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Fire Safety for the deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing

Today, the Kingsley Association welcomed Master Firefighter Lisa Epps-Cuda and the Center for Hearing and Deaf Services' Sharon Hughes-Morris to discuss fire safety for those that are deaf, deafblind or hard of hearing. With Epps-Cuda's 22 years of experience as a firefighter and Hughes-Morris' experience with people who are hard of hearing, the two collaborated to figure out the best way to keep these individuals as safe as possible.

Before introducing the devices that will help those that are hard of hearing, Epps-Cuda went over fire safety protocol and the discussed the importance of knowing what to do when a fire occurs. The first process she went over was R.A.C.E, an acronym that helps you remember the steps that you have to take when a fire first breaks out.

  • R stands for Rescue. As in, get everyone out of the house to a central meeting point that is designated prior amongst people who live in the house.

  • A stands for Alarm. No matter where the fire is, make sure a fire alarm is pulled or is sounding off to alert authorities in order for fire fighters to get to the scene as soon as possible.

  • C stands for Contain. If the fire is in one room, close the door. Containing the fire is important to prevent it from spreading and even potentially suffocating it to ensure it does not grow.

  • E stands for Extinguish. Use an extinguisher to either kill a small fire or clear a path to get outside through a larger fire that requires professionals to handle. That being said, Epps-Cuda also explained the importance of not using an extinguisher for a grease fire and that best way to stop such a fire is to cover it and remove the heat.

Epps-Cuda also taught how to use a fire extinguisher properly by following the P.A.S.S technique; Pull the pin out from the top, Aim at the base of the fire, Squeeze the handle and Sweep the nozzle back and forth.

As for the prevention of fires in the first place, she explained the importance of not wearing long sleeves or baggy clothing while cooking. According to her, the number one source of house fires comes from the kitchen and a lot of the time it is due to someone reaching over the stove while cooking, catching clothes on fire by accident.

Epps-Cuda also discussed electrical fires and how you detect them by the scent it gives off as well as visual cues such as smoke or burn makes next to your outlet.

After discussing fire safety protocol, Sharon Hughes-Morris began her presentation discussing the devices that will help people who may not be able to hear the fire alarm. Through a $3 million grant, over the course of two years, Hughes-Morris and Epps-Cuda are able to purchase and distribute specialized smoke detectors and other devices to help the hard of hearing.

These are all devices specialized to assist the hard of hearing in fire safety. From left to right, there is a smoke detector, a doorbell that activates lights within the home, a bed rocker, a vibrating pager that vibrates when the smoke detector goes off, and a flashing device that can sit on a bedside table to notify a person for several reasons. The bed rocker would be placed under one's pillow and will vibrate aggressively when your smoke detector picks up something when you are sleeping. The flashing device (when connected to the appropriate devices that you can pick up separately) can notify you for a fire, carbon monoxide, weather, the doorbell and your home phone ringing.

Hughes-Morris taught how to program all of the devices and how each should be used for them to be the most effective within one's home. Before you can receive any of the devices, you must go through a similar fire safety protocol training. At the bottom of this page is also the pricing of said devices based on your income. Similar devices can be purchased online, but tend to be expensive. However, as long as you live in the city of Pittsburgh, these specific devices will be very affordable when purchased from Hughes-Morris and Pittsburgh's Center for Hearing and Deaf Services.

Thank you Lisa Epps-Cuda and Sharon Hughes-Morris for stopping by the Kingsley Association to help teach the importance of fire safety and provide information on how to remain safe when someone is deaf or hard of hearing. Stay safe everyone.

Here is a table to help you understand how much these devices will cost you based on your family size and house income:

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