815 In Pursuit of a Weather-Ready Nation: SKYWARN Spotter Training for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

Thursday, 10 January 2013
Exhibit Hall 3 (Austin Convention Center)
Trevor Boucher, NOAA/NWSFO Nashville, Old Hickory, TN; and J. Saari

Handout (925.2 kB)

According to a study by Gallaudet University in 2005, roughly four out of every 1000 people are “functionally deaf,” meaning they cannot hear normal conversations. Additionally, 14% of the population of the United States suffers from some kind of hearing impairment. That means nearly 43 million people suffer from some sort of hearing loss and may struggle to provide or receive severe weather information. Historically, the SKYWARN Storm Spotting Program has promoted auditory-reliant media to both receive and report information; the primary means of reporting severe weather has been over the telephone. With the advent of social media such as Facebook* and Twitter*, and websites such as E-Spotter, the NWS now provides means of information reporting and dissemination that the deaf and hard of hearing can use.

To reach out to this underserved community, NWS Nashville successfully hosted a fully accessible SKYWARN Spotter Training workshop for the deaf and hard of hearing in January 2012. This event communicated spotter principles through images and American Sign Language, and focused on the use of the new technologies for reporting hazardous weather. This successful event prompted NWS Nashville and NWS Huntsville to collaborate on a similar regional SKYWARN workshop. By partnering with local deaf and hard of hearing community centers, the NWS has been able to construct a working model for providing training for these citizens. This enables the deaf and hard of hearing community to participate in the SKYWARN program with very little cost or added workload for the NWS. This model could easily be adopted nationwide, allowing an entirely new demographic to become Weather-Ready across the United States.

*Reference to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacture, or otherwise does not constitute an endorsement, a recommendation, or a favoring by the NWS or the United States government.

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