Emergency Preparedness and People with Auditory Disabilities

For National Preparedness Month, we continue our blog series with AbleData on preparedness resources for people with disabilities with a look at resources for people with auditory disabilities, that is people who are Deaf, deaf-blind, or hard of hearing. As we discussed in Emergency Preparedness and People with Visual Disabilities, people with disabilities and older adults may be adversely affected by disasters, natural or man-made. They may face challenges in receiving timely alerts, being able to evacuate, maintaining or losing necessary assistive devices or medical equipment, and other issues.

To make things easier during an emergency or evacuation situation, it can help to prepare ahead of time. Using key principles from National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Emergency Evacuation Planning Guide for People with Disabilities (PDF), below are some tips and resources to help individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing prepare for and stay safe during an emergency:

If you are an emergency planner in your community, it’s important to consider the unique needs of people who are Deaf or have hearing loss. Here are some things to consider:

  • As noted above, choose emergency alert systems that include both auditory and visual signals, such as alarms and flashing lights.
  • Keep in mind that individuals who are Deaf or hard of hearing may rely on lip reading and/or sign language to gather information and communicate with others. Poor lighting (e.g., as in power outages) may adversely affect these forms of communication. Many people with hearing loss or other auditory disabilities may use hearing aids to amplify and clarify sounds. Echoes, reverberations, and extraneous background noises tend to intensify during emergency situations and may distort hearing aid transmissions.
  • Once notified of the emergency, people who are Deaf or hard of hearing may be able to read and follow the standard exit and directional signs and use standard means to exit the building or go to the area of refuge. Some individuals who have both hearing and visual disabilities, such as those who are deaf-blind, may need assistance if there is little to no light because they may have to navigate without visual references. Learn about the best ways to assist a person with visual disabilities in this video guide from the Lighthouse Guild. Learn more about preparing shelter staff to meet the communication needs of people with disabilities in the guide (PDF) from the city of Seattle.
  • Some people with auditory disabilities may require a service animal. The Department of Labor offers a tip sheet for emergency planners on aiding individuals with service animals during an emergency (PDF).
  • Consider bringing representatives from the Deaf community into discussions on emergency planning in your community. Inclusive preparedness starts with making a space at the table for everyone.

If you would like to find more local resources and information for people with auditory disabilities in your community, call 2-1-1.

Over the years, NIDILRR has funded research projects on emergency preparation and safety for people with disabilities. We looked at the history of these research projects and the newest efforts funded by NIDILRR in Inclusive Disaster Preparedness – Progress Made, Progress to Come, part of our NIDILRR at 40 series. NARIC’s information specialists searched REHABDATA and found over 50 articles from the NIDILRR community and beyond on emergency preparedness and auditory disabilities. They also searched for emergency preparedness and found over 250 articles from the NIDILRR community and beyond. If you would like to learn more about emergency preparedness and AT for people with auditory disabilities, please contact NARIC’s and AbleData’s information specialists.

Check out other articles in this series:

Emergency Preparedness and People with Visual Disabilities.

Emergency Preparedness and People with Mobility Disabilities.

Emergency Preparedness and People with Psychiatric Disabilities.

Emergency Preparedness and People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Cognitive Disabilities.

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4 Responses to Emergency Preparedness and People with Auditory Disabilities

  1. Pingback: Emergency Preparedness and People with Mobility Disabilities | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

  2. Pingback: Emergency Preparedness and People with Psychiatric Disabilities | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

  3. Pingback: Emergency Preparedness and People with Intellectual, Developmental, or Cognitive Disabilities | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

  4. Pingback: Emergency Preparedness and People with Visual Disabilities | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

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