Emergency Planning for People with Hearing Loss
There is a growing awareness that people with hearing loss
are not adequately considered in systems of emergency planning. We
have long been aware that emergency
television captioning is often inadequate, but it now seems that the
issue is much more pervasive than that!
April 2013 - Gaps in Emergency Preparedness for People with Hearing Loss Raise Alarm
March 2013 -
NPR Labs To Test Emergency Alerts For Deaf
February 2013 -
NPR Labs Lays Groundwork for Alerts for Deaf
January 2013 - FEMA Provides ALDs for
People with Hearing Loss
May 2012 - Verizon to Provide SMS Access to PSAPs
May 2011 -
FCC to launch disaster alert system for cell phones
April 2011 -
Survey on Emergency Communications and People with
March 2011 - FCC Reminds Internet-Based
Telecommunications Relay Service Providers of Emergency Calling
December 2009 - Improved Emergency Warning
System Promises Texting Improvements
Oct 2008 - Access Board Advisory Committee
Presents Report on Vessel Alarm Systems
Aug 2008 - TTY Users Need Not Pre-Register for
June 2008 - New and Emerging Technologies 911
August 2007 - Smoke Alarms and
Adults who are Hard of Hearing
June 2007 - FCC Addresses Emergency
May 2007 - A Night at the 9-1-1 Center
January 2007 - The
FCC has clarified the August 2006 public notice, which appeared to relax
emergency captioning requirements.
November 2006 - DC TV Station Fined
for Emergency Captioning Violation
September 2006 - Hard of
Hearing Israelis in Wartime
August 2006 - Access Board
Information Meeting on Communication Access
August 2006 - Hurricane Katrina, One
Year Later: Independent Panel Recommendations
July 2006 - System to Send Emergency
Alerts to Wireless Devices
June 2006 - Getting TV Information in
April 2006 - Emergency Planning
Conference Materials Available Online
March 2006 - Here's Cheryl Heppner's
report on an FCC panel discussion on communications issues during
2006 - Emergency preparedness for people with disabilities is in
the news, and rightfully so! Here's a report on
Cheryl Heppner's presentation at the 2005 TDI Conference.
December 2005 - In
response to the dismal treatment that people with disabilities
experienced in our recent emergencies, Senator Tom Harkin is calling for
emergency planners to do a better job of including planning for people
December 2005 - What's
the best way for authorities to communicate with people with hearing
loss in an emergency? It just might be captioned radio!
November 2005 -
Interested in getting realtime emergency information directly to your
computer? Here's Dana Mulvany with her thoughts on
how to do it.
October 2005 - The
National Organization on Disability post-Katrina report states that
people with hearing loss were the most underserved of the disability
September 2005 -
Council on Disability Calls for Federal Disability Recovery Plan in
Response to Hurricane Katrina
September 2005 - Here's
a report on a planned upgrade to the emergency warning system that
includes notification to phones and pagers!
September 2005 - Boston's
WGBH has just announced a program to improve emergency information
accessibility to people with hearing loss.
June 2005 - Here's a look at how the folks
in Washington DC are handling emergency preparedness for people with
May 2005 - Here's
our report on Randy Collins' wonderful Emergency Planning workshop, as
presented at the 2005 Western Symposium on Deafness.
April 2005 - The National Council on
Disabilities identifies deficiencies in emergency planning for people
with disabilities and recommends solutions.
March 2005 - Lawsuit declares that
emergency planning for places of public accommodation must include
provisions for the disabled.
February 2005 - One of the best ways to ensure that
emergency centers can communicate with people with hearing loss is to
support communications using text messaging. Here's an
article about text access to emergency services in the UK.
- Do places of public accommodation have an obligation to
include plans for people with disabilities in their emergency planning?
January 2005 - Oklahoma is giving visual
smoke alarms to people with hearing loss. Here's Cheryl Heppner's
December 2004 - DHHCAN has released a
report which outlines some of the issues with providing emergency
communication to people with hearing loss.
Along with the devastation Hurricane Sandy wreaked
on the East Coast last fall came renewed attention to the issue of how
people who are deaf or hard of hearing receive information during a
natural disaster or other emergency. On the one hand, Sandy brought front
and center the vital role that sign language interpreters can play in
disseminating accurate and timely emergency information: When New York
Mayor Michael Bloomberg took to the TV airwaves to provide information on
the massive storm bearing down on the city, he had an interpreter signing
at his side. In fact, one such interpreter quickly turned into a YouTube
hit thanks to her pronounced facial expressions and hand and body
movements. On the other hand, there were compelling stories of those left
out of the loop, such as a deaf woman on hard-hit Staten Island who was
unable to hear police when they came through her neighborhood with
megaphones to announce evacuation plans.
