by Will Mason
What type of equipment is there available to alert persons who are deaf or hard of hearing in the event of a fire alarm activation?
There are usually two types; wired and wireless. The wired types are usually wired directly into the fire alarm. The wireless types, usually rely on the sound generated by the fire alarm or by a radio signal.
Impairment of hearing does not always mean that an individual is totally insensitive to sound.
Lots of people who are hard of hearing, have adequately clear understanding of specific kinds of conventional audible alarm signals to need no special arrangement for alerting them of a fire. There will be, in certain situations, other persons present who can inform those with impaired hearing to the requirement for evacuation, and in this situation it could be necessary to put measures in place that depend on others to provide the required notification.
Nevertheless, in situations, such as buildings with a considerable amount of people or are deaf or hard of hearing, buildings in which one or more persons with impaired hearing are employed in comparable isolation, and buildings where one or more persons with impaired hearing often move about the building to a considerable extent (including into toilet areas), supplementary methods of providing warning to people or are deaf or hard of hearing might be appropriate. If the occupants concern are usually situated for a significant percentage of their time within a restricted portion of the building, visual alarm signals could be suitable in that area (and associated toilets). Should they sleep in the building, tactile products, with or without connected visual alarm devices, ought to be considered (e.g. for compliance with the accessibility requirement imposed under Building Regulations [2, 3, 4]). These units, which might, for instance, be situated under pillows or mattresses, might be wired into fire alarm device circuits or be activated by radio signals.
Alarm devices for the deaf or hard of hearing, may be fixed, movable or portable. Fixed apparatus is equipment attached to a support or otherwise fixed in a particular location, or equipment not given a transporting handle and is heavy to the point that
it cannot easily be moved (e.g. a fire alarm system control panel screwed to the wall. Transportable equipment is equipment that is not fixed equipment and which is not normally in operation while the location is changed (e.g. a local unit or controller which is placed on a table top and operates a vibrating pad in a bed.
Portable equipment is equipment which is designed to be in operation whilst being carried
(e.g. radio pager or other system using radio communication). To provide examples, portable alarm devices are:
• intended for carrying by hearing impaired people;
• capable of giving visual and/or tactile signals;
• normally radio controlled but other methods are not excluded; and
• normally require control equipment for transmission of signals to the portable devices, interfaced to the fire detection and fire alarm control equipment.
The is not currently any British Standard specifications for alarm devices for hearing impaired people that are available at present in the UK. Nevertheless, wherever possible, the recommendations provided in the fire alarm code BS5839-1:2013 clause 18, should be observed and any variations ought to be dependent on a risk assessment to make sure that no hearing impaired person is subjected to undue risk. It is important to note that all radio paging systems used with fire detection and fire alarm systems need to be licensed with OFCOM. There are three types of licence currently available:
• the short range business paging (SRBP) licence which gives no protection from interference from other authorized or unauthorized users of the same radio frequency;
• the self select licence which offers some protection from interference by unauthorized use of the frequency;
• the manual frequency coordinated licence which ensures the elimination of interference from both authorized and unauthorized users of the assigned radio frequency.
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