All Communication Coordinators, First Responders, and everyone with duties in the Incident Command Structure as well as reporters, journalists, meteorologists, and news media editors, non-Deaf observers, and digital volunteers are invited to use the November 9th test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to participate in a social media communication experiment with Deaf citizens of the United States.
One of the stated goals of FEMA/Homeland Security’s first-ever, national-level test is to “identify any areas for improvements in the operation of the system during an emergency.”
The #demx research project investigates whether emergency warnings reach the Deaf community in a timely and understandable manner.
Deaf EMergency X
Using the label “Deaf Emergency” is itself a test to see if these words catch the Deaf eye better than current methods. The “X” stands for any variable: sometimes there is advance warning of an approaching hazard (such as a hurricane or winter storm), but part of what makes a crisis an emergency is that it happens suddenly and unpredictably: you do not know you are in danger, or why, until the disaster has already happened.
The practical outcomes of this research study are two-fold.
- Deaf persons will learn more about the emergency response infrastructure, including the need for self-responsibility for planning and preparing in advance.
- Emergency Managers, First Responders, and Volunteer Care Organizations will learn more about failures and successes with appropriate and adequate accommodations for communicating with Deaf citizens, including improvements to live captioning systems and the integration of professional sign language interpreters into long-term mitigation planning.
One-Way or Two-Way Communication?
While the EAS test is specifically designed to get the warning out, there are also serious concerns about how well First Responders engage Deaf individuals who have been harmed or are at risk of harm because of a disaster situation.
This research project is an effort to bring the needs of the Deaf community more clearly into view for visionaries within the field of Emergency Management.