An effort is underway across the state to install special smoke alarms in the homes of families with at least one member of the household who is hard of hearing or deaf.

Cedar Rapids Fire Department spokesperson Greg Buelow says the alarms are designed to alert the individual even if they’re sleeping. “It has a different decibel level and there’s a flashing strobe light that alerts the occupants to get out,” Buelow said.

Buelow notes that most fatal fires occur during the overnight or early morning hours. “It’s a fallacy to believe that smoke and fire are going to wake you up,” Buelow said. “In fact, the smoke will put you in a deeper state of unconsciousness. You need something that…can wake people up.”

United Services Fire Restoration Company of Grimes donated 50 of the special detectors to the effort. They cost about $150 per unit. Buelow says a number of electricians are also providing volunteer labor. “All in all, it’s probably a value of 300 dollars that these citizens are receiving,” Buelow said.

The special detectors are wired into a home’s electrical system and have a battery backup. Six of the alarms are being installed in homes in Cedar Rapids. The other 44 detectors are being distributed throughout the state.

Buelow says, with increased funding from private corporations, there could be more of the free detectors for families in need.