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Emergency Preparedness with People Who Sign: Toward the whole community approach

Jody H. Cripps, PhD, Sheryl B. Cooper, PhD, Elizabeth N. Austin, PhD, MA, RN, CEN


The concept of the “whole community” involves including everyone in the community in preparing for emergencies, including members of often-overlooked groups. Deaf people who sign are one example of this type of group. An innovative model based on the whole community approach, Emergency Preparedness with People Who Sign (EPPS), is introduced in this article. This model focuses on members of the deaf community directly training first responders using a variety of techniques for effective communication and cultural understanding to achieve safety for all. This model was developed and field tested by a university Deaf Studies program through student service-learning activities and faculty involvement including on-site role-playing. Through the reciprocal awareness training for both professionals and community members, deaf individuals become actively empowered to participate in developing culturally and linguistically sensitive public safety services. Response to the concurrent training of first responders and deaf community members has been positive, and it is hoped that this model can be replicated with deaf people and first responders in other locations, as well as with other often-overlooked groups.


emergency preparedness, deaf people, service learning, first responder, sign language

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