Emergencies…and the Deaf

There has been a few things on my mind regarding the Deaf and Emergency Service professionals. How do the paramedics, police, and firefighters handle communicating with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing? Are they trained in identifying this area of the community. In knowing when an interpreter is needed, in knowing when to take appropriate actions? I have paramedic friends who admit they have no training, and in fact their only knowledge or experience is their friendship with me. I would venture the same would be true of other friends I have in the police force, and in the fire department. This concerns me greatly.

Today there was a massive fire in my city. So massive it made national news, and even the news in NYC. I wonder if in the people that were evacuated if there were any Deaf or HOH people? If so, how were they told of the need to evacuate and where, and how to contact their families, and when, if at all tonight, they might be able to return to their homes.

I have also read news articles, of bad situations between the police and the Deaf. For example, http://www.infowars.com/lawsuit-claims-deaf-woman-tackled-by-police/ , or http://limpingchicken.com/2012/02/21/charlie-swinbourne-shocking-video-shows-deaf-man-being-ejected-from-canadian-courthouse/. Which could have been avoided with proper education and training of police officials. Simply googling this topic on Google brings up links to stories that are distressing.

A link regarding this topic for paramedics, http://paramedicandemttraining.com/what-to-expect-as-an-emt-or-paramedic/ is hopeful, but I feel strongly more needs to be done. As a Deaf person, and now with an implant, I need to identify myself to medical professionals as a C.I. person. I know Medic Alert bracelets will do that, but I do not have one yet. So how do I get appropriate treatment if I was unable to speak for myself in an emergency and my husband or family are not there?

Regardless of whatever methods there are identifying ourselves to emergency personnel, the training still needs to be there, the knowledge needs to be given, and sensitivity training as well. Is this a widespread issue, or just a few local areas? Are those stories just a few, or just the tip of the iceberg illustrating those issues? It scares me to think of myself as possibly ever being in a vulnerable position with the very people meant to help me.

Then there are the times when we need help. How do we contact them? Through a telephone relay service? Or is that becoming obsolete with the advance of smartphones and social media. When I was 24, I needed paramedics, and my ex hubby at the time called through the relay service for one. I was in another room in pain, with a rupturing ovarian cyst, alone, and he was on the TTY typing furiously to the operator who was talking to 911 or the hospital, I don’t know which. I can only say the call took far too long to complete, and he was running back and forth to check on me to answer questions. I remember the look of fear on his face, and the attempts to talk to the paramedics. I had hearing aids then, and was able to talk to them. But what if I was using ASL, or he was? What if I had blacked out from the pain? Looking back, I’m even more concerned about the Deaf community. We are largely invisible, unseen, unheard of, not talked about, particularly in the sectors where it MUST happen. Not just in emergency services, but hospitals, community events, in fact everywhere.

Something needs to be done, and why hasn’t it? I’d like to explore this topic further, and have not a clue how to do so.

Adding a link to my Communication Strategies post.


3 thoughts on “Emergencies…and the Deaf

  1. Another very interesting post.
    I noticed this morning an article on the rescue of the crane operator by the helicopter and of course they could not hear one another over the noise. The rescuer spoke to the difficulty in communication yet he is likely accustomed to being on and around helicopters…
    Indeed, communication between people is very important – particularly in life and death situations.
    Now that you bring this to my attention, I also wonder why there is no training?

      • Yes… There was nothing about yesterday that was not scary… It is a blessing that everyone made it out alive.

        I think it would be a good idea if they did not allow this building to go up as planned but rather build out of mostly cement.

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