In the past two years, the Greater Philadelphia region has seen its share of major severe weather disasters. From severe storms to two hurricanes, the sight of wind-damaged homes, floating cars, and people spending time in neighborhood shelters has become a sadly familiar sight.
We also know that while we can’t always control when and how Mother Nature will strike our area, we know we can take active steps to prepare for disasters. At the Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre (DHCC), we also recognize that we have a role in making sure we’re keeping the community we serve informed as well.
As the region’s oldest and largest non-profit serving the communication access needs of deaf and hard of hearing, we know first-hand the effects of severe weather, especially for people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs.
After Hurricane Sandy struck last year, there were widespread power outages up and down the Eastern seaboard. For most people, this made recovery particularly difficult. For people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind, this was even more difficult because it also cuts off crucial methods of communication with family, friends, and more importantly, official sources of emergency information.
At DHCC, we’ve become a partner in FEMA’s “Be A Force of Nature” campaign and have taken the “Pledge to Prepare” at Ready.gov. Beyond that, we’re also taking the Severe Weather Preparedness Week toolkit that we received after taking the pledge and are adapting it to meet the needs of our community.
- We are utilizing the social media portion of the toolkit to send messages to our community members and organizational partners.
- Each day, we will highlight messages from the toolkit on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
- We’re also adapting the toolkit to create video messages using American Sign Language and captioning to provide direct access to our community members.
- One way we’re adapting the toolkit is focusing on how people can be prepared to keep their telecommunications devices charged and operational during power outages.
CAPTION: Neil McDevitt, Executive Director for the Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre, uses social media and video as one communication vehicle to reach his organization's audience about disaster preparedness.
The materials in the toolkit make it really easy for us to deliver content and value to our community members. We know that information provided in accessible formats is a crucial element for everyone to be prepared for the next disaster. Other non-profit organizations can adapt these messages for their constituents. Examples include translating messages into other languages, or making them culturally relevant to that population’s needs.
Preparing for and responding to disasters requires the involvement of the whole community and a very important part of that effort includes community-based and faith-based non-profit organizations. At DHCC, we’re proud to be a part of the effort.