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Access Board Advisory Committee Presents Report on Vessel Alarm Systems

Access Board Advisory Committee Presents Report on Vessel Alarm Systems

Editor: The Passenger Vessel Emergency Alarms Advisory Committee recently released its report on how to ensure that passengers with hearing loss are notified of emergencies while onboard ship. I’m disappointed to see that they didn’t include the 500 Hz square wave audio signal that seems to be most effective for people with hearing loss. Let’s hope they pick that up in the next report.

Here’s the report from NVRC. Please note the republication information at the end of the article.


The Passenger Vessel Emergency Alarms Advisory Committee presented its report on accessible vessel alarms systems at a meeting of the Board in September. The Board organized this committee last year to prepare recommendations on how new guidelines the Board is developing for passenger vessels should address emergency alarm systems for passengers with hearing impairments. The committee’s membership included representatives from disability organizations, the vessel and cruise ship industry and trade groups, and the National Fire Protection Association, among others.

In the course of its work, the committee reviewed current emergency notification and safety practices, protocols, and standards adopted by the U.S. Coast Guard, international authorities, and other countries. Representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard and industry representatives provided information for the committee’s use on standard procedures for notifying passengers of emergencies aboard various types of vessels, including cruise ships, ferries, excursion vessels, and gaming boats. Disability organizations presented information on the population of people with hearing impairments and common methods and technologies for providing communication access.

The committee’s report outlines consensus recommendations on providing access to vessel alarm systems in public use areas and to those located in passenger cabins. Based on its review of available signaling technologies, the committee recommends the incorporation of visual appliances so that audible alarm systems are equally accessible to passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Recommendations also address hazards flashing signals can pose to individuals with photosensitive epilepsy. In addition to alarms systems, the committee’s report covers how access to safety briefings and evacuation instructions can be provided for passengers who are hard of hearing through available communication technologies, such as assistive listening systems. The committee identified areas where further research is needed and recommended that the Board coordinate it work on this issue with other authorities in the U.S. and abroad, such as the International Maritime Organization, the International Organization for Standardization, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Board will address access to emergency alarm systems according to the committee’s recommendations in guidelines it is preparing for passenger vessels. These guidelines will be made available for public comment. Information on the work of the committee, including its report, is available on the Board’s website at www.access-board.gov/pvaac/alarms/. For further information, contact Paul Beatty at pvag@access-board.gov, (202) 272-0012 (v), or (202) 272-0082 (TTY).

Passenger Vessel Emergency Alarms Advisory Committee
• Community Emergency Preparedness Information Network
• Cruise Lines International Association
• Epilepsy Foundation
• Gallaudet University
• Hearing Access Program
• Hearing Loss Association of America
• National Association of the Deaf
• National Fire Protection Association
• Passenger Vessel Association
• Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers
Thanks to the Access Board’s “Access Currents”


Distributed 2008 by Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons (NVRC), 3951 Pender Drive, Suite 130, Fairfax, VA 22030; www.nvrc.org. 703-352-9055 V, 703-352-9056 TTY, 703-352-9058 Fax. You do not need permission to share this information, but please be sure to credit NVRC.