KIAMA firefighters have urged the deaf and hard of hearing to install a smoke alarm tailored to fit their needs, saying it could be a vital life-saving device.
Fire and Rescue NSW statistics suggest that seniors (people aged 65 and over) are the highest fire-fatality risk in the community. In the past five years, one in three fire-related deaths in NSW have been from this age group.
Smoke alarms for the deaf and the hard of hearing are currently being installed by firefighters as part of the Smoke Alarm and Battery Replacement program.
The smoke alarms, provided by the Deaf Society of NSW as part of the Smoke Alarm Subsidy Scheme are battery operated and use radio frequency to communicate with a combination of a flashing strobe light on the bedside table and a vibrating pad under the pillow. They have been developed by the Fire and Rescue community engagement department and the Deaf Society.
Deputy captain of Fire and Rescue NSW Kiama, Terry Dryburgh, said they installed the first of the devices under this initiative to Gerringong's Owen Young, 82, and wife Jean, 83.
Mr Young is profoundly deaf and vision impaired.
Mrs Young praised the initiative and said "I feel happier about it, because I know he doesn't hear the other one."
"He's been saying to us for a while, these [other] smoke alarms are no use to us.
"It's a great comfort to know there is something now being made."
Mr Young is a life member of the Gerringong Rural Fire Service.
"I feel absolutely safe," he said.
"I would honestly hope what the boys are doing, it'll help others as well. It feels really, really safe."
Mr Dryburgh encouraged eligible recipients to apply for one of the new alarms, and said firefighters would help install them if required.
All residents should ensure they have working smoke alarms installed, and should test them monthly, and change batteries annually.
Those eligible should contact the Deaf Society of NSW or visit deafsocietynsw.org.au/smokealarms.