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Hearing-impaired group calls for visual alarms

April 27, 2012, Toronto – Advocates for hearing-impaired people want the Ontario government to change the fire code to include visual smoke alarms in rental units and long-term care facilities.

April 27, 2012
By Olivia D'Orazio

April 27, 2012, Toronto – Advocates for hearing-impaired people want the Ontario government to change the fire code to include visual smoke alarms in rental units and long-term care facilities.

The Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) wants the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to include visual fire alarms under its assistive devices program, and is lobbying the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services amend the code.

Specifically, the CHS wants the Ontario Fire Code amended to include visual fire alarms in rental housing and long-term care facilities, and compliance by builders in public spaces and in residents’ dwellings.

At a news conference Thursday at Queen’s Park, CHS president and CEO Chris Kenopic said: “Audible alarms, which are activated by heat, smoke, or toxic fumes, warn of imminent danger by sound.

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“However, these notification systems fail Ontarians who are deaf or have a hearing loss because they are unable to hear the alarm. Traditional fire alarms are completely inaccessible.”

Kenopic said compliance with the proposed amendments should be equitable and should not result in hardship for those with hearing loss.

“Steps need to be taken to ensure that Ontarians who are deaf or have a loss of hearing are protected,” added MPP Lisa MacLeod.

“Traditional fire alarms fail to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens and that is why I am happy to stand with The Canadian Hearing Society in their call for changes.”

At Queen’s Park, hearing-impaired people shared first-hand accounts of escaping fires in their homes, further highlighting the importance of visual fire alarms.

In 2010, then-MPP Wayne Arthurs introduced a private-members bill – for the third time – that requested visual fire alarms for all new provincial and municipal public buildings.

The bill went through a first reading, as well as two second readings. However, when the legislature was prorogued the following year, the bill died.

Kitchener, Ont., Fire Chief Tim Beckett, president of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC), said, “The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs is committed to the relentless pursuit of ensuring that all citizens in Ontario are protected for the effects of fire.

“Although we have smoke-alarm legislation, a number of our citizens have hearing difficulties and may have difficulty hearing activated fire alarms. We welcome the call to government to make changes to legislation that will protect Ontarians who are hearing challenged . . . .”