NWS Nashville, the Nashville Chapter of the American Red Cross, and Bridges will partner to host an interpreted SKYWARN Spotter Training for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
The SKYWARN Spotter Training Program has been provided to the public by the National Weather Service in hopes to educate the public on severe weather identification, safety, and proper reporting techniques for over 40 years. Until recently, SKYWARN training has encouraged reporting severe weather over the phone, offering trained spotters access to a weather reporting phone line in which to submit reports. Additionally, the SKYWARN program has encouraged the purchase and use of NOAA Weather Radio to receive warning and watch information as well as routine weather forecasts. While the hearing community takes advantage of these tools and opportunities, we forget that it is our hearing that allows us to use them.
The Deaf and hard of hearing communities in the United States are larger than one might think. Gallaudet University estimates that as much as 14% of the U.S. suffers from some form of hearing loss. To put into perspective, the population of Nashville, as of the 2009 census, was 635,710. If the national estimate was applied to Nashville, the population of Nashville citizens with hearing loss would total nearly 89,000 people! It is not clear exactly how many people in middle Tennessee are in fact Deaf or hard of hearing since the census does not require Americans to indicate if they are Deaf or hard of hearing. Also, the definition of what is considered “legally” Deaf or hard of hearing is not clearly stated. Some individuals may retain some hearing while others are completely deaf. Regardless, the Deaf and hard of hearing populations makes up a considerable percentage of our population and up until recently, have not been able to take advantage of services that the NWS offers such as NOAA Weather Radio or SKYWARN Spotter Training without incurring major costs for private interpreters or special radio modifications.
Recently, the SKYWARN Spotter Training Program has been able to adapt to the recent improvements in communication technology. Some of the very same technologies that people who are Deaf and hard of hearing use every day, such as the internet, mobile devices, and social media outlets, are now being adopted by the NWS to receive reports from our trained spotters as well as disseminate useful severe weather information more efficiently. The creation of the NWS Facebook pages across the country as well as useful reporting avenues such as E-Spotter, a web based severe weather reporting form, and Twitter, our spotters have many other useful ways to report severe weather, including our Deaf and hard of hearing citizens.
That is why the NWS Nashville has partnered with Bridges, formerly the League for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and EAR foundation, a local community outreach and education organization for the Deaf and hard of hearing communities in Nashville. Bridges offers interpreting and captioning services, Deaf education, community outreach events, as well as promote Deaf and hard of hearing awareness. The Nashville NWS is a member of a committee within Bridges called Emergency Awareness and Readiness Services (EARS) along with the Nashville Chapter of the American Red Cross. Through this committee, interest in having a SKYWARN Spotter Training that provided interpreting and captioning services arose and thus the three organizations worked to put together the first SKYWARN Spotter Training for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing in Nashville.
The training will be held on January 26th, 2012 at the Nashville American Red Cross Auditorium from 6 pm – 8 pm. The Spotter Training will provide the same training that is provided for the hearing community with a focus on the more accessible means of reporting such as E-Spotter and Facebook/Twitter. The topics will include NWS product information such as the definitions of warnings and watches, middle Tennessee severe weather climatology, proper reporting techniques, how to safely spot severe storms, and how to identify important cloud features in developing storms such as funnel clouds and wall clouds.