While living with hearing loss can present many challenges, weather safety and preparedness is an often overlooked aspect until it’s too late. Because weather can change quickly, it is important to have a plan in place for different types of weather events.
How to Prepare
Let’s first consider how you get your general every day weather updates. Do you use the television with subtitles, your cellphone, or the newspaper? Any of these options will be useful for weather events that give you some time to prepare, such as daily weather checks, an afternoon thunderstorm, or even a major event like a hurricane which is generally known prior to its arrival.
It is important to check weather updates daily, especially in Florida, due to the number of weather events that can occur. If using the television, subtitles can help for regular programming. In the case of emergency weather patterns such as hurricanes, the weather and news updates are often provided with sign language interpreters as well.
When preparing for weather it is important to consider all scenarios.
- Understand weather alerts– There are a number of specific weather alert phrases to be aware of in order to understand your risk. For example, a watch versus warning. A watch, such as a tornado watch or hurricane watch, is issued when these severe weather events are possible given the conditions. A warning, such as a tornado warning or hurricane warning, indicate that these severe weather events are happening. A watch should indicate that you keep a close eye on alerts for any changes and begin to prepare, a warning means to seek shelter immediately.
- General weather safety– For those in Florida, severe afternoon thunderstorms are a regular occurrence in the summer months. Therefore, it is vital to know general safety during these storms including staying indoors when you see lightning flashes and knowing the flood prone areas near you.
- Communicate– Get to know your neighbors and talk with family and friends about potential risks for the hearing impaired during weather events. During major weather events, such as hurricanes, shelters are opened for people who need to evacuate their homes. These shelters may be a good resource for those who do not have people nearby to help them in the event of an emergency.
Sudden changes in the weather
Weather can change from sunny with clear skies to damaging storms very quickly. Because of this, it is important to have access to emergency alerts from either the National Weather Service or your local weather team on your cell phone.
- Power outages– For most people a power outage means relying on radios or their phones for important updates. Radios are an ineffective tool for those with hearing loss however your cellphone can be useful. The National Weather Service has emergency alerts that can be set up on your phone and will alert for any major events such as flooding, tornados, and hurricanes.
- Tornado sirens– Tornado sirens are used sporadically throughout the state of Florida, however present an obvious difficulty for anyone who is hard of hearing or deaf. Because of this, you should not rely on these systems and instead use your phone for emergency alerts or have contact with family, friends, or neighbors in the area to keep you updated.
After the weather event
Emergency response teams and rescue operations often go knocking door to door to see if there is anyone home who needs to be evacuated or needs assistance. This may happen after a storm or could even happen during a sudden wildfire where they are urgently evacuating the area. This creates an obviously dangerous situation to anyone with hearing impairment who may not hear the knock at the door.
- Doorbell and door knock signalers that flash lights in the home are a useful option.
- Reach out to your neighborhood emergency services, such as your local fire station, to let them know of your specific needs.
Communicating with your friends, family, neighbors, and local emergency services before, during, and after storms is crucial. Especially, neighbors as they experiencing the same weather conditions and can get to you for assistance quickly.
Ultimately, understanding the risks of hearing loss in an emergency situations and then being prepared for the many types of weather events, especially in Florida, will help you remain safe.