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New county, state program to help deaf, hard of hearing

Maricopa County Emergency Management has teamed up with state agencies to launch a pilot program addressing communication messages for those who are deaf and hard of hearing. Most people get that information through broadcasts, social media or even word of mouth, but an estimated 1.1 million Arizonans are deaf or hard of hearing and need an alternative way to get emergency messages, according to a press release.

Emergency officials from the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, Forestry and Fire Management and Maricopa County Department of Emergency Management partnered with the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing to launch the Emergency Response Interpreter Credentialing Program.

“We identified a gap in the accessibility of information for the deaf and hard of hearing communities,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Clint Hickman, Dist. 4, said in the release. “Launching this program is an important step to ensure accessibility to those hard of hearing and deaf.”

The three-day program includes training for American Sign Language interpreters and Communication Access Realtime Translation captioners. They’re given an overview of how emergencies evolve.

“When designing this program, we wanted to ensure the interpreters and captioners were equipped to respond to events with the same level of preparedness all other responders demonstrate in these events so that there is no delay in the deaf and hard of hearing communities receiving the information they need to be safe and well-informed,” Vicki Bond, Interpreter Outreach and Development Coordinator with ACDHH, said in the release.

ASL interpreters will support public meetings, media briefings, one-on-one public interactions in shelter operations and informational videos. When event videos are produced, ASL interpreters will caption audio and/or video files that will be posted to social media. The captioners will support public meetings and shelter operations by translating the oral word to the written word, usually projected on a large screen.

“We have been using ASL interpreters for mock news briefings for Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station exercises,” said DEMA Deputy Director Wendy Smith-Reeve. “The ERIC training will help us increase the accessibility options.”

After completing the ERIC training, the sign language interpreters and captioners are considered technical specialists and will be added to the Resource Ordering and Status System maintained by DFFM. When a need arises for sign language or captioning services, emergency managers/incident management teams can use ROSS to place a resource order through the Arizona Interagency Dispatch Center.

“ROSS provides us the opportunity to track personnel from the time they leave for an incident to the time they return home,” Carrie Dennett, state Fire prevention officer with DFFM, said in the release. “Making sure our first responders, including our ASL interpreters and CART captioners, are safe is paramount to successful incident management.” The Emergency Response Interpreter Credentialing Program is expected to be operational this month.

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