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CCFD gets grant for smoke detectors for those with hearing impairment

By Staff | Feb 9, 2018

When someone is deaf, a conventional smoke detector isn’t going to cut it, especially in the overnight hours when that person is asleep.

But thanks to a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration, a good portion of the 5,500 people with hearing loss in the city of Cape Coral will receive fire alarms designed to accommodate their needs.

The Cape Coral Fire Department has been awarded a $188,572 grant from FEMA for an outreach campaign to increase home fire safety for the city’s deaf and hard of hearing community. The CCFD will contribute an additional $9,428, making the total amount available for the project $198,000.

That will be enough for the CCFD to purchase about 1,200 smoke detectors, which will be installed in the homes of residents with hearing impairment, as well as for seniors and others with low income.

Fire Marshal Dave Raborn said he attended a community risk reduction class in Maryland at the National Fire Academy.

“One of the assignments was finding a risk in the community. I read Census information and one thing that jumped out at me was that there were 5,500 hearing-impaired citizens in Cape Coral,” Raborn said. “It got me thinking. I did a questionnaire and sent it out to all the hearing centers in the city and had their clients fill it out.”

It was discovered that many of these clients had no smoke detectors. After more work, he brought it to the city and applied for a grant with FEMA last year.

The first attempt failed, which Raborn attributed to “thinking too small.” This year, he tried again, asking for 1,000 alarms rather than 100, and this time it was a success.

During the bidding process, a company came back and reduced the price so they were able to buy an additional 200 units, Raborn said.

The CCFD did a demonstration of these specialized alarms for the media on Wednesday at Fire Station No. 8, featuring a sign language interpreter from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Center to help relay the information.

Raborn said these alarms work off the existing smoke detector. These alarms utilize bed shakers, strobe lights and a low-tone signal to warn those who can’t hear audible alarms of fire danger.

Most fire fatalities occur between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. while people are asleep. Three out of five home fire deaths happen from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarm, which cut the risk of dying in reported home fires in half.

This grant emphasizes the importance of proper installation and use of special smoke alarms for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Thanks to the grant, the CCFD will be able to install these life-saving alarms in qualifying Cape Coral homes free of charge.

“A lot of these people needed them and couldn’t afford them. If we save one life, it’s worth every penny and all the effort we’re putting into it,” Raborn said.

Participation in this program is voluntary and is offered to persons who meet the Americans with Disabilities Act definition of “qualified individual with a disability” in regards to being deaf or hard of hearing.

The alarms will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis to qualified individuals who submit an application along with all appropriate paperwork.

Applications can be found on the CCFD website at www.capecoral.net/fire or by calling 242-3264.