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Responding to the Deaf in Disasters: Establishing the Need for Systematic Training for State-level Emergency Management Agencies and Community Organizations

Alina Engelman, Susan L. Ivey, Winston Tseng, Donna Dahrouge, Jim Brune, and Linda Neuhauser
BioMed Central Health Services

March 7, 2013



Deaf and hard-of-hearing (Deaf/HH) individuals have been underserved before and during emergencies. This paper will assess Deaf/HH related emergency preparedness training needs for state emergency management agencies and deaf-serving community-based organizations (CBOs).


Four approaches were used: 1) a literature review; 2) results from 50 key informant (KI) interviews from state and territorial-level emergency management and public health agencies; 3) results from 14 KI interviews with deaf-serving CBOs in the San Francisco Bay Area; and 4) a pilot program evaluation of an emergency responder training serving the Deaf/HH in one urban community.


Results from literature review and state and territorial level KIs indicate that there is a substantive gap in emergency preparedness training on serving Deaf/HH provided by state agencies. In addition, local KI interviews with 14 deaf-serving CBOs found gaps in training within deaf-serving CBOs. These gaps have implications for preparing for and responding to all-hazards emergencies including weather-related or earthquake-related natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and nuclear-chemical disasters.


Emergency preparedness trainings specific to responding to or promoting preparedness of the Deaf/HH is rare, even for state agency personnel, and frequently lack standardization, evaluation, or institutionalization in emergency management infrastructure. This has significant policy and research implications. Similarly, CBOs are not adequately trained to serve the needs of their constituents.