FEMA grant provides smoke alarms for Upstate deaf students

Spartanburg Herald JournalJanuary 8, 2014 

S0104SmokeDector1

The Converse Fire Department installed special smoke detectors at a home of hearing impaired residents. The smoke alarm would activate a bed shaker to wake someone in the event of a fire at night. Trent Inman activates the test mode of the detector as Tina Chader can feel the bed shake.

JOHN BYRUM — john.byrum@shj.com

When a grass fire broke out and inched closer to the home of three deaf residents before it was extinguished, they wondered what would have happened to them had their home caught fire without them hearing a sound.

“(We were) shocked and scared. I didn’t want anything to happen here,” said Tina Chader about finding out what had happened next door to their Converse house nearly two weeks ago.

The three can now sleep peacefully knowing that they will be awoken if a fire breaks out in their home. A lawn of charred grass remained next door to the single-story rental home on Dan River Road as firefighters from the Converse Fire Department came Saturday to install new smoke alarms designed specifically for the deaf and hearing-impaired.

Chader said she had never seen that type of alarm before, and said she and her roommates will feel much safer knowing their beds will shake to wake them up if there is a house fire.

The new devices, $165 apiece from Lifetone, came from an inventory of 144 that were given to Spartanburg County through a 2010 FEMA grant. Spartanburg Fire Department sponsored the $1 million grant that was initially awarded for new radios to fire stations across the county. The remaining money was put toward the new smoke alarms to give out for free to the county’s deaf and hearing-impaired community.

“It’s a great opportunity to be here for the hearing-impaired because that’s their worst fear is a fire,” said Converse Fire Chief Tim Jones. “As soon as we found out about these (alarms), we wanted to get out here and save lives.”

Jones first identified the deaf residents after the recent grass fire. He said they were upset they did not know a fire was outside their house at the time and had no way of knowing.

Spartanburg Fire Chief Marion Blackwell announced the county had received the new alarms during a meeting with area fire chiefs last Thursday. He said residents can keep the alarms plugged in and place them under their pillows or mattresses, and the device will shake hard enough to wake someone up if a standard smoke detector’s alarm sounds.

“People who are hard of hearing, they can’t rely on listening for a standard detector,” he said. “If you feel the shaking, you’ll know that an alarm is going on and you need to get out.”

Chader and roommates Adom Odenthal and Aletha Day became the first in Spartanburg County to have the new alarms installed.

Their landlord, Charles Kelly, helped facilitate the alarm installments with the fire department last week. “I’m absolutely for this,” said Kelly, who has owned the property for more than 20 years. “I would imagine a lot of people die from the smoke from a fire if they are sleeping.”

Jones, the Converse chief, said he thinks more hearing-impaired residents will begin coming to their local fire departments to request the bed-shaking alarms for their own homes.

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