Emergencies happen across the country in various forms: hurricanes, tornados, floods, fires, terrorist attacks, and other natural and manmade disasters. In emergencies, up-to-date information is life-saving. But too often, this information is not accessible to deaf and hard of hearing people.
The time to prepare for an emergency is before it happens. Communication systems must be put in place in advance – before an emergency happens – to make sure deaf and hard of hearing people know about emergencies and how to respond. There is no “one” system that is best for alerting citizens in an emergency. Instead, emergency communication systems should be “redundant” – the message should be sent out to as many people and in as many formats as possible (by television, radio, phone/TTY, computer, cell phone, text messaging, pager, and other means). Some private companies and government agencies provide emergency alerts through e-mail systems and text messaging. These systems can offer quick transmission of critical information to people with the appropriate devices and updated contact information. Some communities have a system for the police department or other emergency notification agency to make emergency voice and TTY calls to inform people in a designated area. To see if your local government offers this type of emergency notification, contact your area NON-EMERGENCY police number.
State and local governments and emergency service providers may have planning committees, meetings, and training programs to help people prepare for emergencies. In most cases, these organizations are required to ensure effective communication with deaf and hard of hearing individuals by providing accommodations, such as qualified interpreters, CART, assistive listening devices, or other auxiliary aids or services.