The Department of Homeland Security and Federal
Emergency Management Agency have awarded a contract to NPR LABS for a
pilot program of emergency alerts for the deaf or hard-of-hearing in the
GULF COAST states. The alerts would be sent using public radio stations
in the region via text message, demonstrating the ability to send such
alerts to battery-powered radios in emergencies. 25 public radio stations
in ALABAMA, FLORIDA, LOUISIANA, MISSISSIPPI and TEXAS will be selected to
participate in the pilot, which will use the PUBLIC RADIO SATELLITE
SYSTEM to distribute alerts using the Common Alerting Protocol and
stations will relay the alerts over RBDS, which will show a flashing
indicator on the radios or trigger a bed-shaker. 500 individuals will be
included as volunteers to receive the test warnings.
NPR Labs personnel hope to start a project soon
that demonstrates an emergency alerting system for the deaf and
hard-of-hearing population in the U.S. using broadcast radio as the
transmission medium. . . . The Labs envisions collecting emergency
messages and transmitting them over the Public Radio Satellite System to
properly equipped public radio stations. From those stations, a firmware
device at each station will determine if the message is relevant to the
station's coverage area, and then transmit the message to an accessible
receiver. The aim is to develop a deaf/HOH-accessible radio receiver with
a large text display and bright flashing light to alert the user. "There
are several good receivers in the marketplace that alert the consumer,"
Rarey said. "Those are existing radios with aural warnings, or they're
FM/HD Radio receivers that have very small text displays without
accessible warning mechanisms. We want to create a receiver that is useful
for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, which will also be useful for
alerting the general public."
The Federal Communications Commission is expanding
its familiar emergency alert system notifications sent over TV and radio
to now include mobile phones. Dubbing the new service PLAN (Personal
Localized Alerting Network), the government would target the alerts in the
form of text messages sent to cell phones of people who need or want to be
notified in the event of an emergency. Developed by the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA), PLAN would allow customers of any participating
wireless carrier to turn their phones into personal alert systems. The
service will initially launch in New York City by the end of this year but
is expected to roll out nationwide in 2012 through support from AT&T,
Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile. To receive the alerts, a mobile phone must
be outfitted with a certain hardware chip, typically found in higher-end
phones like the newer iPhone, according to The New York Times. A software
upgrade is also required.
The evolution of wireless telecommunication is
fundamentally changing how we communicate in emergencies. We no longer
rely only on weather sirens, radio, and televised alerts. Emergency
assistance is no longer only as close as the nearest landline phone - we
carry it with us in mobile wireless devices. Both the federal government
and the wireless industry are exploring this evolution as they develop
plans for the next-generation of emergency alerting and 9-1-1
communications systems. Critical to this exploration is consideration of
equitable access for Americans with disabilities.
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5, 2005 Congress reported on findings of the four Special Needs
Assessment for Katrina Evacuees (SNAKE) teams sent to Louisiana,
Mississippi, Alabama and Houston, Texas after hurricane Katrina. The
National Organization on Disability attended the briefing and produced a
report that documents the availability of services to people with
disabilities in the aftermath of Katrina. It's probably no surprise to
those familiar with the hearing loss community that its members were
provided the LEAST access.
report states on pages 8 - 9:
most underserved group were those who are deaf or heard of hearing.
Less than 30% of shelters had access to American Sign Language
interpreters, 80% did not have TTY's, and 60% did not have TVs with open
caption capability. Only
56% of shelters had areas where oral announcements were posted so people
who are deaf, hard of hearing or out of hearing range could go to a
specified area to get or read the content of announcements.
This meant that the deaf or hard of hearing had no access to the
vital flow of information."
The recent hurricane emergencies have put the spotlight on all sorts
of emergency planning and preparation issues, including how to notify
people that an emergency is imminent. Such notification has
traditionally been done by television and radio; "Broadcasting
& Cable" is reporting that the Feds are designing an expanded
system (called IPAWS - Integrated Public Alert Warning System) that can
transmit emergency alerts to cell phones, PDAs, and computers.
Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and
other government offices plan to have the system backbone in place by
fall of 2006, but are unwilling to predict when the system would be
The FCC is currently studying whether changes to existing
telecommunications rules will be required before the system is
implemented. They are also debating the extent to which participation in
IPAWS should be mandatory.