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Disaster Preparation for the Hard of Hearing

When disaster strikes—whether natural or manmade, or even a medical emergency at your home—it’s important for everyone to be prepared. Being ready in advance for an emergency will help you during and in the immediate aftermath of the event and the days, weeks, or months following. However, if you have hearing loss, you face some additional challenges in preparing for disaster. For instance, you might not hear important alerts or announcements, and you’ll need to account for your hearing health in addition to your overall wellbeing.

To make sure you (and your hearing aids) remain safe amid a disaster, these tips will help you create an emergency response plan, stay informed throughout, and ensure you have what you need during the recovery period.

Pack an emergency kit: Rather than scrambling to get what you need during an emergency, it’s a good idea to have a kit with a flashlight, batteries, bottled water, food, and other necessities. If you have hearing loss, additional items to pack include extra hearing aid batteries, a waterproof container to store your hearing aids, a pen and paper to communicate with responders if you’re unable to hear, and the names and numbers of your hearing aid manufacturer and hearing care professional in case your hearing aids need to be repaired.

Install hearing loss friendly alarm systems: Since you might not be able to hear a traditional smoke detector alarm, other alternatives can alert you to danger. Smoke detectors for the hard of hearing use extra loud noises, vibrations, or bright strobe lights. Such devices may even be available for free from your local fire department.

Ensure you’re connected: In the event of an emergency, it can be difficult for those who are deaf or hard of hearing to stay informed. However, there are several devices that can help you get the information you need. A TTY (text-based telephone) can translate phone-based messages from your local police department into a text display. Also, the NOAA Weather Radio service provides telecommunications devices geared to those with hearing loss.

Help responders find you: Long before any disaster, it’s a good idea to register with Smart911. Through this service, you provide crucial information about yourself, your medical needs, and even the layout of your home. Then if you should ever have to call 911, they will have that information readily available to reach you in case you don’t hear them arrive, while ensuring your medical needs are taken care of. A medical alert pendant can also notify first responders that you need assistance.

Keep your hearing aids safe: If you wear hearing aids, you’ll want to make sure they’re easily accessible in the event of an emergency, especially if you need to evacuate in the middle of the night. Keeping them in the same place when not in use, such as a nightstand, will ensure you know exactly where they are if you need to leave home quickly and without warning.