The central government has called on municipalities nationwide to install flashing fire alarms visible to deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
The Fire and Disaster Management Agency has asked local authorities to install more of the devices in public spaces, including stations, airports and welfare facilities.
Fire detection devices include emergency sirens and are mandatory at train stations, airports, nursing homes and care facilities above a certain size for the disabled.
Meeting the needs of the hearing-impaired has been a challenge since visible fire alarms have only been introduced at a limited number of places, including the international terminal of Tokyo’s Haneda airport and some welfare facilities.
The flashing alarms, which are fitted to walls or ceilings, flash when they detect smoke or fire.
The agency compiled guidelines on the use of the devices last year, calling for them to be introduced at commercial facilities frequented by people with hearing impairments.
It also recommended setting flashing alarms no higher than 10 meters above floor level and using white light so that those with color perception deficiencies can easily recognize the alerts.
Chieko Yamashita, 69, who chairs an association of the deaf in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward, hoped the devices would be further rolled out.
Yamashita, who has participated in an emergency drill with a flashing alarm, said, “With strong flashing light, I immediately noticed that I needed to evacuate even though I was looking down.”