Emergency alerts for the deaf

Imagine it is the middle of the night, you hear the thunder and the wind against your windows. Suddenly your weather alert radio sounds the alarm – There is severe weather on the way. What if you couldn't hear that alarm? "I think it really helps me to feel comfortable to know what's going on because in this community you have weather that's coming quickly and it's nice to know when to be prepared," said Archie Rivenbark. When Rivenbark was three, he became ill then lost his hearing. Now he now lives alone, and says the new emergency notification systems made to alert the deaf could be a life saver. Rivenbark said, "The vibrating pillow and strobe light are very helpful as well, because if you're sleeping and it happens over night, and you're asleep how are you alerted to wake up and know what's going on? So it's very helpful." Kristina Daggs works at the Wilmington branch of the North Carolina Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Her job is to make sure the deaf are aware of emergencies. "The newer models of the NOAA alert radio is actually wonderful. The state will provide these to individual who apply through the program. It's a weather alert system you can attach to a strobe alarm, or a bed shaker that goes under your pillow," said Daggs. Another new technology, which Rivenbark is using, is the video phone. You can use it by hooking up your T.V. to an internet receiver, which you can get for free. Then you are able to sign directly to others, or call anyone and communicate through a video interpreter. There are also telephones that text and use voice recognition software to communicate. The new equipment helps people like Linda Carr who's mother is deaf. "Knowing that she's alone now, gives us piece of mind knowing she can track storms and be alerted to anything that can be harmful to her," said Carr. If you are deaf or hard of hearing the state will pay for emergency equipment, you just have to apply online first at http://dsdhh.dhhs.state.nc.us.

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It is great that our State is doing something right with those folks who have some form of disability. These folks deserve just as much protection as everyone else and now that the technology is out there and at little to no cost, it should be easy for them to obtain. As a fire service member, I have personally seen programs where smoke detectors were provided to them free of charge courtesy of our Fire Department. It is a great feeling to do something right for a change! To those who are deaf, ask for them it is your life we are looking out for.