Living Life Independently: Emergencies – Blog Series

Monique Les

An important aspect of living independently is being prepared for emergencies – it’s always a good idea to have a plan of action for various situations, and the same applies for people who are ‘hearing’ too. Most of these tips are geared towards the home, and depending on your living situation (i.e. a dorm room, a rental, or home ownership), keep in mind that these solutions may not work for everyone.

Fire Safety

There’s nothing scarier than sleeping and not knowing that your house is on fire – and the same goes for carbon monoxide. Personally, I use the Kidde wired in fire strobe alarm and carbon monoxide detector. It has a 10 year warranty and is wired to our regular smoke detector. The upfront cost is not cheap, as it cost about $300 in total to get the product itself as well as to get it installed correctly by a licensed electrician. I really like the wired in option, however expensive it is as it definitely gives me complete peace of mine whilst asleep. Other alternatives include hooking up your smoke/carbon monoxide detector to a mobile AlertMaster, or any other equivalent if your residence doesn’t permit hardwired devices (or if you’re a renter). Just make sure to test it out before you go to sleep!

What a fire alarm strobe light looks like in public spaces (Photo Credit: Wikicommons). The silver part will emit bright flashes when the alarm is triggered.

There are a few Deaf and Hard of Hearing People that I know who are fortunate enough to have a hearing dog. If I could, this would be awesome! Not only can hearing dogs alert you when there’s a fire, they can tell you if someone is at the door or if someone else in your house is in trouble. Your local Deaf/Hard of Hearing organization, or even a rotary club can help you navigate the path to obtaining a hearing dog.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Emergency Services – The Police, Fire and Ambulance Services

Since January 2013, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced enhancements to 911 Services for those who are Deaf/Hard of Hearing. The catch is that not all municipal (or provincial) governments have this service in place. If your area provides it, I’d check it out. Essentially it requires users to ‘sign up’ with their wireless service providers with a compatible cell phone to be eligible for the Text to 911 service. It’s really quite a simple process, and most carriers are more than happy to assist. Further details on how to sign up for this, or whether this service is available in your area can be found in this great article What you Need to Know about TEXT with 911. A list of all areas with this service in BC is found here as well.

Unfortunately for me, I live in the beautiful city of Victoria. Texting to 911 does not exist (yet!!) for me. If you’re in the same boat as me, I will call 911 directly and explain to the best of my abilities that I have a hearing loss – and the immediately give my address with a quick overview of the emergency itself.

Natural Disasters – Wind, Earthquake and Tsunami Warnings

Okay. This is a true story. Vancouver Island gets all of the above at least once a year. About three months ago we had a tsunami warning that was all over the news. I quickly learned that the Capital Region District sends out warnings via text messages – and so I signed up for it. Sure enough, in the middle of the night they sent a warning and my trusty phone (plugged into a bed shaker – or lightON whichever you prefer) woke me. If your area has this personal service, I’d definitely look into it.

Some of you may recall that there was a Province Wide test for earthquake warnings – I received this text message, but not everyone did. If you didn’t, consider asking your wireless service provider to see if there’s anything they can do for you.

Emergency Preparedness Bags

If, for some unfortunate reason that you have to evacuate – ALWAYS have a ‘getaway’ bag ready to go. I update mine every 6 months, and the bag that I use is a suitcase on wheels – much easier to haul out as I leave it near an exit point. The essentials include canned foods, bottled water, a blanket, some clothes, and most importantly – backup hearing assistive supplies! More suggestions on what to pack can be found here in Build an Emergency Kit. If you’re tight on cash and can’t shell out for extra supplies, I’ve heard of some parents tucking away all their children’s hearing assistive equipment each night into a portable waterproof bag (Mountain Equipment Co-op has some good options), or if you’re cheap like me, a large Tupperware container works. The idea is that the bag/box can be grabbed immediately. Pack extra batteries, a portable dri-aid, and any other equipment that you might need.

Living Life Independently also means Living Life Safely!