Be Prepared

This summer’s violent storms in the East and out-of-control wildfires in the West, after a winter that included a deadly freak snowstorm in Texas, are reminders that emergency preparation is important, especially for people with hearing loss.

Your hearing aid is not going to do you any good without batteries, rechargeable or replaceable. Your cochlear implant is useless without both the earpiece and the headpiece and the charger for batteries. Your assistive devices won’t work without power.

Devices should be charged and ready to go. I also recommend pads and pens for communication, in case your devices are lost or run out of power.

Even if you’re not deaf or hard of hearing, emergency preparedness is important. This week in the New York metropolitan area we saw how quickly and devastatingly danger can arise, when the remnants of Hurricane Ida resulted, at last count, in 47 deaths. The same is true with fires – you may feel safe one moment and need to evacuate the next. Everyone should have a “go bag” at hand. All of this is true as well for an emergency in your own home: a fire or gas leak or other disaster. Have everything you’ll need ready for a quick exit. And have an emergency contact list for getting in touch once you’ve left.

Flashlight: In addition to hearing instruments, make sure you have a working flashlight. The batteries last longer if they’re not in the flashlight. Have spares. I have a rechargeable flashlight, the Bolder by Anker. It holds the charge for a long time and is quickly recharged with any USB power cord. You can buy them on the Anker website or online at Amazon ($29.99) and elsewhere.

Medication. As with your hearing equipment, keep medications in one easily accessed place, ready to put into your go bag.

Mobile phone and chargers. Again, keep your phone and charger in one reliable place so you’re not running all over the house looking for phone or charger. Remember that your car probably has a power outlet that will allow recharging.

Power Bank: I consider a power bank or portable charger an essential  component in a go-bag. Wirecutter recommends another Anker product: the Anker PowerCore Fusion 111 PIQ 3.0. It’s $39.99 on the Anker site as well as at Amazon and electronics stores.

Your wallet and ID. Maybe it’s time to get rid of all those store receipts and other unnecessaries in your wallet, so you’ll easily be able to find what you need, including your driver’s license.

I’ve written several times about emergency preparedness. It’s a perennial issue for everyone, but especially for the deaf and hard of hearing. This post, Emergency Preparedness for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, includes links to other helpful sites in planning for an emergency.

My last piece of advice is to sign up for emergency alerts issued by your city or community. In New York City, Notify NYC alerts include not just dangerous weather alerts but also power outages, public transit delays and other useful information.  

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For more about living with hearing loss, read my books “Smart Hearing: Strategies, Skills and Resources for Living Better With Hearing Loss” and “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I and 50 Million Other Americans Can’t Hear You.” Both are available as ebook and paperback on Amazon.com.

Emergency Preparedness for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

This past summer, people all over the world experienced floods, tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes and terrorist attacks, not to mention a host of other catastrophes. This is an old column but I thought it was worth reposting. .

It goes without saying that everyone should be prepared with an emergency plan. But for people with hearing loss, being prepared goes beyond the usual.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers information on its website for emergency preparedness plans, and the American Red Cross suggests what you should have in your emergency kit.

For more specific advice for those with hearing loss, the New York City chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America recently hosted a presentation on emergency planning for the deaf and hard of hearing. Representatives of New York City Emergency Management offered information about basic emergency planning, as well as these useful tips for adults with hearing loss:

Use “legacy technologies.” These include old-fashioned pen and paper for communicating with friends, family and emergency workers if you do not have access to your hearing aid or cochlear implant. Another legacy technology is a landline telephone. Even when cellphones, Internet, power and everything else goes, a landline may still work. Check with your provider.

Keep extra batteries in your emergency kit. Be sure to include batteries and chargers to keep your hearing aids, cochlear implants and assistive listening systems safe and working. You’ll want to have several packets of backup hearing-aid batteries and a sealed waterproof container in your emergency kit, for your hearing aid or cochlear implant. The bag or container should be big enough for extra batteries, chargers and assistive listening devices.
Don’t forget to include your medications, written copies of your medical information, your prescriptions, and your driver’s license and passport.
Consider a portable battery charger. Cochlear implants are more of a challenge during an emergency because their rechargeable batteries generally last at most about eight hours. This is where a portable battery charger — or two, if you want to be extra careful — may be useful. The chargers themselves need to be charged, however, so be sparing in how you use them.
Don’t forget your car as a power source. Even when all other power is out, your car (depending on the model, and as long as you have gas) will have some power for charging things like a cochlear implant battery pack, your cellphone and so on. These will be charged through the USB port.
Flashlights are a must. They are especially important for the hard of hearing. If it’s dark, you may need a flashlight to help in reading lips. Make sure you have them in your emergency kit and in a handy place in your home. Learn how to use the flashlight on your smartphone
Use Facebook’s Safety Check. If cellular phone service is still working, this feature allows Facebook to notify you in the event of a disaster in your area and ask if you’re safe. You click the “I’m safe” button and the message will go to your Facebook network. Facebook can also give you a list of friends who might be affected by the disaster. Facebook is selective in the disasters it covers with Safety Check, and has been criticized for implementing it in some disasters and not others, but it’s still a good way for the deaf and hard of hearing to check on friends and relatives.
Get a weather-alert radio. If you live in an area where tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, landslides or other natural disasters are common, you may want a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) weather-alert radio. They come in all price ranges, and a variety can be found by Googling “weather alert radio” or checking online at Amazon. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can activate a warning light. Some weather alert radios have an LCD screen for alerts.
Sign up for emergency alerts issued by your city or community. In New York that is Notify NYC.
Finally, for anyone who lives alone, hearing or not, form a support network. Ask two or three friends, neighbors or coworkers to be in your network so you don’t go through an emergency alone. Your network partners should make a plan to stay in contact during an emergency. They also should know your medical conditions and needs, and where to find emergency and medical supplies.