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FEMA and NPR to improve emergency preparedness for deaf and hearing-impaired

On October 22, 2013, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and National Public Radio’s (NPR’s) technology research and development team, NPR Labs, announced they will cooperate on a new project that will, for the first time, deliver real-time emergency messages to people who are deaf or hearing-impaired.

The goal of this research is to determine whether receivers designed specially for people with hearing impairments will help them receive emergency alerts when electricity, the internet, and other means of communication are unavailable. To test the system, participating stations will broadcast alerts to these receivers, causing them to flash warnings. Users can help ensure they notice alerts at night by connecting strobe lights or bed-shaking devices to the receiver.

“FEMA is committed to providing equal access to effective communication for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing as information must be accessible to be actionable," explained Assistant Administrator for FEMA’s National Continuity Programs Directorate Damon Penn. “We hope the data and experiences gained from the demonstration will be used to help improve this specialized technology.”

Safeguard employees who are deaf and hard-of-hearing by including specific protection measures in emergency action plans, such as designating other workers to inform them and installing flashing alarms. Prepare the workplace by developing and practicing safety plans, providing training, and stocking emergency items like first aid kits, plenty of water, and non-perishable food.

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