Fire Escape Guide for Hearing Impaired or Deaf People

If your household or you rent out a property to tenants that are heard of hearing, then have you devised a fire escape guide bespoke to their needs? If not, you should do it today.

young man looking at hearing aid
Young man with hearing aid

The occurrence of a fire is something that you always need to prepare for. Whilst building code laws differ from one area to another. They are still mandatory building laws that will include ways to protect you in the event of a fire.

Some laws are more stringent than others, whilst others are more relaxed. In most cases, they're tailored according to the conditions in the area.

Whilst different precautions are in place, some sideline those with hearing loss. The traditional alarm sends out an blaring sound, but this doesn’t help someone who doesn’t have their full hearing. As such, you need to to have a fire escape guide for hearing impaired or deaf people.

We take a look at some of the ways that you can make sure your building is a haven, for anyone with a hearing impairment.

Why is it necessary to have a guide for the Hearing impaired or deaf?

Most buildings and homes have fire escapes made for fully able individuals. If hearing impaired, the risk of getting caught in the fire is higher because most conventional smoke alarms will not cater to you. That is why it is vital to ensure that you have smoke alarms for deaf people that either give a visual warning or a vibration.

It is indispensable if you live alone or have none around to help you recognise a fire and get out in time. It's essential to realise that residents need this so that they can have safety.

old man listens in a living room

How to evacuate deaf or hard of hearing during a fire

Have a clear plan

Always prepare. It means you need an evacuation procedure and individuals are familiar with it. Familiarise them with the procedures and also conduct drills.

Having a clear plan is imperative if you are to evacuate people with hearing impairment.

Update your smoke detector

Think about the infrastructure that you have in place to make sure that you have a clear warning. The smoke sensor, which usually uses sound, is going to be ineffective as your evacuation needs to include ways to get attention.

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Strobe lights

You could communicate by using light strobes that work in tandem with standard smoke alarms. These will work by alerting everyone that there is a fire, by flashing lights. You can find strobe lights that comes as an accessory or that will come as part of the purchase.

These may flash neon lights in different patterns according to the type of danger. Some will flash a certain number of times, whilst others may differ in intensity. It's done to differentiate between the different types of heat sources that could be a danger.

a fire escape sign pointing down

Vibrating smoke alarm

You can also get a vibrating smoke detector, to ensure that you get woken up and alerted that there is a fire somewhere. The downside with this type of device is that a person who is deaf or hard of hearing will need to be close to it. If you can't feel it, then you won't know it is going off.

Man with hand on ear listening for quiet sound or paying attention

Regularly check on devices

It's essential to make sure that you get approved fire systems. It helps to coordinate with your local fire department to make sure that you will be on the right track. Make it a habit to have your detectors checked regularly and properly.

Making sure that you always have functional batteries, if needed, and that all systems are a go.

Communicate with the relevant authorities

Talk to your fire department. And make sure that your unique needs are known to somebody other than yourself. This way, when you have a fire in your home, they can come out and help to know that you have specialist alarms needs.

Take it as a drill, if you have a hearing impairment, ensure neighbours understand the escape plan.

Have a drill

It will also be beneficial for you to practice your drill at least once a month. Companies usually do this for their employees to get accustomed to. If you are a landlord and own a home, it's also an excellent way to get your tenants accustomed to your escape plan.

As a deaf person, practising your fire escape plan, helps you perfect it, and also get everyone up to speed.

signs on a staircase of exit routes

What to do when you’ve been alerted of a fire

Once you have all systems working and your escape plan is solid, it's essential to know what you will do. If you need to write your plan down so that you know what steps to take, then do that. Make sure that your actions are short, concise, to the point, and easy for any to read, and follow.

In the event of a fire breaking out, it's essential to make your way out of the space as fast as possible. Don’t try to grab stuff. It will slow you down and put you at greater risk.

Next, check your exits, see which way you can use to get out unharmed. If there is no other way except through smoke, then get low and crawl through under the smoke. Always keep your mouth closed.

If you need to make your way out before help arrives, make sure to stay away from doors, windows, and hot exit points. Do try to touch them. Safety is something that you have to take as a personal choice.

Checklist for the hearing impaired

Now we have gone through things that you could use to come up with an effective plan, it also helps to have a checklist. So that you make sure that you have all that you need to be safe in case of a fire.

  • Make sure to prepare your evacuation plan.
  • Let someone in on your plan.
  • Know your exits well
  • Ensure that you have adequate, effective systems to warn you when there is a fire
  • Make sure to check the smoke detectors and make sure that all systems are working
  • Ensure you are familiar with the way the smoke alarm works
  • Does everyone else in the building understand how it works
  • Is there someone else who knows how to help you

Checklist for employers or landlords dealing with the deaf or hearing impaired. 

If you are a building owner or employer, you must consider the deaf and hard of hearing. Here's a checklist to help you with that.

  • Do you have a tailored evacuation plan?
  • Does everyone in the building know what your plan is?
  • Do those who are deaf and hearing-impaired know how to identify a signal?
  • Do you have ways to warn employees in the building of a fire, that does not include a system that relies on sound?
  • Do the local authorities know your evacuation plan for the hearing impaired?
  • Is it easy for the hearing impaired to find their way to an exit? It helps if they are near the doorways and also if they know. Make use of clear signage.
  • Have you run drills for individuals to get accustomed to the way things will go in the event of a fire?

You might wish to read our article on protecting the hearing impaired in case of fire to get even more ideas about this.

Final thoughts

People with a hearing impairment and not having the ability to hear an soundings puts them in a dangerous place. That is why it is crucial to ensure that your siren can warn everyone, including those who are hard of hearing.

It also helps to get info from your fire department about how you can evacuate hearing impaired.

A fire escape guide is a personal plan that is specific to your surroundings when dealing with escapes. One thing is certain: make sure there is a certain way to alert them when there's a fire.

We hope this guide helps you draft your personal effective fire escape plan. Stay safe.

Resources Used

  1. Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service (Deaf Awareness Week)
  2. Cheshire Fire & Rescue

About The Author

Reece Thompson: Reece has been involved in property in one way or another for the past 10 years. He's gained a lot of experience when it comes to the home, kitchen and garden. He shares his knowledge with enthusiasm and honesty.