Skywarn protects the deaf - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Skywarn protects the deaf

When colder air visits the Southeast United States, it can set the stage for severe weather. But there are people who are not aware when danger strikes, unless they happen to be watching television.

They are the deaf.

In Dougherty County alone, there are more than 100 registered deaf residents, who have to rely on television or a friends phone call to alert them of danger. Until now. 

For most deaf people, the sound of severe weather is-- silence. "I can hear thunder, and so I call her and tell her to watch television," says Roscoe Singletary. There are exceptions as Roscoe explains. He can hear the rumble of thunder, and occasionally hear, but never understand, a nearby city ememrgency siren.

But his wife is completely deaf. "When the bad weather comes, I get scared, and so I watch television," she said, through interpreter Stand Halstead. About a month ago at a church function, Skywarn Coordinator Halstead and deaf members of Byne Memorial were discussing the problem. "It is an inner fear because they don't know what to do or where to go," says Stan.

So a pilot program is underway. Five members of the Skywarn storm spotter team will share the task of personally calling deaf residents who have a telephone teletype, to alert them of dangerous weather conditions. Currently, the only personal notification service is the Georgia Relay Communication Network in Atlanta, which can also call deaf residents without a teletype. But the delay can be as long as 20 minutes.

A six month trial period with this program will hopeful set the standard for a new alternative. "And then we will look at how the response was and see what needs to be addressed," Halstead says.

Right now 12 people are on the call list. But the potential to go nationwide is positive news that new light is being shed on the dark side of weather for those who may most need to know.

At the end of the trial period, the project will be presented to the National Weather Service, with hopes of being introduced nationwide.

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