Communication in an Emergency
We've all seen the images this week of the city of Houston swallowed by a torrent of flood water.
We've felt sympathy for those affected, we've prayed for their welfare.
And we've all probably thought, "What if that was me?"
We hope it will never happen, but sometimes it does.
Fire, flood, earthquake, severe storm, car accident -- sometimes disasters do happen.
When life is already complicated because you cannot speak vocally, it can be even more difficult when the events around you explode into a state of emergency.
For any AAC user, an emergency preparedness plan must include a solid strategy for communication.
Making a plan means thinking ahead and being prepared for those just in case situations. Good planning might keep a disaster from turning into a terrible tragedy.
Some things to consider when it comes to emergency communication might be:
Does my AAC user have a basic understanding of what to do in an emergency?
This is especially important if for some reason his or her communication partner is hurt, lost, or unable to help. Does she know who to trust, where to go, or what to say to get help?
Does my AAC communicator have access to vocabulary which will allow him to communicate about the emergency?
Can he tell someone what happened, how he feels, or where he is hurt? With the help of AAC users and first responders, [Temple University created a list of the words most needed during an emergency](http://disabilities.temple.edu/aacvocabulary/EMERGENCY.shtml" target="_blank) -- try CoughDrop's board based on that list below.
What if we can't charge a speech device or it is damaged during the disaster?
Having a physical copy of a basic communication board in your car or emergency kit is an important idea. CoughDrop boards can easily be printed for this purpose, or you can print and preserve an emergency board like this one.
What if my AAC user is separated from me and she needs to find me?
Does your communicator know her address, your phone number, or how to get home on her own if needed? Is that information in her speech device so she could access it if needed? It may be scary to consider, but it's better to prepare for the worst and then hope it never happens.
What if I am the one who needs to help a person with a lack of natural speech?
RERC has created a fabulous communication guide for emergency workers and first responders which lays out important steps on how to communicate with someone who uses AAC especially during an emergency. Their simple instructions might also help those who support AAC users plan what to include on a speech board or what to practice in order to be prepared.