A good understanding of the needs and capacities of persons with disabilities, and a voluntary registration of their residences and contact details will help to design effective and inclusive early warning systems in disaster prone areas. Early warning mechanisms that alert the population of an emergency or disaster and provide quick and easy to understand information have to be accessible to all persons with disabilities. Always combine audio and visual mechanisms into all early warning systems.
Ensuring early warning systems are accessible:
Use audio signals such as bells, alarms, sirens, drums, radio/TV or loudspeaker announcements;
Also provide visual equivalent such as flags, lights flashing together with alarms and sirens. Text messages on TV or by mobile phone will reach a wider population, including deaf and hard of hearing. Combine with pictures, gestures and the use of body language where necessary;
Sign Language should be provided whenever oral information is delivered as far as possible, knowing though that not all deaf persons know Sign Language;
Printed material, for instance posters, leaflets, and pictures should present key messages (short and simple) in an easy-to-read format, and use illustrations that include women, men, girls and boys with persons with different disabilities, so that everyone can quickly understand the main danger and what-to-do instructions;
All persons with disabilities have to be included in trainings on preparedness and evacuation and participate in for example mock drills or other exercises.
Other things to consider:
Identify the preferred communication way of deaf and hard of hearing persons in the area you are working in, Sign language or written information (or both);
Provide written information in Braille, if this has been identified as a way to reach persons that are blind, to be distributed along the regular information;
Identify barriers in existing early warning systems and find ways to eliminate or compensate for them;
Make sure early warning systems are installed, functioning and available in residential institutions or hospitals where persons with disabilities and children and elderly might reside;
Include persons with disabilities while developing your early warning system, and make sure to field test it with a diverse population (do no forget to including women, girls, persons with intellectual disabilities, deaf and blind persons as well as those with psychosocial disabilities.