Emergency Preparedness

How can you handle emergency situations when it comes to announcing them to deaf and hard of hearing people? How can it be more effective? How can emergency workers communicate with people in other ways than using voice?

Kelly Rogel wrote a post, Access to Information: Oklahoma City Bombing, about her experience as a deaf person during Oklahoma bombing and being left out when it comes to accessing information during a time of national emergency. It is something that many people do not think of.

The problem still exists now, even with advances of TV captioning, access to the internet, and use of mobile phones: “Things have improved over the years with more captioned news shows, access to the Internet, and pagers/cell phones. It’s still no where near where it should be. Deaf New Yorkers who witnessed 9/11 will tell you it’s still a problem…a problem they experienced while their lives were at sake.”

Kelly ended her post with expressing her feeling of being isolated and powerless without knowledge: “I missed out on all the emotions everyone shared with each other. I missed out on all the discussions. I missed out on the acceptance process people go through together by sharing their thoughts. I didn’t have access to any of that information because the social media simply wasn’t accessible at that time and I couldn’t overhear conversations.
I was clueless. I felt so dependent upon others to supply me information. I knew the information I got was being filtered and minimized. I felt so isolated and powerless without knowledge. I felt lonely…like everyone knew what was going on but no one felt it was important to share such critical information with me. I was embarrassed that I didn’t understand what was going on when everyone else did. What I understood was what I saw through images via photos/video clips on TV. I felt left behind when everyone else felt they pulled together as a community.”

Kelly says: “Never take information for granted. Share information with people around you.”

This has also happened to deaf New Yorkers during 9/11 and other emergency situations as described in Ann Marie “Jade” Bryan’s video excerpt below. She is a deaf filmmaker, and her complete film can be watched on a DVD ordered from www.911fearinsilence.info.

It’s also very frustrating for deaf and hard of hearing people when using subway in New York City (or any public transportation in any city). The subway in NYC is currently undergoing constructions, so there are a lot of diversions. Even though there are some new cars that announce subway stops, they are not always accurate and there are times when last minute announcements are done aurally, but not shown in electronic displays. As a result, many deaf and hard of hearing miss subway stops or get on wrong trains. Also, not all subway employees and safety officers are aware of how to communicate with those people. Here’s another video excerpt by Jade illustrating this problem and explaining why visual access to information is critical.

How can information access be improved for deaf and hard of hearing people during emergencies?

Telecommunications for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (TDI) with others coalitions prepared a course called Emergency Responders and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community: Taking the First Steps to Disaster Preparedness to “provide deaf and hard of hearing and emergency responders with the basic skills they need to communicate with each other in the event of emergencies”.

Also, below is the video explaining how city officers (firefighters, ambulance workers, and police officers) can communicate with people who have different hearing and communication abilities.

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