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In Emergency Situations, Are You Prepared?

by Branden Huxtable

Originally published in the September 1996 issue of the CSCDHH GA Newsletter

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You drive along the city streets one lazy afternoon. Stop light after stop light, you stop and wait for the traffic to pass. You would love to get to wherever your going, but sometimes, the traffic is too slow. As you try to start again after the light turns green, you notice that the traffic barely moves for no apparent reason. Looking around, you happened to look in your rear-view mirror and see a fire engine with lights flashing coming behind you. Everyone else probably heard the sirens. The fire engine roars by you and continues until it disappears. The traffic starts moving again. Is there a fire ahead? Or maybe an accident? Or what?

As you continue along, the traffic slows again. Quickly looking at your rear-view mirror, you see an ambulance coming behind you. Everyone else probably heard that siren, too. Someone could be in serious trouble ahead of you. Silently, you hope no one you know is in trouble. You think to yourself that maybe someday you, as a deaf, deaf-blind or hard-of-hearing person, might have an emergency. Firemen would come and you would need to communicate with them. If you needed help, what would you do?

Seattle Fire Chief Mike Johnson mentioned that firemen are always prepared for any emergencies that may arise and make every effort to prevent emergencies from happening. Seattle has 35 fire stations with six medic units, six aid cars and 196 on-duty firemen. Each station typically has three people: a driver, officer and pipe-person. Firemen, because of their dangerous job, form a tight family not only within the station but outside as well. They work, play, eat, sleep, and pray together. They help, support and look out for one another both on- and off-duty forming a bond resulting keener senses, quicker actions and more control when entering burning buildings together. As the bonds strengthen, every firemen confidently depend on their fellow brothers for their very lives.

Everyday, beginning when the lights come on full-blast at 7:00am to the wee hours of the night, firemen inspect the fire engine and all the equipment on it, inspect buildings all over Seattle, do physical exercises, go through regular training including fighting practice fires, and continuing their studies to keep prepared. Actual fires make up only a few emergencies. Most of the time, firemen handle other kinds of emergencies: medical, accidents, disasters. In many cases, emergencies must be handled as quick as possible so the victim will have a better chance to recover. Any information that the victim or bystanders can tell the firemen will speed the chance of recovery.

However, firemen, generally, are not trained to communicate to deaf, deaf-blind or hard-of-hearing people, but that is changing. Connie Loper gave a presentation to the downtown fire department explaining the role of CSCDHH Community Advocacy and teaching them general topics about being communicating with hard-of-hearing people (lip-reading), deaf (sign language interpreters), and deaf-blind (palm-printing and tactile interpreters). She finished off the presentation with two role-playing skits involving deaf and deaf-blind people using firemen from the audience. A videotaped copy of the presentation was distributed to all firemen in the city so everyone can learn about hard-of-hearing, deaf and deaf-blind people.

If you have an emergency, what should you do to help firemen help you?

· Learn how to dial 911. Dial 911 directly on your TDD. If no answer, try again. When an operator answers, first explain what the emergency is (someone fainted, unconscious, fire, etc.) before giving any other details. Then, briefly answer any questions the operator may ask. CSCDHH produced a videotape called Calling 911 Through Your TTY available to community workshops. Call CSCDHH for information on times and dates of those workshops. (A video tape Providing 911 Services to TTY Callers has been produced by CSCDHH for 911 operators. Contact CSCDHH for more information.)

· Learn CPR especially if you have a family. If someone is not breathing, you have only four minutes to get oxygen flowing to the brain. Do not wait for the firemen to perform CPR. That may be too late.

· Plan a fire escape route and alternate route as well as a designated meeting spot for your family. Do not wait for a real fire. In a fire, you will have no time to think of a way to escape and to look out for everyone else too.

· When waiting for firemen, be outside to look for them. Help them find your house. Typically, the response time is between three to five minutes. If you can hear sirens, they typically shut them off two or three blocks before arrival.

· Keep paper and pencil in hand. Firemen may not have any when carrying full gear. This is especially important when you need to inform firemen of any medication you or the other person is taking.

· Answer any questions quickly, clearly and briefly. The quicker you give information, the sooner the firemen can help.

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