National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

What are we doing to help the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Communities?

Over the last several years, the National Weather Service has been working with Deaf and Hard of Hearing organizations across the country! We have learned a lot about the needs of the hearing loss community, especially when it comes to weather safety. Most hearing people don’t consider what it’s like to be unable to hear an alarm or siren from a weather warning. These alerts are very important to Deaf people too, especially at night when the weather threatens while you’re asleep. If you or someone you care for has hearing loss, the National Weather Service has some suggestions to ensure our warnings and alerts can be useful to Deaf people and help keep them safe, just like hearing people.

Weather radios for Deaf people? How does that help?

Weather radios are the fastest way to get weather warnings and information in your home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but they do more than just tell you the forecast. They also alert you when weather warnings and watches are issued by the National Weather Service. The radios play very loud noises, which are meant to be heard by hearing people across their homes or to wake them up when they are asleep. Some of these radios have Deaf-friendly capabilities though. Many types of radios have attachments like bed shakers and strobe lights to them in case you can’t hear the alarm. They also have text displays that light up at night so you know what kind of weather warning it is.

The National Weather Service recommends everyone has a weather radio in their home, including the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities. The attachments available can help turn the radio into an alarm that could wake you up when you need it most. The video below explains in ASL and English, how to use and program a weather radio with these attachments.

The “See a Flash, Dash Inside” Lightning Safety Campaign

We learned a lot from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities over the last several years, especially about our safety slogans and messages. Some of our slogans do not work for those who can’t hear. Look at lightning for example. The National Weather Service has always said, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!”, but how are Deaf people supposed to hear the thunder? What suggestions do we have for Deaf people?

We worked with the Deaf community of Alabama and even a Deaf graphic designer to come up with a slogan and a symbol that could be used by the Deaf. We even made a public service announcement video in ASL featuring it! The new slogan is “See a Flash, Dash Inside” and the symbol shows a person running away from a tree and inside a building with lightning nearby. It also shows thunder with the vibrations symbols coming from the storm cloud. All of these suggestions came from Deaf people!

The NWS continues to work with the Deaf community to deliver information in better ways that everyone can access.