%.