Be ready, be safe, have what you need to help yourself and your loved ones.
An emergency can happen to anyone, anywhere at any time. If you are Deaf/deaf or are hard of hearing, an emergency can quickly escalate. Some emergencies are silent, but others have critical sounds you might miss. This page is dedicated to give ideas and tips on how to "navigate" emergencies to the best of your ability.
The Deaf/deaf and hard of hearing are most susceptible to fires and tornadoes. Both of these emergencies can happen fast and with little notice.
Floods, chemical spills, evacuations, medical emergencies can all catch us by surprise. Are you ready? Take a look at the brochure below. It contains basic information, but also live links to important pages that can give you great tips on how to prevent an emergency from getting out of hand.
We might fight technology or say "that is not for me". Technology for the hearing impaired is becoming better, easier, faster, user-friendly and above all, are truly helping many to stay safe.
Areas of safety to consider:
Fires at home or work
Sirens while driving
Emergency alert systems at work / home
Navigating parking lots / crossing roads at night or day
Emergency visits to the hospital
If you live with others, it will be important to have an open, honest conversation about the above dangers. Buddy system is a must if you will rely on others to alert you. If you live alone, then you need to plan carefully. This page will offer as many ideas as possible to help you plan.
You have probably heard many times on the news about house fires in your neighborhood. It is very important to agree on how as a family or a group to address this issue. If you live alone, the risks for you just go higher. There are a few signalers that will help you remain alert and aware of the danger. There are various companies that sell alerts, but we have found that Harris Communications tends to be a good source. To learn more about these signalers, please click on: http://www.harriscomm.com/equipment/smoke-detectors.html Take a look at the bedside alarm systems. See what might work for you. If you are in need of financial assistance to obtain one of these alert systems, please contact your local Fire Department ASAP or your state Department of Health Services. For Wisconsin, go to: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/odhh/index.htm
Tornadoes, Floods and other weather related warnings/advisories:
In our lovely state of Wisconsin, we have tornadoes. If you are hearing impaired or deaf, you might not hear the sirens that are set up in the various counties. If you happen to be watching TV, you might see the warnings and advisories. But if you are asleep or distracted with other tasks, you might not see or hear the warnings. For a signaler regarding weather, please click on: http://www.harriscomm.com/equipment/smoke-detectors/weather-alert.html Read all about it. Cell phones also have apps that alert you of weather situations.
Sirens while driving:
Statistics have shown that the safest people on the road are the deaf and hard of hearing. But that does not mean we let our guard down. It is strongly advised that we check our mirrors often while diving. At least every 30 second check. You may also remain alert to what other cars are doing around you. If you see them pulling over, do a quick check. If you go through a green light, but no one else does, know that something is up, BE ALERT. In the near future there might be technology that will help alert us of sirens. But what is out there right now, is still being worked on. Other tips while driving:
Avoid distractions while driving
If you are tired, stop, get something to eat or drink and fresh air
Keep the radio very low or off
Check mirrors every 30 seconds or so
Be alert to what traffic is doing around you, it could be a clue something is happening
Industrial Emergency Systems for General Population:
At your job, institution or apartment, there might be alert systems that have been designed for the general population, not for us. It will be important for you to learn what systems are in place, what they sound like if they go off. Our hearing instruments tend to dampen loud noises and it might not sound like something urgent to you. If you are Deaf/deaf, start the conversation as to what you will need to remain alert to any emergency. Most systems these days do have flashers, and that for sure will get your attention that you need to move to a secure area. The buddy system will still apply. If you own your own home, then make sure you have what you need to be alerted of when you need to take a safety action. Buddy system can also apply.
Parking Lots and Crosswalks (or lack of):
This might seem as over-kill. But in reality, there are many distracted drivers out there. They might be driving a bit too fast and appear around the corner too fast. Take all precautions , be alert, take your time, use the buddy system, make sure all is safe, to the best of your ability. Parking lots will be the worst. Drivers at times do not look behind them when pulling out of their spaces. They expect you will have heard and seen them, rather then them checking to see if it is safe for them to pull out. Our hearing instruments if any, will be already overwhelmed by the noises in the environment. Be watchful and use the buddy system if possible.
Emergency Visits to the ER or Hospital:
You might say, why should I be concerned about a hospital or ER? Would I not be going towards a solution rather than a risk? You would think so, however, those of us who "have been there", have experienced difficulties navigating an ER or a hospital stay. Why? One main reason has been evident lack of training for staff and doctors alike. If there is any training, it is very spotty and fails to fully address the communication barriers we face. More needs to be done to address the issue.
