Program gives smoke alarms to those with hearing deficits

By Jamie Willey
Parsons Sun – June 13, 2018

A new program allows hearing-impaired people to receive free smoke alarms that can alert them of fires through strobe lights or a shaking bed.

Mike Womeldorff of Parsons, whose son was born deaf, said he wanted to make the public aware of the alarms offered through a Kansas State Fire Marshal’s program.

“It might save some people’s lives,” Womeldorff said.

Womeldorff was heavily involved in the deaf community and its advocacy as his son grew up. He was on the Kansas Commission of the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing for some time, at one point serving as chairman. He was informed of the fire marshal’s Get Alarmed Kansas program recently by the Olathe School of the Deaf, where his son attended, and was asked to spread the word in the Parsons area.

“I don’t know if the doctors know about it, but I doubt that John Q. Public does,” Womeldorff said.

The state fire marshal has offered regular free smoke alarms through Get Alarmed Kansas since 2014, Kelly Ingold, public education and outreach consultant, said by email. The fire marshal’s office has a goal to have all Kansans protected by working smoke alarms in their homes.

“The majority of home fires happen between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., which is why early detection is so very important. The early warning that a working smoke alarm provides saves lives,” Ingold said.

Smoke alarms, however, do no good for those who can’t hear them, which is why the marshal’s office started giving special alarms to people who are deaf or hard of hearing in 2017. Through Get Alarmed Kansas, hearing-impaired people can receive a strobe smoke alarm and a bedside shaker device that respond to a smoke alarm.

Womeldorff said the new facet of the program sounds like a good idea, and there may be a lot of people who could benefit from it in the Parsons area. While there may not be a lot of deaf people here, there are older people who have hearing loss.

Order forms for the devices can be found at Along with personal information such as address, email address, date of birth and phone number, the forms require a physician, audiologist, nurse practitioner, physicians’ assistant, speech pathologist or vocational rehabilitation counselor to sign the form to confirm a person has hearing loss or is deaf. A potential recipient must be a Kansas resident over the age of 4 and not live in an institutional facility.

If eligible, the fire marshal’s office notifies a local fire department to request it install the devices to ensure they are functioning properly.

Parsons Fire Chief Jay Hawks said his department has installed two devices in town this year.

“It’s a good program. They’re kind of expensive, so I’m glad the fire marshal has decided to offer them. We’ll be happy to install them, but that takes a little pressure off our budget,” Hawks said.

A quick check found that the same bedside clock and alarm that shakes a person’s bed shown on the fire marshal’s website costs about $200 on major retailers’ sites.

Those who aren’t deaf or hard of hearing who need a smoke alarm can contact the fire department that serves their area to see if it participates in Get Alarmed Kansas as the Parsons Fire Department does. Fire departments can order regular smoke alarms themselves to install for homeowners, but the hearing-impaired alarms must be ordered by individuals.

Ingold said all smoke alarms over 10 years old should be replaced. The National Fire Protection Association recommends working smoke alarms in all sleeping rooms, outside of each sleeping area and on each level of a home.

Ingold said the program has distributed more than 4,300 smoke alarms to Kansans since 2014, and more than 260 hearing-impaired devices since adding them last year.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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