In this article, the problems deaf and hard of hearing people experience when attempting to access the weather warning systems in Oklahoma and Minnesota are documented. Deaf and hard of hearing people cannot hear Civil Defense sirens, cannot listen to local radio stations that are broadcasting emergency information through the Emergency Alert System, cannot access weather warnings through conventional National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, and often have problems obtaining weather information from local television stations due to the lack of text information. These problems had forced deaf and hard of hearing people to rely on looking at the sky or having hearing people alert them as their primary methods of receiving emergency information. These problems are documented through the use of a survey of277 deaf and hard of hearing people in Minnesota and Oklahoma as well as specific examples.

During the last two years, some progress has been made to “close this hole” in the weather warning system. The Federal Communications Commission has approved new rules, requiring that all audio emergency information provided by television stations, satellite, and cable operators must also be provided visually. In addition, the use of new technology such as pager systems, weather radios adapted for use by those with special needs, the Internet, and satellite warning systems have allowed deaf and hard of hearing people to have more access to emergency information.

In this article, these improvements are documented but continuing problems and possible solutions are also listed.

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Footnotes

National Severe Storms Laboratory, Norman, Oklahoma

Saint Cloud State University, Saint Cloud, Minnesota