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](http://www.hearingloss.org/advocacy/pdfs/Hamlin_NOTaTest_9-30-2009.pdf) (PDF format)
You can read the testimony of all invited to testify or view the video of the hearing on [http://transportation.house.gov](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?
HLAA Testifies Before Congress on Emergency Alerting Issues