What are some solutions you can keep at arms reach? Here are some suggestions. This will only apply if you are able to communicate on your own and are conscious.
If you are in condition to do so: Verbally or in writing, alert all staff, write in bold, big letters on your paperwork that you are
HEARING IMPAIRED OR DEAF
HEARING AIDS OR COCHLEAR IMPLANTS IN USE
YOU WILL NEED:___________TO BE ABLE TO COMMUNICATE
PLEASE FACE ME WHEN SPEAKING
PLEASE WRITE ALL INFO DOWN
I NEED A CAPTIONIST
I NEED AN INTERPRETER
All your paperwork, at the top, bolded, should say DEAF OR HARD OF HEARING.
If you are having to stay, make or bring a pre-made sign that says:
PATIENT IS HEARING IMPAIRED or DEAF
PATIENT USES or does not use HEARING AIDS OR COCHLEAR IMPLANTS
GET PATIENTS ATTENTION BEFORE SPEAKING
GIVE ALL INSTRUCTIONS IN WRITING
I NEED AN INTERPRETER
I NEED WRITTEN COMMUNICATIONS
I WILL NEED CART/CAPTIONING FOR IMPORTANT MEDICAL STAFFING OF MY HEALTH
These are suggestions only, find what works best for you BEFORE the emergency happens. Your life and health could depend on it. Everyone has a role to play starting with you and hopefully staff will follow your requests.
Here are some true and current misconceptions by medical staff:
Everyone who is hearing impaired or deaf, automatically can read lips or use sign language.
If they just look at me while I speak, they will understand me 100%, no problem.
Those who are Deaf and/or hard of hearing are responsible for bringing their own interpreters, we are too busy to handle that issue.
All hard of hearing read lips and use sign language.
Unfortunately, in the middle of our emergency, we end up having to educate staff of our rights, our needs and dispel misconceptions.
HLAA Wisconsin State Association has put together hospital kits. We already know the dangers of not understanding instructions from your medical team. Don't take any chances, have them give you all information/instructions in writing. Note: You could consider wearing a medical bracelet. Click the button below for pre-made hospital kits:
This can certainly impact stress levels when reality hits. Your stress goes up, your hearing ability and understanding goes down. Best to plan ahead. If you have to evacuate, that means either staying with family or in a shelter. Plan for either. You know what you need on a daily basis. If hearing instruments are used, have batteries, chargers ready to go. If other medical needs, have medications ready to go as well. If you have a dog/service dog/ have everything they will need. More on service dogs below. Know that if you have an authentic service dog, it has the right to be in a shelter, hospital or other public areas with you at all times. If you prefer that someone care for you dog while in transit, plan for it. Keep in mind that evacuations might need to happen fast and with little time to prepare, your life is first. Material things can be replaced. We will make a list of ideas that might help you prepare and be ready in case you need to leave with little notice.
Keep your plan practical, simple, light in weight and just the essentials that can last at least 5 days.
Keep an extra bag or package with your daily needs ready to grab and go.
If you use hearing aids or cochlear implants, have a package ready to grab and go.
Have a sheet with contact info and other health/medical information.
Don't forget to plan for your pets or service animal. Have a grab and go package for them too.
Have a buddy system set up, i.e: if I have to evacuate, who would I contact and let them know I am on the move.
Service dogs are not only for the blind, they have become versatile and can be trained for you unique needs. Service dogs might not be the answer for everyone. But they have certainly been a great support and tool for the deaf and hard of hearing for many decades. Dogs are a responsibility all the way around. However they don't ask for much in return other than food, water, play time, belly rubs, love and great adventures. If this seems an attractive option for you, then read on. Service dogs for the hearing impaired can be trained for the following:
Alert to fires/smoke alarms
Alert to door knockings
Alert to phone ringing
Alert to door bell ringing
Alert to someone approaching you or calling out to you in public
Alert you to an approaching car
Alert you to sirens
If you have balance issues:
They can pick up and retrieve objects for you.
They can , if large enough, help you to lean on them or wear a harness that you can hold on to for balance.
Each state has their particular laws regarding service dogs. On the federal level, service dogs may accompany you in any area in which the public is allowed.
Some restrictions apply. Zoos and parks can be off limits due to the danger to the dog. Dogs can be a target of other prey animals. Your dog could also upset other animals because by nature the animal will associate a dog with a dangerous predator. Hence the ban on dogs for zoos and parks with animals. Important to check restrictions before you go.
For all other questions about service dogs, please use the buttons below: