Something you may not have thought about is the special preparedness requirements for those individuals that are hard of hearing or deaf. Think about it. People who are deaf or hard of hearing (and there are a lot you out there) are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to the traditional means of receiving emergency information.
Television, radio, sirens and police loudspeakers are largely dependent on one’s ability to hear. And while computers and the internet provide a mode of visual communication, in a power down situation, the hard of hearing are going to have a problem listening to their crank up radio unless extra care is taken in advance to insure they have the tools available to allow them to hear.
Today I present some preparedness tips for the deaf and hard of hearing plus some tools you can use to improve communications both before, after and during a crisis or disaster situation. And note: just because you hear just fine, you may have a relative, loved one or neighbor whose hearing is impaired. Having some knowledge to help them to prepare and to communicate effectively will pay huge karma dividends during a disaster.
Communicating Effectively with the Hearing Impaired
I know how frustrating it can be when communicating with someone who can not hear you. It is especially difficult when that person, who may be a parent or a spouse, refuses to admit they have a hearing problem. Couple that with a situation where you have to get out of your house fast or when you need to communicate some emergency procedures and you have a big problem.
If you happen to know someone that is hard of hearing, practice these communication tips now, before they are placed in a life threatening position.
1. Get the other person’s attention before attempting to talk or communicate. Making eye contact is a good way to do this. If needed, you can use a light touch on the hand or shoulder to get the person’s attention.
2. Stay in the field of vision and face the person directly. Try to keep your eyes at the same level and don’t turn your head away. Don’t stare, but maintain eye contact and make sure the other person can see your face and your hand gestures. Body language is important, too.
3. Speak in a normal voice and tone. For heaven’s sake, don’t shout. Many people that have difficulty hearing can actually read lips even though they may be unaware that they are doing so. Shouting distorts your lip movements, making it difficult for a deaf person to follow your words. Also, increasing the volume or shouting has the negative effect of drawing attention from other people around you, making the person you are addressing feel self-conscious. Remember, if the person does not seem to hear or understand you, you can always communicate with a notepad and a pen.
4. Go to a quiet place where there is not a lot of background noise. Many hard of hearing people who can understand you perfectly in a quiet room will be unable to do so in, say, a noisy, crowded area or wherever the background noise is high.
5. Use gestures and visual cues. Point to or hold up any items that you’re talking about, and wait until they’re looking at you again before you resume speaking. And continue to maintain eye contact.
6. Be patient and polite and don’t give up by saying “never mind”. It is easy to get frustrated, especially when you have to repeat yourself again and again. Just try again and if you have to, go back to the notepad and paper. One other thing: don’t pick on the person and make fun of them. Yes, it would be nice if they had good hearing aids but hearing aids are expensive and not something that everyone can afford. So take your time, be nice, and soldier on until the person understands what you are trying to communicate.
Now that we have covered some effective communication skills, let’s move on to some specific preparedness tips for the hearing impaired.
Hearing Aids, Batteries and other Devices
- Store extra hearing aid batteries with your emergency supplies. Include some in your bug out bag, your first aid kit and in the pockets of all off your coats and jackets. A $20 investment in batteries could make all the difference when coping after an emergency.
- At night, place your hearing aid batteries next to your bed or in a beside drawer. That way you will be able to locate them if you have to get up and out in a hurry, say during a fire.
- When setting your hearing devices aside – or at night when you are sleeping – put them in a container of some type so they do not fall and get lost or stepped on. Hearing aids are expensive and even if you have the money, you may not be able to get them replaced or easily fixed.
- Store extra batteries for your pager, captioned telephone, and your TTY or other communication device. Check your owner’s manual for proper maintenance recommendations and if the devices are rechargeable, keep them fully charged at all times.
- Install smoke alarms that give signals that can be both seen and heard. And have plenty of them! At least one should be battery-operated.
- Determine how you will communicate with emergency personnel if there is no interpreter or if you do not have your hearing aids. Store paper and a pen in your emergency kit for this purpose.
- Consider carrying a pre-printed copy of key phrases, such as “I speak American Sign Language (ASL) and need an ASL interpreter” or “If you make an announcement, please write it down for me.”
- If possible, obtain a battery-operated television that has a decoder chip for access to signed or captioned emergency reports.
- Determine which broadcasting systems will provide continuous news that will be captioned and/or signed.
The Final Word
With our aging population comes the typical woes of getting older. One of the most common ailments of the over 70 crowd is difficulty hearing. In normal situations, this can be an annoyance but in an emergency this can be a major impedance to their safety.
In addition there are deaf or hearing impaired people of all ages that may need some extra assistance in an emergency or disaster. Do the right thing and practice good communication skills now so that when the time comes, you are prepared to assist those in need.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
From the Bargain Bin: There are many basic supplies in a survival kit that are inexpensive. Below you will find a list of some of these items. Take a look – do you have these items set aside for an emergency?
Power One Size 13 Zinc Air Hearing Aid Batteries (60 batteries): Amazon is a great place to buy batteries of all sizes. Their prices are competitive – actually better than competitive – and shipping is free in most cases. Just remember that hearing aid batteries come in various sizes to make sure your get the right size. Also, don’t forget the Hearing Aid Cleaning Wipes.
Etón Red Cross Self-Powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio with Flashlight, Solar Power and Cell Phone Charger: This modestly priced radio, or one like it, are a survival must-have. If you have a bit more to spend, check out the Kaito Portable Dynamo & Solar-Powered Radio and Cell Phone Charger.
Emergency Essentials is your source for all things preparedness, from prepackaged foods to water barrels to first aid kits. Here are some of the February specials.
Grabber Big Pack Hand Warmers: This is something most people don’t think about. Put one in your car, one in your desk, one in your coat closet, and one in your emergency kit. Never be without portable heat when you need it. These air-activated Hand Warmers keep hands and fingers toasty for over 7 hours. Less than $9.
Adventure Medical Kits Trauma Pack with QuikClot: This trauma kit is designed to stop bleeding and control serious trauma at the scene so more advanced care can be sought later.
Emergency Mylar Thermal Blankets (Pack of 10): You will be surprised at how warm these will keep you. Be sure to test one out in advance so that you have the confidence to trust the blanket in an emergency.
Camouflage Nylon Military Paracord 100 Feet: I need to write an article on the many uses of paracord. Pick your favorite color but be aware that different colors are priced differently. Me? I get the color that is the least expensive although I must admit the camouflage is my favorite.
Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets: Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets make questionable water bacteriologically suitable to drink. Easy to use and the water is ready to drink in 30 minutes. One 50 tablet bottle treats 25 quarts of water.
Books for the Survival Library: Suggested books for your survival library.
Clara’s Kitchen: Wisdom, Memories, and Recipes from the Great Depression: If you don’t know about Clara, be sure to read Depression Cooking: A Visit to Clara’s Kitchen.
Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart: I have not had time to write up my review (excellent!) of this book but I will tell you this. You NEED this book if you care about defending your homestead.
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