During the last year, Deaf Access Solutions had the opportunity to serve members of the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This agency coordinates the national response to varying types of natural disasters that overwhelm state and local resources. DAS interpreters have worked alongside FEMA’s Deaf employees in multiple training classes to prepare them to respond to emergencies as they arise, and have provided services to the employees during the long days and endless weeks of responding to several disasters at the various Disaster Recovery Centers (DRC).
- Beginning with severe floods that struck Virginia in February 2017, FEMA contracted with DAS for multiple emergency communication needs as more nationwide disasters unfolded.
- DAS also provided interpreters as a Deaf employee responded to the community’s needs in West Virginia following the landslides and flooding caused by severe storms from June – July 2017.
- In July 2017, FEMA requested that DAS provide interpreters for Deaf employees and the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing residents in Missouri during the cleanup and recovery efforts following the severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding.
- When Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area in August 2017, FEMA worked with DAS to coordinate sign language interpreters for multiple consumers in various locations and we continue to provide services as the cleanup and recovery efforts continue to date.
- Unfortunately following Harvey, Hurricanes Irma and Maria swept through the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Florida, and Georgia, and FEMA again depended to DAS to provide vital interpreting services to employees and survivors as part of their extensive recovery efforts.
- Wildfires have also destroyed vast areas of northern and southern California, burning through forests, fields, cities, and subdivisions. Contracting with DAS from December 2017 until March of 2018, FEMA has coordinated communication efforts for a Deaf employee assisting residents affected by the California wildfires.
Over the busy year and beyond, FEMA has come to trust the exceptional team of DAS coordinators to find quality interpreters in record time, wherever disaster may strike. Because we have established connections in every major area of the country, our team is ready to secure these professionals even in remote locations, so the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing have access to essential services right away. DAS prepares for local interpreting emergencies through our scheduling back-up plan, so we are accustomed to responding promptly and calmly to the emergency requests typical of working with FEMA. We appreciate their trust and the work of our interpreters who manage the emotional and physical stress associated with working in disaster zones, remaining sensitive to consumers’ health and wellbeing.
As the nation faces future challenges, DAS will continue to be available to provide any support FEMA may require.