UPDATE: CFD teaches fire safety to kids of deaf adults - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: CFD teaches fire safety to kids of deaf adults

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Jamie Dickerson Jamie Dickerson

UPDATE: Chattanooga Firefighters are working to help Tennessee Valley families in the deaf community.

The beeping of a fire alarm is hard for most people to miss. It's a warning and a life-saving tool, but not everyone can hear it.

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"For example, 5 or six years ago I was working night shift, and my husband is deaf, completely,” Sonibert Wood explained, who is also deaf. “We had two children at the time."

Wood signed during our interview, an interpreter helped us communicate.

She went on to say a few years ago the duplex attached to her home caught fire. Luckily, her husband was awake and on his computer.

"He felt this shaking sound. He saw the windows vibrating and shaking. He saw people outside pointing 'Fire! Fire!'" Wood recalled.

He immediately went upstairs to grab their kids. Her family got out unharmed.

But for Wood, and other families in the deaf community, a traditional fire alarm was and is not enough. They need an alarm with strobe lights and vibrations. Something she, like many others, doesn't have.

"We'd love to be able to have just equal access for devices and things like that for the community," Wendy Bowman said, who has a deaf parent.

Wendy is part of an organization called Kids of Deaf Adults (KODA). KODA teamed up with the Chattanooga Fire Department to help make sure every family has the tools they need in case of a fire.

Saturday, they hosted a fire safety class in memory of Jamie Dickerson. Dickerson passed away in a house fire January 3rd. His parents are both deaf.  

"This boy is a hero from now on, for saving the other deaf families that will get this equipment," Wood said emotionally.

She said he’s a hero because he is helping raise awareness.

While traditional fire alarms are free to families in Chattanooga, the special alarms needed for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing can cost hundreds of dollars.

"So they're very expensive,” Bowman urged. “And I know very few deaf that have these systems because it's hard to afford."

KODA organizers want to find a way to provide those alarms to every family who needs them.

Wood said it's not just a life-saving tool, but a sense of security, "I don't like to be sleeping with paranoia. You know, I can't depend on my kids that are hearing, I can't depend on them. They might be sleeping hard and I feel like 100 percent responsibility."

The CFD has a program that provides bed shakers they can install in homes, which vibrate a bed if the smoke detector goes off.

KODA is also raising money in partnership with Signal Center to buy strobe light fire alarms for Tennessee Valley families who need them. To donate, visit Signal Centers' website.


PREVIOUS STORY: The Chattanooga Fire Department will conduct a fire safety class for families who have members who are hearing impaired. The event will be held Saturday, January 13th, at the Creative Discovery Museum from noon - 2:00 pm.

READ MORE | House fire victims help each other in Hamilton County

The event is free for any kids of deaf adults (KODA) and their families

Organizers with Signal Centers say Saturday's safety class is in memory of Jamie Dickerson, the 9-year-old who died in a house fire January 3rd. 

Dickerson's parents are hearing impaired. Both parents and another child made it out of the home, but Jamie was unable to.

Friends and family will be in attendance to write on balloons and release them in memory of Jamie Dickerson. 

The event aims to raise funds for strobe fire alarms for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing. Organizers say most deaf people do not have the appropriate alarms because they are more than $200 on average. 

To find out more about how you can help visit Signal Centers' website.

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