According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 54 million Americans suffer from some type of disability. 36 million Americans have hearing impairment and approximately one million Americans are completely deaf.
Statistics like these reflect the overwhelming need for communities to develop emergency plans with the disabled in mind. During emergency situations, it is vital that rescue workers are able to identify those most vulnerable: the elderly, the very young, and those with disabilities.
Do you or a loved one have hearing impairment? Would you know what to do in case of an emergency?
Here are some ideas to help you prepare:
- Place a sign or decal that indicates you are hard of hearing in your vehicle, your wallet or purse, and in your home to indicate to rescue workers that you are hearing impaired.
- Currently, though there is a universal symbol for people who are deaf, there is no universal symbol for the hard of hearing.
- Prepare an emergency kit. Include extra hearing aid batteries, a spare set of hearing aids (if you have one), a pad and paper to help in communication challenges, as well as flashlights, batteries, a warm blanket, water, cell phone charger, etc.
- Equip your home with assistive hearing devices that will alert you to the phone, doorbell, a baby monitor and smoke alarms by flashing lights or vibrating your bed.
- Ask a neighbor to alert you in case of a fire, weather emergency or other disaster.
- Sign up for free text messages. Organizations, such as EmergencyEmail.org, will alert you to emergencies on your cell phone.
- Consider purchasing a NOAA Weather/All Hazard Alert Radio with Text Messages. They are equipped with an alarm feature that will alert you to an emergency and can be connected to bed shakers and flashing lights.
Another important aspect of preparedness is raising awareness for the need for a universally recognized symbol for those with hearing impairment. Working with organizations, such as Hard of Hearing, to increase consciousness of the need for the symbol may just mean the difference between life and death for someone with hearing loss in an emergency situation.