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Weather preparedness, awareness tips for deaf and hard-of-hearing people

By Bianca Barr Tunno, AccuWeather staff writer

Making plans for weather emergencies may be challenging for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community if the information is not presented visually.

Messages of emergency preparedness and weather awareness are often disseminated through radio and television announcements that are then shared through the internet and social media. However, it’s important that this information is made visible, according to Howard A. Rosenblum, chief executive officer of the National Association of the Deaf.

“To be fully accessible, any auditory information regarding emergencies and inclement weather should always be provided simultaneously with captioning and sign language,” said Rosenblum.

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Weather alert radios and fire safety systems can be modified for people who are deaf or hard of hearing to offer vibrations and flashing lights with each message. And smart phones offer a wide variety of visual alerts, such as the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireless Alerts System.

“Phones are very important, especially during power and/or home internet outages,” said Norman Williams, a senior research engineer with Gallaudet University, the country’s only liberal arts college for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. “They tend to continue working during the storms unless nearby cellular towers get damaged. Without TV, phone service, power and home internet, it will be tough for deaf people to get information.”

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But experts say there may be a potential problem with live streaming video on social media during weather emergencies: it’s possible that the messages will not be captioned, which creates a barrier for deaf people.

“Communications that are geared towards mobile apps and smart phones are a necessary part of efficient and effective dissemination of emergency and weather information to everyone including deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals as long as the information is provided in all modes including auditory, captioning, and sign language,” Rosenblum said.

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities has a comprehensive guide with tips and resources about this topic.

"During an emergency, planning for the communication needs of someone with a hearing loss might help reduce stress and also save a life," according to the pamphlet.

emergency kit for deaf and hard of hearing

For more safety and preparedness tips, visit

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