By JB Clark/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Tupelo Fire Capt. Tommy Sudduth was teaching a second-grade class about fire alarms and fire safety when he was confronted with a question he had never been asked before.
“A second-grade kid raised his hand and said, ‘What about my buddy here? He can’t hear the smoke alarm because he’s deaf. What about him,’” Sudduth said. “I’m ashamed to tell you it caught us off guard.”
When he and his crew got back to the fire station, they began to research a way to alert a hearing-impared person if their house was on fire.
They found a man in Michigan who invented an alarm system that shakes the bed of someone who can’t hear to alert them to a fire.
“They’re very expensive so we worked to get some grants and rebates and started a program where we have been able to issue over 200 smoke alarms for the hearing impaired,” Sudduth said. “If there is a fire, the alarm sends a signal attached to the bed and shakes the bed to alert the person sleeping in it. In the history of the fire service in this area we have never considered that, but now we’ve worked out the program.”
Tupelo Fire Chief Thomas Walker said the determination to get this program is why he nominated Sudduth for the state’s top honor, Fire Officer of the Year.
Sudduth was named as one of the state’s five finalists for the honor.
“It’s an honor to be recognized in the state for what you do and I thought him taking initiative to find an answer for this one child so their friend could be taken care of showed determination,” Walker said. “I could hear in his voice how bad he wanted to do something for the hearing-impaired child when he brought it to me.”
Sudduth has been working in the Tupelo Fire Department for the entirety of his 21-year firefighting career. He has been a captain for 16 years.
He said he enjoys the work because it’s always something different and an opportunity to help people.
“In the fire service you help people and it’s something you get in your blood to where it’s like suiting up for a big football game,” he said. “You still get that spark and get fired up to get on the truck when the bell goes off.”