By Suzanne Bernier, CEM, CBCP, MBCI – President of SB Crisis Consulting & Author of Disaster Heroes

After being in the field of emergency management for over twenty years, I’m constantly inspired by and proud of the many achievements and advancements made in the field, thanks to all the dedicated and talented EM and BCP professionals across Ontario and Canada. One area that has seen significant improvements over the years, but is still in need of improvements, is the issue of accessibility during emergencies.

There are now many resources available to help communities and organizations ensure emergency information is more accessible, like those that can be found within this Ontario government website: While we still have a long way to go before crisis information and communications are equally accessible to all during an emergency, the Canadian Hearing Society is helping to achieve that goal.

Thanks to OAEM and the Canadian Hearing Society, I had the recent opportunity to participate in a new pilot project to enhance accessibility during emergency broadcasts across Canada. Specifically, the initiative is designed to demonstrate best pr

actices to interpreters when communicating to Deaf and hard of hearing people during a disaster or emergency situation.

The pilot project consists of two ‘training videos’ or broadcast segments, featuring an on-camera emergency manager making an on-camera statement, while being interpreted by both a deaf and hearing interpreter. For the video segments, I played the role of PIO/Emergency Manager during a major flood emergency.

After reviewing a realistic script based on a major flood scenario and providing a few suggested edits before the taping, we agreed upon a final script that was then sent to the interpreters and producers in advance of the video session.

On March 27, I spent a very productive morning at Bell Media Studios with the leadership team of the Canadian Hearing Society, where our filming session ran extremely smoothly and required only two takes to complete, thanks to our wonderful deaf and hearing interpreters.

The first segment consisted of the PIO (me) and a hearing certified interpreter informing residents of a flooding emergency, including response and recovery operations, actions to be taken, and where to obtain more information.

The second segment was a bit different, with myself and a Deaf-hearing interpreter team repeating the same message. For the Deaf-hearing inter

preter team, the Deaf interpreter is on-camera, while the hearing interpreter is off-camera and signing

American Sign Language (ASL) to the Deaf interpreter. The Deaf interpreter then adapts the ASL to be best suited for a Deaf audience. Before this session, I was not aware of the difference in sign language from a Deaf vs hearing interpreter, which I was told is what the pilot project is intended to demonstrate.

The completed products, two ten-minute broadcast segments, will be evaluated by a panel of experts and will be housed online in a section of the Canadian Hearing Society’s website as part of an ‘action kit’ that will be shared as a national best practice with all broadcasters across the country, and will be accessible online for the next 10 years.

I am honoured to be part of this much-needed initiative to enhance accessibility to the deaf and hard of hearing during emergency broadcasts and notifications. Once the final segments are available online, OAEM will be sure to share the link with all of its members so that it can then be forwarded within your own communities and networks.

Together, we can continue to increase accessibility and safety for ALL during an emergency situation.


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