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Visual Fire Alarms Needed

Published December 22, 2011

Re: Home ablaze, they couldn’t scream, Dec. 19

Thanks for reporting on this story about a deaf couple’s experience when their home was gutted by a fire. We are thrilled that all family members are safe.

For more than seven years, we have pushed for improved and equitable fire safety for culturally deaf, oral deaf, deafened and hard of hearing residents: for the Ontario government to enact legislation to amend the Ontario Fire Code to incorporate visual fire alarms and duty to landlords and owners of rental housing and long-term care facilities to comply; and for financial assistance to mitigate the costs of installing hard wired strobe alarms to alert people in their homes.

However, the government has not prioritized this urgent issue — a matter of life or death for deaf and hard of hearing people living without these essential devices.

On Nov. 18 a fire nearly destroyed a deaf family’s life in Bowmanville when the landlord advised the firefighters the deaf family was not at home when indeed they were in their apartment.

A year ago four seniors perished in a nursing home in the Barrie area and this facility did not have visual fire alarms to alert seniors with a hearing loss.

I am deaf and it disheartens me to see the lack of attention our government is giving to introducing life-saving legislation to protect people with hearing loss with regards to fire safety. In light of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, it is only right that both auditory and visual fire alarms be required to alert Ontarians of fire.

Chris Kenopic, President and CEO, The Canadian Hearing Society, Toronto

Reproduced from http://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters/article/1106042–visual-fire-alarms-needed

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