HLAA Testifies Before Congress on Emergency Alerting Issues
By Lise Hamlin
Director of Public Policy and State Development
October 2, 2009
“This is NOT a test: Will the Nation’s Emergency Alert System Deliver the
President’s Message to the Public?” That was the topic of a 3 ½ hour hearing
before the US House of Representative’s Committee on Transportation and
Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and
Emergency Management. In addition to the testimony provided by Hearing Loss
Association of America, the Subcommittee heard testimony from FEMA (Federal
Emergency Management Agency), the Government Accountability Office, Maryland
State Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), a Florida County Commissioner,
National Council of La Raza, and Las Vegas PBS.
If an emergency happened tomorrow, do you know how you would get the
information you need? Would it be accessible to you? If you live in a rural
community that does not regularly caption the news, are you sure the
emergency news that has been provided has captions or uses some other visual
method (scrolling or crawling text, for example) to get the information to
you? These are the kinds of questions we need to answer before an emergency.
Chairwoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Ranking Member Mario Diaz-Balart had
some hard hitting questions for FEMA. Others on the panel provided
information to help the Committee ensure that information on emergencies
gets out to everyone.
Still, in an emergency, we need to be sure that every one of us is prepared.
It’s up to us to provide information to Congress and FEMA about what we need
in an emergency. It’s also up to us to talk to local emergency responders,
to join in CERT teams and to be actively involved with emergency planning to
ensure that you are safe in an emergency.
View HLAA’s testimony (PDF format)
You can read the testimony of all invited to testify or view the video of
the hearing on http://transportation.house.gov (go to Hearings section)
– but will not be available for long. Or click here for a temporary direct
link (look on the right column for the list of testimonies). The Committee
has a number of hearing s coming up, so plant to keep the video only for a
few days; the written testimony should be available longer.
For those or you who are curious about House proceedings: open captioning is
not provided all the time: HLAA requested the captions. Captioning was
provided remotely, even though there is a court reporter in the room who is
responsible for the official record. In fact, there are two official court
reporters – each one working no more than an hour at a time. We were also
told that if the court reporters go on the House floor, they need only work
for 15 minutes at a time. Each reporter cleans up the text during their
breaks so that it can be ready for the official record as soon as possible.
We also learned from staff that several people in the room told staff said
the captioning was great and they would love to see that all the time.
Isn’t’ that always the case?