Deaf & Hard of Hearing – First Responder Access & Functional Needs Training Series

(♪♪ Loud Ringing and Music ♪♪) This video training series is courtesy of the County of San Diego Office of Emergency Services. Every emergency call, every emergency run, every life saved starts with you – the first responder. But what do you do when confronted with evacuees with needs who may pose a challenge to your typical training methods? The following video is 1 of a series of 8. It’s designed to educate you on the various visual cues, do’s and don’ts, proper behaviors, mannerisms and sensitivities relating to those members of our San Diego community who are deaf or hard of hearing. Our hope is that you learn as much as you can, so when lives are depending on quick thinking and fast maneuvering, you have the knowledge and training to make the best decision possible. My name is Joe Lavigne and I’m with Heartland Fire and Rescue. Yeah. Hello. My name is Alan Amann and I’m with Deaf Community Services of San Diego. We’re a service organization here in San Diego for the deaf and hard of hearing community. I’m glad to be part of this project. Alan, what is the difference between deaf and hard of hearing? Deaf and hard of hearing have several meanings, physical meanings and cultural meanings. Physically, deaf typically means a person who is profoundly unable to hear. Hard of hearing means that the person will have some degree of hearing and it’s dependent on the individual. Hard of hearing people typically use hearing aids or other assistive devices like that. Culturally, deafness means that you’re a person who uses ASL to communicate and you feel like, as a deaf person, that you’re part of the deaf community. Hard of hearing, people perhaps to a lesser degree, they might use ASL or they’re perhaps more oriented towards speech and listening methods of communication with hearing aids and other devices. Alan, what are some myths associated with the deaf community? There are two that I can think of right now. Number one: not all deaf people are able to lip read effectively. Lip reading is kind of an ineffective way of communicating. Related to that, hearing people sometimes think if they yell at the deaf person that the deaf person will understand better or if they speak into the ear of the deaf person that they’ll be able to understand better, but that’s not true. The second myth is that all deaf people use sign language. Some people use American Sign Language very effectively. Some don’t use it at all. Some are new signers, some are late deafened signers. So, each individual is different and the communication method, in order to communicate with a deaf or hard of hearing person, will vary for each individual. (Knocking) (♪♪ Music ♪♪) (Door opening) “Hi. I’m Sergeant Lowe with San Diego Police Department. You know that construction down the road? It’s, uh — they hit a gas line and the Fire Department is asking if we can evacuate — ? Is that gonna be o — kay? Do you, uh, you don’t — do you speak English? Spanish?” Alan, how can first responders immediately tell someone is deaf or hard of hearing? And what are some visual clues that might let them know this? There are different clues that you can find. There are communication clues and there are also visual clues. You’ll notice that the deaf or hard of hearing person is more responsive to visual orientation or visual stimulus. “Deaf? You’re deaf? Oh, I got it Sorry! I’m sorry. Do you have something to write with? Pen — pen, paper? Oh, okay. Cool.” (Door shuts) “So, there’s — um — like I said, there’s a gas leak when you drive out of here…” When you speak to them, you’ll see a lack of response. You’ll notice misunderstandings. They’ll ask you often to repeat what you said, or perhaps give you no response at all, especially if you’re looking away or not looking directly at them. Another possibility is you’ll notice something like a hearing aid or a cochlear implant or assistive device. Alan, what ways may a deaf person try to communicate with a first responder? There are many different methods that a deafened person might use. Primarily, it’ll be a visual method or perhaps a tactile method. Visually, they’ll try to communicate through facial expressions and body language, perhaps even gesturing. They might use written form of communication, whether that’s pen and paper or text messaging. Some deaf people feel comfortable speaking and might try and use their voice. Other deaf might not use their voice and they would rather use visual, tactile method. Tactilely, they might tap you on the shoulder to get your attention. Sometimes deaf people will even scream if they’re in serious risk of injury. They might try to stomp their feet on the ground or to pound on a table or bang on something to get the attention of a first responder. When that happens, be aware that it doesn’t mean that the person is trying to be aggressive or angry or anything like that. It just really means that it’s an emergency situation and they want to get attention the best way they can and that’s something that you can expect. It’s important not to respond with anxiety or shock, but handle the situation calmly. Alan, how should a first responder communicate to someone who is deaf? I think the number one goal of a first responder should be clear in their communication. Sometimes people will try to communicate with deaf people through lip reading or by trying to speak at them. If it’s a last resort and that’s your only option, make sure that you’re speaking clearly and that your face is unobstructed so that they understand what you’re saying. Do not try to talk into their ear or scream at them. Alan, is writing back and forth an acceptable way to communicate with someone who is deaf? Uh, yes. When you’re communicating through paper and pen, make sure that you’re writing as clearly and as directly as possible and that you ensure that what you’re writing is understandable by people of all different cultures and reading levels. But you have to understand that writing back and forth could have the potential for misunderstandings. It might take more time. Sign language interpreters tend to be more effective, but pen and paper can be used if the deaf or hard of hearing person can freely and comfortably write back and forth. “Hearing aids? Yeah. That’s fine. You can grab whatever you want. Uh, let me see – what ever you need…. Oh, okay. Cool.” Alan, are there any specific dangers that being deaf or hard or hearing pose to either themselves or first responders? If there’s any danger involved, it would be to the deaf person or hard of hearing person themselves because it can be easy to misunderstand their attempts to communicate or refusing to cooperate with the deaf or hard of hearing person. Alan, what about etiquette when communicating with someone who’s deaf? The best way is to approach that deaf person and to ask them, ‘how do you feel’ or ‘what is the best method by which we can communicate?’ If their request is for a sign language interpreter, I request you call one as promptly as possible. And it’s important to recognize that the deaf person is there. If you’re using a sign language interpreter to communicate with the deaf person, don’t look at the interpreter, look at the deaf person themself and speak directly to them. I think it’s important that the first responder take steps to communicate directly with the deaf person, whether through eye contact or through gesture or different modes of communication. The feeling that you’re there and that you’re part of the process is important to the deaf person. (Door opening) Alan, thank you for all that information that you’ve given us and first responders. Is there anything else you’d like to add? Sure. Here in San Diego, my organization, DCS, Deaf Community Services of San Diego works in collaboration with OES, the Office of Emergency Services, to set up the Disaster Response Interpreting Initiative, where we train interpreters how to respond in emergency situations. There’s more information that can be found through either OES or through DCS’ website. Thank you for having me here. This concludes the deaf and hard of hearing video for first responders. For more information, please contact Deaf Community Services of San Diego at (619) 398-2441. I’m Tony Mecham, San Diego County Fire Chief. I’m Shellie Zimmerman, Chief of Police of the San Diego Police Department. Thank you for watching. (♪♪ Music ♪♪)

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