NWS offers severe weather workshops for deaf and hard of hearing

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Meteorologists are working to remember people who are deaf and hard of hearing as they work to put out life-saving messages, including severe weather alerts, to the community.

Jennifer Saari, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Huntsville, said it was at a weather radio programming event that someone first spoke to her about the need to better serve the deaf and hard of hearing.

"I really saw their need for more information and how to be prepared. I felt a personal obligation to find a way to do that," she said.

That sparked years of working with organizations, the deaf and hard of hearing, and more to find out the best way to help. Saari spearheaded messaging like See a Flash, Dash Inside.

"I've been able to really interact with the deaf and hard of hearing community and learn more about their needs for severe weather preparedness. But I also let other NWS offices know how to help out their communities as well," she explained. "We want to make sure everyone is getting that message. We also need people to know what to do when they receive alerts."

The NWS Huntsville office held a workshop on Tuesday for the deaf and hard of hearing. American Sign Language interpreters were present to communicate Saari's messages about weather and safety.

Each person who registered and came to the class received a Midland Weather alert radio and information about how to program it. They also received attachments including a red or white strobe light and bed shaker to alert them a watch or warning is coming in. This is available through donations and grants through the University of Alabama Center for Community Based Partnerships, said Darrin Griffin, Assistant Professor.

Teresa Sheppard said she came to the class to learn more about the weather. We asked her about inclusivity related to weather information.

"I think it's really important to let the community know what's going on. The warnings that are expected," she said. WHNT News 19 utilized an interpreter to best collect her statement. "Those who can hear are already hearing everything, but the deaf sometimes are left out in the cold. We are not sure if there is danger. It is important for all of us to have all the information."

Sheppard said her mind immediately went to tornadoes as she began the class. She thought of what happened in Beauregard just weeks ago.

"I think about the deaf community that could have been there. We could be in that same situation," she said.

Saari agreed that now is the time to start thinking about what to do in severe weather.

"We need to help the community know of even more ways to get warnings that will rely on more visual clues and be ready to receive that warning when the time is needed," she said. "We're still getting into severe weather season so it is important to know and be prepared in advance."

Sheppard said together the deaf and hard of hearing who attend the NWS information sessions and workshops do their best to communicate what they learn to their loved ones.

"It's a good chance to learn more so they can help other deaf people in the community that don't have any idea, so we can spread and help each other out in that way," she stated.

More weather resources for the deaf and hard of hearing can be found at this link.

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