Fire Prevention: Smoke alarms for people who are deaf or hard of hearing


Smoke alarms save lives. However, people who are deaf or hard of hearing may not be able to depend on the traditional smoke alarm to alert them to a fire.

Smoke alarms and alert devices, called accessories, are available for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. There are a few types of accessories you may consider depending on your needs.

Strobe lights throughout the home are activated by smoke detectors and alert people who are deaf to fire conditions. When people who are deaf are asleep, a high intensity strobe light is required along with a pillow or bed shaker to wake them up and alert them to fire conditions so they can escape. These accessories produce a loud, mixed low pitch sound. They are activated by the sound of the smoke alarm and are usually installed next to the bed.

Recent research has shown that a loud, mixed low pitch sound is more effective in waking people of all ages than the loud high pitch sound of a traditional smoke alarm. As people age, their ability to hear high pitch sounds decreases.

Smoke alarms with built-in or separate strobe lights can be purchased through home improvement store websites or by searching the internet for “strobe light smoke alarms.” BRK/First Alert, Gentex and Kidde are brands of this type of smoke alarm.

Smoke alarm accessories such as bed or pillow shakers, transmitters and receivers are available through and Make sure any smoke alarm or accessory device you use has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

For more information on fire safety in Alberta, contact your municipality’s fire or emergency service or the Office of the Fire Commissioner at 1-800-421-6929, email or visit and click on the Public Education tab.