SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A new Sioux Falls firefighter who knows American Sign Language is hoping to help improve communication between the fire department and the deaf community. Sioux Falls Fire Rescue actually has special equipment that they will install in homes for free.
From smoke detectors with strobe lights to bed shakers, Sioux Falls Fire Rescue wants to get the word out so this equipment can be put to good use.
“So when that hears the smoke detector going off in the other room or above the bed, it will actually vibrate the pillow,” fire inspector Tyler Tjeerdsma said.
Tjeerdsma says the idea for an open house next week for the deaf and hard of hearing community came in part from a presentation from new firefighter Kyle Blakeslee.
“As a first year firefighter, we have to do a presentation to our crew. I decided to do mine on the deaf community and how we can, as first responders, help them better,” Blakeslee said.
Blakeslee studied American Sign Language at Augustana University and was an interpreter for the Sioux Falls School District. She says a lot of people don’t know these devices exist. The open house will change that.
“Teach about fire safety and the smoke alarm program and kind of just build a relationship with the deaf community,” Blakeslee said.
These devices are specific to the deaf and hard of hearing community. Together, they’re worth hundreds of dollars but if you live inside city limits, they’re free. And so is installation.
“We’re kind of piggy-backing off our current smoke alarm program that we do offer to the citizens of Sioux Falls,” Tjeerdsma said.
Tjeerdsma says he’s installed the alarms in a handful of houses recently.
“When we do go into these guys homes, they had no idea that these were available,” Tjeerdsma said.
He hopes the event opens lines of communication that make the community safer.
The open house will take place at Station 3 at 37th and Minnesota at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Firefighters and interpreters will also be on hand to give tours of the station and talk about other fire safety topics.