Thursday, March 7, 2024

Emergency Messaging in American Sign Language Aims to Keep Deaf Community Informed


HSEM ensures accessible language access resources are available

In an emergency, having accessible information from a reliable source can save lives. The City of Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) established the Accessible Hazard Alert System (AHAS) to serve members of the community who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, or deaf-blind or have limited literacy.
“HSEM is committed to providing equitable access of emergency information. When we engage with disability advocacy groups, we learn how to better serve members of our community who are sometimes left out of the conversation,” said Ken Snipes, Director of HSEM. “Our goal is to make sure organizations in the disability advocacy space have access to us and can see themselves represented in emergency plans.”
As part of the City’s emergency warnings process, HSEM sends emergency messages to registered users in American Sign Language (ASL) through the Accessible Hazard Alert System. AHAS issues a message with the information in video form and English voice and text. The video is of a person signing the emergency information in American Sign Language. Users receive these messages on internet and video capable devices such as computers, cell phones, smart phones, tablet computers, and wireless Braille readers. This information is also linked to the Emergency Alerts webpage,, where emergency information can be found in 14 languages.
Anyone who finds this service helpful is encouraged to register for emergency alerts in American Sign Language on the AHAS website or by texting AHAS to (737) 241-3710.