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Preparing for emergencies when you have a child with hearing loss

Contributed by , staff writer for Healthy Hearing

According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. firefighters respond to more than 350,000 home fires on an annual basis. The National Weather Service reports more than 900 tornados touched down in 2013. No one ever expects to be affected by an emergency but it's always a good idea to be prepared in the event one occurs - especially if you have a child with hearing loss.

Basic Emergency Kit

One of the things you can do right now is pack an evacuation bag. This bag should contain any supplies you might need if you have to leave your house quickly.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends an emergency kit include:  

  • plan for emergencies
    Planning for an emergency when you have a
    child with hearing loss can help defuse the 
    situation! 
    a three-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day)
  • a three-day supply of non-perishable food
  • battery-powered radio
  • flashlight
  • first-aid kit
  • whistle
  • dust mask, plastic sheeting and masking tape
  • moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties
  • wrench or pliers
  • manual can opener
  • local maps
  • cell phone with chargers

If you have a child with hearing loss, make sure this bag also contains:

  • back up batteries for hearing aids 
  • back up supplies for cochlear implants
  • dry aid kits, waterproof covers, or other protective cases for hearing devices
  • cord clips to keep devices from getting lost if they fall off
  • information for first responders to better communicate with your child

Keep these supplies together in a bag or container and store them in an accessible place in your home, such as on the shelf by the backdoor or in the laundry room. Make sure everyone in the family knows where this emergency kit is located.

Family emergency plan

Once you've assembled the essentials and everyone knows where they're located, gather the clan together to discuss what to do in the event of a fire or severe weather. FEMA suggests your family plan include:

  • The name and phone number of an out-of-town person you can call or text to let them know you're ok.
  • A fire escape plan with two ways out of every room. Practice using this plan twice a year.
  • A meeting spot outside your home as well as one outside your neighborhood in case you can't get home. Practice getting to these spots twice a year, too.
  • Emergency contact and meeting locations for each child to keep in their school backpack, notebook or cell phone.

If you have a hearing-impaired child:

  • Be sure to give their teacher and school office written instructions of how to communicate with your child in case of an emergency.
  • Keep a copy of these instructions in your child's backpack as well.
  • Make sure your child knows how to interact with first responders.

You may also want to consider purchasing an alerting device for your hearing-impaired child, such as a talking smoke alarm, vibrating bed shaker, or a sonic alert that responds to programmed sounds with flashing light. Introduce your child to these devices early and incorporate their use into your family emergency plan. A wide range of these devices are available online, many of which cost less than $100. If you are unsure which alerting device is best for your family, ask your audiologist.

Information for first responders

If an emergency happens at home and first responders come to help, it's important they know how to communicate with your hearing-impaired child when they arrive.

Consider purchasing window cling signs to signal a hearing-impaired person lives at your residence. Other products, such as the File of Life and Yellow Dot Program, alert first responders to your family's medical situation. The File of Life is a vinyl pocket with or without magnets. The pockets can be filled with important family medical information and should be placed in an easily accessible location for family members to have ready when EMTs arrive. The Yellow Dot kits contain pockets to store medical information and a yellow dot decal to attach to the left rear window of your automobile.  

Hopefully, your family will never experience an emergency situation. At the very least, making a plan for the possibility together can be an educational , family activity and give you peace of mind.

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