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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2017 Vol. 64 No. 5

NWS Austin/San Antonio Hosts Weather Safety Town Hall for the Hearing Loss Population of Austin

According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, in 2011 approximately 48 million people in the United States suffered from a "significant" hearing loss. This is 48 million people who may only be able to hear out of one ear, may require the use of a hearing aid or may not have any hearing at all. This comes out to about 15% of the total population – an astounding number.

Consider how you receive hazardous weather alerts. Think about typical weather notifications that are only received as an audible alert, alarm or siren. Some more modern technologies may allow you to be alerted by a visual means, like a blinking notification on your phone or tactile notification such as a vibration, however, these methods may not be useful at night when someone who can't hear is sleeping. These are just a few issues affecting those with hearing loss.

On Wednesday, April 5th, 2017, the National Weather Service (NWS) Austin/San Antonio and multiple partners across the Austin area teamed up to host a weather safety town hall for those with hearing loss in the Greater Austin Area. The purpose of this event was to learn what weather services, if any, were currently being used by the hearing loss community and to educate individuals on existing tools and technology. The audience consisted of 60-70 individuals who were deaf or hard of hearing from the Austin area Deaf Senior Citizen Group and the Texas School for the Deaf.

The town hall was organized jointly by NWS Austin/San Antonio meteorologist Trevor Boucher and Rachella Shephard, from the Educational Resource Center on Deafness (ERCOD), a division of the Texas School for the Deaf. Contributors included Travis County Emergency Management, Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG), KXAN-TV, the Austin Flood Early Warning System (FEWS) group and Austin/Travis County Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Topics covered were weather notifications accessible to those with limited or no hearing, captioning services on television broadcasts and new services such as Text-to-911, soon to be launched in the Austin area.

In February of this year, the Texas School for the Deaf joined Gallaudet University (the national University for the Deaf) in Washington, D.C. as Weather-Ready Nation Ambassadors. This event is the first of many events to come, as the NWS Austin/San Antonio office has begun a multi-year partnership with the Texas School for the Deaf. Forthcoming projects include the incorporation of Weather-Ready Nation concepts into their primary school curriculum, providing SKYWARN Spotter Training geared for the hearing loss population and even working towards making the Texas School for the Deaf a StormReady school.

For more information on the Weather-Ready Nation Ambassador program, visit: Weather-Ready Nation

Additional resources for the deaf and hard of hearing can be found at the Weather-Ready Nation Deaf and Hard of Hearing page

Trevor Boucher
Journeyman Forecaster
NWS Austin/San Antonio, TX

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