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A New Era Of Public Safety (2001 – PRESENT)

(2001) On 9/11, 19 terrorists hijack four airliners and attack both towers at the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon near Washington, DC, and crashed in a Pennsylvania field enroute to Washington, DC. Following the attacks, TDI rushed an issue of The GA-SK on Disaster Preparedness. TDI signs on with National Organization of Disabilities’ Statements of Principles and Responsibilities in Emergency Preparedness by and for People with Disabilities for submission to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the US Department of Commerce develops weather radios with strobe lights and vibrating alarms to alert deaf and blind citizens of approaching storms. Two localities in South Carolina initiate “reverse 9-1-1″ services to alert deaf and hard of hearing citizens of impending severe weather via TTY. FCC reminds television broadcasters of their emergency news accessibility requirements.

(2002) FCC receives report from Alliance of Telecommunication Industry Solutions (ATIS) on successful rollout of wireless digital handsets that are compatible with TTYs and allow VCO calls in spite of spotty 9-1-1 equipment compatibility. TDI filed joint comments to the FCC with NAD opposing the petition of several digital wireless service providers to waive their responsibilities of making TTYs compatible with 9-1-1 services on their digital networks.

(2003) TRS calls to 9-1-1 must be routed to the nearest appropriate PSAP, not necessarily the geographically closest PSAP. One of TDI’s GA-SK issues cover Local Advocacy, recognizing several advocates Diane Edge (MD), Beth Compton (TX) and Donna Platt (WA) for their emergency preparedness activities. Hospitals nationwide turn to Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) to address accessibility issues by deaf and hard of hearing patients.

(2004) FCC clarifies rules that emergency news access regulations do cover acts of terrorism in response to a complaint brought on by a community service agency decrying the lack of accessible news during the DC Beltway Sniper spree in October 2002. TDI participates in the first annual America Prepared Campaign during National Preparedness Month. US Department of Homeland Security awards TDI nearly $1.5M Competitive Training Grant to implement the Community Emergency Preparedness Information Network (CEPIN) and train deaf and hard of hearing consumers about disaster preparedness. NVRC and DHHCAN release 40-page report on disaster preparedness and emergency communications, giving America’s communication network systems a failing grade for not being accessible to deaf and hard of hearing citizens. San Antonio police sets up VRI in police station for deaf victims and witnesses to report crimes using sign language. Sacramento police accepts 9-1-1 calls from deaf citizens using text pagers. A powerful 9.0 earthquake rocks Sumatra Indonesia, triggering massive tsunamis that reached as far as Africa.

(2005) TDI appoints James D. House as National Coordinator for its Community Emergency Preparedness Information Network (CEPIN) project and Trudy Suggs as the National Public Relations Specialist. Regional specialists join the four community service centers collaborating with TDI as follows: Stephanie Clark – DEAF Inc., Lise Hamlin – NVRC, Kristina Hakey then Glenna Cooper – CSD of Oklahoma and Christine Seymour – DCARA. TDI collaborates with National Center on Biomedical Research and Training at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge for the CEPIN project in course and instructor certification. FCC proposed fines against eight television stations for failure to make emergency news bulletins accessible – in San Diego, CA (wildfires); Washington, D.C. (tornado warning) and Florida (Hurricane Charley). TDI assists survivors of Katrina by establishing funds to restore their basic telecommunication needs. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that caused over 1,700 deaths and caused $100 billion damages, President Bush develops new policy to appoint a disability expert to oversee recovery needs in future disasters. TOPOFF 3 – National Emergency Preparedness Drill had participation of people with disabilities for the first time, including CEPIN representatives. CEPIN participates in numerous conferences and events on emergency preparedness and accessible notification systems. The Emergency Notification System for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, a joint effort by the Maine Emergency Management Agency, Division of Deafness and the Maine Center on Deafness began sending alerts to deaf and hard of hearing residents in Maine. North Carolina Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing begin distribution of 3,500 NOAA weather radios with visual and tactile alerts to deaf, deaf-blind and hard of hearing residents. Directors of state agencies serving Deaf and Hard of Hearing in New England share emergency preparedness resources at a summit in Rhode Island. Worcester Metropolitan Medical Response System includes local deaf and hard of hearing representatives throughout Massachusetts management, public health and transportation agencies to identify accessible Emergency Dispensing Sites (EDS) in the event of a biological emergency. National Weather Service recognizes Delaware as the first state to achieve StormReady status with state-of-the-art warning systems in place, including accessible 24/7 public alerting systems. Hawaii receives distinction as the first TsunamiReady state. Wisconsin Association of the Deaf appoints statewide coordinator for Emergency Preparedness. Michigan and several states establish emergency preparedness working groups to address needs of deaf and hard of hearing people. Gallaudet University and the TRACE Center hosted the Accessible Emergency Notification and Communication: State of the Science Conference in November. The 2005 season is noted as having the most hurricanes in recorded history.

(2006) Neil McDevitt, a deaf volunteer firefighter appointed to lead CEPIN Project while James House reassumes duties at TDI. Lisa Bothwell replaces Trudy Suggs as Public Relations Specialist. Four pilot workshops for CEPIN course “Emergency Preparedness and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community: Taking the First Steps to Disaster Preparedness were held in San Francisco, Tulsa, Boston and Philadelphia with 15 certified instructors. After CEPIN receives course approval from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 15 additional trainings were held. FCC opens Bureau of Public Safety and Homeland Security to coordinate communication issues with DHS. Chemical plant explosion forces evacuation of nearby group home for the deaf in Danvers, MA.

