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Emergency Preparedness For The Hearing Impaired

Oct 30, 2015 Emergency Preparedness For The Hearing Impaired

Disasters happen. Though rare and often unexpected, it is important to be prepared – especially if you or a loved one has hearing loss.

No one wakes up in the morning expecting an emergency to strike, but fires and severe weather happen every day. People with hearing impairment are particularly vulnerable in these situations because they may not hear alarms or emergency instructions. Make sure your family has an emergency plan in place, and that any loved ones with hearing loss are kept safe.

Have A Communication Plan In Place

The moments after disaster strikes is not the time to start giving instructions to loved ones, hoping they are capable of hearing or understanding you. Have a communication plan in place so everyone in the family knows what to doand where to go in case of an emergency, especially if someone in the family has hearing loss.

  • Establish a family emergency procedure and make sure everyone understands it and is able to follow it during an emergency situation.
  • Practice evacuation plans so family members know where to meet in case people are separated during afire or other emergency.
  • Have signs at the front and back doors so first-responders will know if there is anyone inside with hearing loss, and where their bedrooms are located.
  • Speak to the neighbors of family members with hearing loss – neighbors can alert them and provide assistance in case of an emergency.

Technology Can Help In An Emergency

Assistive listening devices (ALDs)work with hearing aids, or can alert people who are deaf or hard of hearing in case of emergencies. Here are some examples where ALDs can be life saving.

Severe Weather

The National Weather Service (NWS) can send weather warnings directly into your home on National Weather Radio (NWR) using a technology called Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME). NWR SAME receivers can be connected to alerting devices likes bed shakers, pillow vibrators, sirens and strobe lights. NWR SAME receivers are sold by a variety of manufacturers – speak to your audiologist about the one best suited to your needs.


For people with hearing loss, traditional high-pitched smoke alarms may not be enough to alert them in case of an emergency. Speak to your audiologist about installing additional protections to alert those with hearing loss in the event of an emergency.

  • People with hearing impairment are more likely to hear smoke alarms that emit loud, mixed low-pitch sounds. This alarm is activated by the sound of the smoke alarm, and should be installed near the bed.
  • A visual alert such as electronic strobe lights can be set up to flash when the fire or carbon monoxide detectors are activated. They can produce different flash patterns or colors for each alarm.
  • Fire alarm bed and pillow shakers work with most fire alarms. The advantage of these shakers is that they are portable and easily rechargeable.

Have An Emergency Kit Ready

The American Red Cross has put together a list of things every family should keep in an emergency preparedness kit. The kit should be kept near the door so it is easy to take with you in the event of an emergency. Keep a kit in your home, and prepare one for a family member with hearing loss who may live alone. The kit should include:

  • Water
  • Food that is non-perishable and easy to prepare
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Medications
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents including birth certificates, insurance policies, medical information)
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Extra batteries, including hearing aid batteries
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Pen and pad of paper

Take a few simple steps to give yourself peace of mind, and keep your loved ones safe in the event of an emergency.

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