FEMA Promising Practice: Strategies for Effective Communication with People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in Emergencies

Event Date/Time: 

Thursday, July 14th, 2016
11:30 AM PDT - 1:00 PM PDT




This presentation will provide two examples of practices for effective communication with people with disabilities in emergencies. The first is a partnership between Center for Public Safety Innovation at St. Petersburg College and the State of Florida to provide a course entitled Effective Strategies for Communicating With People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and Other Access and Functional Needs. Speakers will provide an overview of objectives and course content, as well as discuss the interactions and the purpose of this training as a face-to-face workshop instead of distance learning and why.

In the second half of the webinar, staff from the New York City Office of Emergency Management will cover their emergency outreach efforts to persons who are deaf and/or hard of hearing. Staff will review the policy and cost considerations, production tips, and operational procedures that were used to produce and embed approximately 80 signed videos into Notify NYC — the City's free, official source of information about emergency events and important City services. Initial videos were taped with an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter and the agency has moved to production with a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI). The City has also prioritized the use of a CDI whenever the Mayor or Commissioner of Emergency Management is providing key emergency messages to the public during an emergency activation.

Learning objectives:

  • Explain the importance of effective communication for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and other access and functional needs.
  • Describe the various sub-groups of people who are deaf or hard of hearing, including their communication needs.
  • Outline the partnership between the State of Florida and St. Petersburg College to efficiently deliver the workshop for: Effective Strategies for Communicating With People Who Are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and Other Access and Functional Needs.
  • Understand the difference between an ASL and CDI interpreter and the decision-making process of when to utilize each in emergency planning to outreach to the deaf and hard of hearing communities.
  • Learn the production process and operating protocol used by a local government to incorporate video and audio recordings into emergency notifications well in advance of an emergency.


Chris Littlewood is an Instructional Technology Coordinator with the Center for Public Safety Innovation at St. Petersburg College. He has more than twenty years of experience as both an instructional designer and public safety educator. As a self-advocate for people with disabilities, Mr. Littlewood uses his law enforcement and emergency responder experiences in training and providing subject matter expertise in the area of inclusive emergency planning and preparedness for people with access and functional needs and disabilities.

Carole Lazorisak is a tenured, retired college professor who has taught Human Services, American Sign Language, and Sociology and Interpreter Education courses in New York City. She currently works as a Master Mentor, a certified ASL instructor, certified Deaf interpreter, interpreter trainer, and workshop facilitator. Carole uses her public safety experience, knowledge of the ADA and accessibility laws, vocational rehabilitation and disability studies, and her mental health training to enhance her work as a trainer and as an interpreter.

Allison Pennisi is the Deputy Director of Communications for the New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM). She has overseen the strategy, development and production of a range of initiatives, including writing and editing content for the agency's website and publications; developing and promoting campaigns and programs; and accelerating the agency's social media presence through the use of new tools and programs. Allison is a subject matter expert in the use of social media in emergency management, collaborating with key stakeholders both within the agency and beyond New York City government and serves as member of the New York City Social Media Advisory & Research Taskforce (Team Digi) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSMWG).

Ben Krakauer is the Director of Watch Command for the New York City Emergency Management where he provides strategic and operational oversight for the City's 24x7 situational awareness and interagency coordination center, including the emergency public notification system, Notify NYC. Ben has been with the NYCEM since 2010 when he joined the agency as a member of the Public Warning Team. Prior to joining NYCEM, Ben was an emergency manager for Broome County's Office of Emergency Services and Department of Public Health. First becoming involved in emergency services at the age of 14, Ben has practiced as an emergency medical technician, advanced emergency medical technician, paramedic, and EMS instructor.

Jonathan Rotta served first as a Communications Specialist at New York City Emergency Management and is now in the Training and Exercises division. In his former role, Jonathan assisted with the agency's public messaging efforts across various media, including publications, advertising, photography, videography, web content, and social media. Serving as videographer and editor, he worked closely with the Notify NYC team and other members of the External Affairs division to produce, in-house, over 50 Notify NYC ASL videos. These videos and their corresponding multilingual translations were published to the NYC Emergency Management website.

From the Sponsor: 

ADA National Network


Business, State and Local Government, People with Disabilities


Emergency Preparedness





Registration Deadline: 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016