Smoke alarms for the deaf and hard of hearing


The standard high frequency smoke alarm (3 100 Hz, 85 dB at a distance of three metres) is suitable to wake most mild to moderately hard of hearing people. People who are deaf or have a severe hearing loss (cannot hear less than 85 dB) may have difficulty in hearing conventional smoke alarms and evacuation systems. It may be necessary to ensure someone is assigned to help them escape (Source: Piesse, R. (Nov 2007) Journal of SHHH Australia Inc.).

Smoke Alarms for deaf and hard of hearing

There are a number of different types of smoke alarms available: photoelectric, ionisation, multi-criteria and dual-sensor. Carbon monoxide alarms are not smoke alarms and do not satisfy the legislation and may only be used in addition to smoke alarms for increased warning.

There are specialised smoke alarms available for people who are deaf or hard of hearing with a strobe light and a vibrating pad that can be placed under the pillow. These activate when the smoke alarm sounds and some can be interconnected with conventional audible alarms in different locations within the home. If one of the alarms senses smoke, all alarms will sound, the strobe will flash and the vibrating pad will vibrate. These smoke alarms are also suitable for people in the home without hearing issues.

Australian Standard (AS) AS1603.17-2011 Automatic fire detection and alarm systems – Warning equipment for people with hearing impairment applies to smoke alarms for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, however, the standard is not currently mandatory. If the AS3786 appears on a smoke alarm for hard of hearing people, it refers only to the smoke alarm sensing unit and does not include the strobe light or the vibrating pad.

Fire and Rescue NSW can also assist the elderly or those physically unable to change a smoke detector battery. Learn about Home Safety Visits here.

Accessing a smoke alarm for deaf or hard of hearing

People living with a disability (under 65 years, or under 50 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) may be eligible for government funding to help pay for a specialised smoke alarm. To find out more about the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), visit the website here: [external link]

For the elderly (65 and over or 50 and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) may be eligible for funding to through My Aged Care. Phone 1800 200 422 or visit [external link].

If any member of the public doesn't qualify for either of the above programs, please have them contact FRNSW for assistance via Community Safety Coordinator, Ageing & Disabilities for more information via email:


For detailed steps about how to make emergency calls using different National Relay Service call options, read the instruction sheets available on this website [external link] or head to our Emergency Calls information page.


Emergency call 106 graphic.

The 106 emergency relay service enables people who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech difficulty to contact emergency services through their TTY (also known as a teletypewriter or textphone). It is a dedicated text-based emergency relay service with direct access to fire, police and ambulance services. It is available 24 hours a day, everyday.

How it works:

  • Dial 106. This is a toll-free number. You will be asked if you want police, ambulance or fire (type FFF or if you use your own voice, wait for the Relay Officer (RO) and say 'fire').
  • The RO will stay on line to relay your conversation with the emergency service. Confirm your location.
  • Do not hang up. Wait for a reply from the emergency service.
  • This service is not available via speak and listen (speech to speech relay). These callers can dial 1800 555 727 and then ask for Triple Zero (000) or dial '000' directly. This service cannot be accessed by text message (SMS) on a mobile phone or by internet relay.
  • Internet users should ring 133 677 and ask for 000.

A collaboration of Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Rural Fire Service, ACT Fire Brigade and ACT Rural Fire Service