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Emergency Preparedness Communication for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Communities

Organizations and agencies that serve Deaf and hard-of-hearing people met for the first time in Berkeley on May 23-24 to discuss the creation of an all-hazards emergency communication infrastructure that will improve preparedness communication not only for Deaf and hard-of-hearing populations, but ultimately for everyone.

The meeting was co-convened by Health Research for Action (HRA) and Deaf Counseling, Advocacy and Referral Agency (DCARA) to brainstorm and identify strategic planning priorities related to HRA's goals and objectives as part of UC Berkeley's Cal PREPARE—a CDC-funded Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center (PERRC). HRA is leading Project 1 of the Cal PREPARE PERRC. (Nine of these centers exist throughout the country to evaluate the structure, capabilities, and performance of public health systems needed for any kind of emergency response.)

Meeting participants are all part of the project's National Advisory Board, which HRA established to guide the research. After plenary discussions to identify strategic planning priorities for research and emergency preparedness programs, participants broke into small groups to discuss communication, training, and policy. A number of the participants are at the forefront of new communication technologies, such as lights that turn on to wake people in an emergency, videophone applications for cell phones, and a variety of TV and cell phone programs that provide new ways to access vital information. These new technologies will not only help remove information access barriers for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community, but for all communities nationwide.

The next advisory board meeting will be held in November 2010 at the CDC Global Conference Center in Atlanta.

March 2010