By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Jackson)May 16, 2019
Blaring alarms don't suffice to alert sleeping homeowners of a fire if they are deaf or hard of hearing; bed-shakers can help, and the first one to arrive on Fort Jackson was installed May 8.
"This is another means to notify folks (of a fire) as soon as possible, so they can safely escape," said William Sexton, a Fort Jackson fire inspector.
As the name implies, the device, also known as a Deaf/Hard of Hearing Smoke Alarm, shakes the owner's bed when triggered by an activated smoke detector.
It sits between the box spring and mattress to wake the sleeping homeowner.
Marion and Betty Lowery, housing area residents celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary July 31, were the first on-post recipients of the device.
"I feel more safe now," said Betty, who is deaf in one ear and hard-of-hearing in the other. She has been wearing a hearing aid since the age of 19, when she had her first ear surgery.
Like others who have taken part in the community risk reduction program that distributes the bed-shakers, the Lowery couple received their device and got it installed free of charge. Within two weeks of starting the application process, it was all set up.
The Fort Jackson Fire Department worked with the SC State Fire Marshal to make it happen.
The Lowerys have lived on Fort Jackson for the last five years, after returning to the site where Marion completed Basic Combat Training decades ago. He served in the Army for 20 years.
Betty and Marion had five kids, getting married when Betty was 16 in a courthouse after dating for a year in a relationship that started with a double date between themselves and Marion's brother and Betty's sister.
Marion worked until he was 81 years old, running a self-storage shop for three decades, and Betty was a waitress for most of her career.
Both said they would never leave a burning building without the other.
Though he hopes the alarm is never put to the test, "it's a lot safer" to have it than not, Marion said.
High frequencies, like those emitted by smoke alarms, are the first ones people lose the ability to hear when their sensitivity to noise declines, Sexton said. To make matters worse, "while a person may wear a hearing aid, they often take it out to sleep for comfortability" -- the Lowerys included -- making bed-shakers a potential life-saver during house fires.
"I wouldn't hear anything even if (someone) were banging at my door" while sleeping, Betty said.
"The primary warning for persons who have a fire in their home are the smoke alarms ... that gives people early warning … to escape;" most house fire-related deaths are caused by smoke inhalation when occupants can't get out quickly enough, Sexton said.
People "really don't stand a chance" if they sleep through the alerts, he added.
To learn more about getting a Deaf/Hard of Hearing Smoke Alarm, contact William Sexton at (803) 605-3162 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit https://tinyurl.com/y4osovn3 to download an application; a recipient's need for a bed-shaker must be verified by a physician.
"We know there are others out there" who could benefit from these devices, Sexton said. The program is open to all state residents.
In response to housing area work orders, Balfour Beatty will also install fire detectors, a key accompaniment to bed-shakers, in sleeping quarters on-post that aren't already equipped with them.