(2007) TDI receives second $1.3 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to develop an online course for emergency management people on how to incorporate special needs population issues into shelter planning. E-911 Stakeholder Council convenes with US Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C. to stress accessibility in Next Generation 9-1-1. CEPIN continues deliveries of its first course in small towns and rural locations under agreements with the Excess Delivery Acquisition Program and the Eastern Kentucky University.

(2008) Neil McDevitt appoints Michele Roseman as the new Outreach Coordinator for CEPIN to promote CEPIN’s new self-paced web-based training for special needs and emergency management communities at the community, state and national levels. CEPIN also announced its partnership with the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the National Terrorism Preparedness Institute at St. Petersburg College (NTPI) to develop its online course.

(2009) Neil McDevitt and Michele Roseman develop CEPIN’s second training program at NTPI with ten subject matter experts. TDI participates in developing the National Broadband Plan to ensure that people with disabilities including those who are deaf or hard of hearing have the resources that empower them to call 9-1-1 in emergencies.

(2010) DC Metropolitan Police installs video interpreting software in police cruisers in pilot program to improve access to deaf residents. Jonesboro, Arkansas and Marion County, Florida allows texting to their 9-1-1 service centers. Independent living center manager questions strobe fire alarms citing research data that 40% of deaf people do not wake up from strobes. Deaf resident in Kingston, Massachusetts misses telephone notification of aerial spraying and slept with windows open. New York City tries again to deactivate street fire alarm boxes, cutting off an emergency resource used by deaf and hard of hearing citizens. DHHCAN and TDI file comments to FEMA and HUD requesting access to communication in multiple formats during recovery phase. Weathertext offers system that disseminates accessible text alerts along with voice alerts in the same channel without any interference. In April, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate gives keynote address at the Inclusive Hurricane Preparedness Conference in Biloxi, Mississippi sponsored by CEPIN and enableUS, an organization dedicated toward improving collaboration between emergency managers and populations with disabilities. In October, CEPIN and enableUS co-hosted the Midwest Partners in Preparedness Conference, and Marcie Roth, FEMA’s director of the Office of Disability Integration and Coordination was the featured speaker at the Conference.

(2011) Municipalities in Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee receive grants to distribute visual fire alarms for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Visual smoke detectors saved the life of deaf people during fires in Kentucky. Deaf people featured in news stories about inaccessible tornado warnings following a spate of severe tornadoes in Alabama. 9-1-1 dispatchers learn to communicate with deaf and hard of hearing populations during emergency calls in North Carolina. In Arizona, firefighters found a deaf person dead in mobile home fire that lacked regular or visual smoke detectors. Deaf couple in Indiana survive fire after holiday light cords got too close to the trash. Deaf and hard of hearing students at CSUN find glitch in text notification when gunman struck campus. Deaf people in Europe question accessibility of 112 (equivalent to 911) systems. Deaf people in Japan unaware of tsunami warnings after a major earthquake had struck the Miyagi Prefecture.

(2012) Areas offering Text-To-911 grow as jurisdictions upgrade their Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) or 9-1-1 call centers. Four major wireless carriers and two public safety industry association announce voluntary commitment to roll out text-to-911 by May 2014. Meanwhile, bounceback error messages to commence June 2013 for callers attempting to text 9-1-1 in areas not ready to provide service. Websites allow users to create unique profile describing household occupants for local responders, for example, summoning an interpreter if the occupants are deaf or speak a foreign language. Public safety officials continue to receive CEPIN training workshops from TDI. In Illinois, the state emergency management agency and the commission for deaf and hard of hearing people collaborate on sign language videos on emergency preparedness. FEMA provides video phones and captioned phones in shelters, and contracts with agencies in multiple states to provide video remote interpreting via iPads during disasters. Researchers study deaf and hard of hearing people and find that vibrating devices work best in waking them up from deep sleep during an emergency. People turn to social media to receive updates during severe weather and other emergencies. New generation of building alarms add text displays showing instructions on evacuation or stay-in-place. Some favorable press was given to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for involving interpreter Lydia Callis in his Hurricane Sandy news conferences. 9-1-1 agencies face several lawsuits by deaf and hard of hearing people for discrimination caused by lack of communication access.

(2013) In response to reports of limited or no access, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) rolls out new tools to help aid deaf and hard of hearing people in obtaining access to services in disaster recovery centers, such as enhanced listening devices, iPads with real-time video remote sign language interpreting apps and captioned telephones, while also promoting participation in local Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT). Fire departments continue to provide ADA compliant strobe smoke detectors in homes with deaf and hard of hearing residents. In collaboration with Homeland Security and FEMA, NPR Labs tests new widely acclaimed emergency alerting system project for deaf and hard of hearing population, starting with pilot tests along the Gulf Coast states. Press conferences that include sign language interpreters and closed captioning help spread emergency information dealing with recovery from winter storms as well as summer wildfires. As Marlee Matlin and Intrado help CTIA promote Text-to-911 in Las Vegas, the FCC produces an ASL video advising when and how to send a text-to-911 message from your mobile phone or handheld device. Fort Worth and other cities launch partnerships to send emergency alerts to people with vision and hearing disabilities. Deaf and hard of hearing people and interpreters network during professional and volunteer opportunities with local public safety services. Deaf couple survives deadly tornado that struck Moore, Oklahoma.