One reason that I have become so interested in the work of emergency management professionals is because Emergency Planners and First Responders are feeling a sense of urgency, on a large system-scale, that suggests the kind of intensity motivating the space program’s original mission to reach the moon. Emergency management professionals care about their work because they understand the relationship of what they do to achieving a larger vision: public safety and the capacity to recover quickly from disasters. This caring was in constant evidence at yesterday’s Whole Community Preparedness Summit sponsored by the Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council at UMass Amherst. It was also evident in a pilot training that the DC Mayor’s Office on Volunteerism, Serve DC, provided last year at Gallaudet University. One of the instructors for the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) team training, shared with the group how important the experience had been for him, saying that he had learned a lot and that direct interaction with Deaf people using interpreters should be a part of routine training.
“We need to practice how we’ll play.”
Practicing how we’ll play means identifying gaps and weaknesses and moving to fill them. Washington DC Fire Chief John Sollers’ message is “We need to practice how we’ll play.” His message is aimed at fellow firefighters and professional first responders who have not yet been in a situation of needing to communicate with and understand a Deaf person who uses American Sign Language. Practicing how we’ll play means learning how to work with ASL interpreters to recognize differences in meaning and co-construct mutual understanding without erasing those differences or artificially forcing a meaning that is not actually understood. Learning how to communicate with the involvement of a third party is a skill that transfers to all kinds of communication situations, including cross-discipline communication in English as well as intercultural communication with non-English speakers of all kinds.