Making Technology Friendly, Affordable to Protect Seniors, Homes Leads to Better Smoke Detector that Alerts Neighbors

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Improved safety for nursing home residents, other seniors made possible by better smoke detector that incorporates cost-effective, user-friendly technology to alert neighbors, others in event of fire. Safety advocate calls for expanded use in all nursing homes to protect residents.

For a leading safety advocate for seniors, the decision of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) mandating installation of in-room smoke detectors for residents in older nursing homes lacking sprinklers or smoke is a validation of his efforts using technology to provide seniors with affordable security and protection, protecting the nation’s population most vulnerable to injury or death from fire.

Richard Blackwell, CEO of and the inventor of the innovative NeighborLink ™ smoke detector, has long believed that technology can address a number of issues affecting seniors’ safety, ranging from Emergency Medical Systems to personal alarms—and most significantly, protection from property loss, personal injury or even death from fire.

Blackwell knows that older Americans suffer the largest number of deaths due to fires of any age group in the country. The fire death rate among people over the age of 65 is twice as high as the national average, according to the United States Fire Administration (USFA). In addition, the fire death rate among people between ages 75 and 85 is three times the national average and after age 85, it increases to four times the national average. These statistics are especially alarming when researchers estimate that by 2030, the 65 and older population will exceed 70 million people.

Added to this is the fact that across the nation, older nursing homes are ‘grandfathered’ into exemption from fire and smoke safety standards applicable to newer nursing homes. The tragic results of this resulted in the tragic nursing home fire deaths of residents in homes in Connecticut and Tennessee last year—fires that spurred the CMS into action.

Even before the CMS ruling, Blackwell had acted. His unique NeighborLink ™ product line was completed earlier this year when he successfully developed a better smoke detector that overcomes the shortcomings of traditional systems.

“The fact is that traditional smoke detectors only make a warning signal in the area where the fire is occurring,” Blackwell reflects. “If someone is not at home, or if the area is occupied by a bed-ridden nursing home resident, or by someone who is not mentally capable of alerting others, the fire damage may spread too quickly to be controlled.

“And seniors especially are too often quickly overcome by smoke to react,” Blackwell continues. “As for systems that use audio and say, ‘you have a fire’, well, they have the same limitations.”

That led Blackwell to incorporate the unique ‘community involvement’ aspects of the NeighborLink ™ into the improved smoke detector he has invented.

“Using the affordable NeighborLink ™ wireless alert system, our smoke detector is capable of notifying neighbors in the case of a residence, or other residents and supervisors in the case of a nursing home, within a 200-feet radius.

“This ensures that there is a much better chance of someone being alerted for the fire even if the elderly person if not present or is unable to respond for any reason.”

Significantly, Blackwell has kept the no-fee system priced below that of traditional smoke detectors even though he has added a number of new features, all made possible by his commitment to incorporating user-friendly technology to keep prices low while improving effectiveness.

It’s a commitment that Blackwell carries through to all aspects of the NeighborLink ™ smoke detector and other products. He includes information about technology in other products on, and he is currently working with seniors’ groups across the nation on incorporating useable and affordable technology in real-life situations—such as protection from fires.

He applauds the CMS ruling, but urges even more be done. And, he works to provide family caregivers with additional peace of mind about family members.

“Nursing home residents are among our most vulnerable citizens, “ he says. “The CMS decision is a good first step to improving residents’ safety, but it would be even better if the ruling were extended to newer homes.

“As for family caregivers—the NeighborLink ™ smoke detector offers them affordable technology that overcomes the limitations of old-fashioned smoke detectors lacking the technology of our systems. It assures them peace of mind knowing that their family members have the best protection available.”


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Daniel Hines