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!
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.
September 2005 – TDI has some great fact sheets on a variety of emergency situations and resources at:
September 2005 – Here’s a report on a planned upgrade to the emergency warning system that includes notification to phones and pagers!
October 2005 – The National Organization on Disability post-Katrina report states that people with hearing loss were the most underserved of the disability community!
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 with disabilities.
November 2005 – Interested in getting realtime emergency information directly to your computer? Here’s Dana Mulvany with her thoughts on how to do it.
January 2006 – Last year’s hurricanes along the southeastern coast of the United States highlighted how fragile and woefully outdated the emergency communications system in this country has become. Now some experts who are building and maintaining 911 networks believe that upgrading emergency systems to Internet Protocol technology could make them hardier and more reliable. Full Story
January 2006 – How cool is this? Here are the presentations from the “Accessible Emergency Notification and Communication: State of the Science” Conference on the Internet. And they’re CAPTIONED! Here they are!
February 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.
April 2006 – Deaf couple worries: We can’t hear sirens
April 2006 – Waking Effectiveness of Various Alarms
June 2006 – Getting TV Information in Emergencies
August 2006 – Access Board Information Meeting on Communication Access
August 2006 – Emergency Preparedness and You
September 2006 – Hard of Hearing Israelis in Wartime
November 2006 – DC TV Station Fined for Emergency Captioning Violation
May 2007 – A Night at the 9-1-1 Center
June 2007 – FCC Addresses Emergency Communication Concerns
August 2007 – Smoke Alarms and Adults who are Hard of Hearing
August 2007 – Current Smoke Alarms Unable to Wake Millions of Hard of Hearing People
August 2007 – Free Captioned Emergency Preparedness Videos Online
August 2007 – Do You Have A Hearing Loss? – Are You Prepared for Severe Weather?
December 2009 – Improved Emergency Warning System Promises Texting Improvements
May 2010 – Hurricanes and Hearing Loss: Surviving the Storm
April 2011 – Survey on Emergency Communications and People with Disabilities
May 2011 – FCC to launch disaster alert system for cell phones
Coming Soon – Expanded Emergency Alert Capability
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 fully operational.
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.
NOD Katrina Report Identifies People with Hearing Loss as Most Underserved
On October 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.
The NOD report states on pages 8 – 9:
“The 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.”
Here’s the full NOD report.
Deaf couple worries: We can’t hear sirens
“What if I’m sleeping?” Andrea DeBold wondered last week. “What if I’m taking a nap? I wouldn’t know anything was happening” if the Indian Point nuclear power plant blew its top. For the audibly engaged in the lower Hudson Valley, news of nuclear disaster would first come by way of siren. There’s one not far from the DeBolds’ Harriman home, near the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets on Route 17. But for hundreds of hard-of-hearing residents like the DeBolds, a radiological release at Indian Point would fall on deaf ears. Full Story
Waking Effectiveness of Various Alarms
Do you feel safe sleeping in a hotel room with only a standard audible smoke alarm? Would you feel better if the room had a low frequency alarm? How about a strobe light? If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, please read this great paper on the effectiveness of various types of alarms for people with hearing loss! Thanks to bhNEWS for the lead on this article! Full Story
Emergency Preparedness and You
Here’s an outstanding and comprehensive document that covers pretty much everything you need to know about emergency planning as a person with hearing loss. It was written by Lise Hamlin and originally appeared in the May/June 2006 issue of Hearing Loss Magazine.
Current Smoke Alarms Unable to Wake Millions of Hard of Hearing People
According to the July 2007 study, “Waking Effectiveness of Alarms for Adults who are Hard of Hearing,” the typical audible signal used by smoke alarms failed to wake up 43% of tested subjects with mild to moderately severe hearing loss despite the fact that all were able to hear the 3,100 Hz tone when awake. Strobe lights woke up only 27% of the hard of hearing subjects. In contrast, a specific audible multiple frequency signal consisting of a 520 Hz square wave successfully alerted 92% of the subjects at the benchmark level of 75 dBA and alerted 100% at 95 dBA. The study, authored by Dorothy Bruck and Ian Thomas of Victoria University, Australia, estimated at least 34.5 million people in the United States have partial hearing loss and projected that this number would increase due to the aging of the Baby Boomer generation. Full Story
Free Captioned Emergency Preparedness Videos Online
Editor: I haven’t seen these, but it sounds like a great idea. If you check them out, please let me know what you think of them. Thanks to NVRC for this information!
Some new goodies have arrived just in time for September and National Preparedness Month! The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in partnership with The Advertising Council, has made four instructional videos on emergency preparedness available on the Internet. They are:
Older Americans Video (5 minutes)
Ready Pets Video (5 minutes)
Americans with Disabilities Video (5 minutes)
Ready America’s Instructional Videos (3 minutes)
The videos are in English and Spanish, and they are all captioned. Click on the box beneath the video, on the right side, to start the captions. You may have to download the latest Adobe Flash player software to view the captions.
You can also download a transcript to print and read or share with others.
Find the videos at:
Do You Have A Hearing Loss? – Are You Prepared for Severe Weather?
Unfortunately, all of these warning systems rely on sound cues to alert listeners of the impending danger, leaving residents who are hard of hearing without access to alerts – and without that all important, critical time to react appropriately to the warnings. The fact is that hearing impaired citizens are more likely to make unfortunate decisions in emergency situations due to a lack of information concerning the nature and extent of the danger. What makes this situation even worse is that the technology exists to make sure that people who are hard of hearing receive warnings, know about emergencies and know how to respond to the danger. The problem is, many broadcasters and emergency management officials ignore these technological advances due to factors of cost, implementation or the lack of awareness that these warning techniques exist. Full Story
Hurricanes and Hearing Loss: Surviving the Storm
Lois Johnson was fast asleep in the early morning hours of September 13, 2008, when her children woke her, shining a flashlight on her face. It wasn’t just any night, it was the night Hurricane Ike hit Houston, Texas. [snip] What you may not remember is that Hurricane Ike was the third costliest hurricane to ever make landfall in the United States at an estimated property damage of $7.3 billion. It’s true that it’s difficult to remember all the details about all those hurricanes we’ve heard about. Unless, of course, you find yourself in the middle of one. Lois Johnson knew that a hurricane was on the way. Living in Texas, there is no getting around the fact that hurricanes do make landfall. Just three years prior to Hurricane Ike, many residents remembered the preparations for Hurricane Rita when chaotic attempts at evacuation turned highways into parking lots, with many running out of gas and abandoning their cars in 90 degree plus weather. Full Story
Survey on Emergency Communications and People with Disabilities
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. Download Full Document
FCC to launch disaster alert system for cell phones
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. Full Story