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Helping Students Visualize Disaster Preparedness

June 2016

Deaf students in Atlanta learn how to prepare for disasters in their community Atlanta Area School for the Deaf PrepareAthon logo

According to tornado expert Dr. Greg Forbes, Atlanta has become one of the top 10 tornado-prone cities in the Nation. Less than 10 miles outside the city of Atlanta in Clarkston, GA, the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf (AASD) serves Georgia’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) youth population from preschool through 12th grade. Almost 200 DHH students from more than 30 different counties across the state attend AASD.

Throughout the year, AASD hosts multiple drills for fires, tornadoes, and active shooters, during which older students serve as role models for younger students. In collaboration with Georgia’s Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), the school participated in Ready Georgia’s statewide tornado drill on November 4, 2015.

Alerting DHH Students and Staff to Seek Shelter

"Taking part in America's PrepareAthon!
helped us collaborate with Georgia's
Emergency Management Agency to ensure
we keep doing the best we can to keep
children safe."

--Vanessa Robisch, Superintendent of AASD


During the drill, administrators used visual communication strategies, such as marquee signs throughout the school building, and showing students how to shelter in place in designated rooms at the lowest level of the building. The school also used BlazeCast, a communication alert system that sends alerts to school computers and subscribed mobile phones. “For our drills, we make our emergency notifications both visual and mobile,” said Elyse Ferrell, Middle School Department Head with AASD. “And while technology is an invaluable asset, we also recognize the importance of simply checking on one another to ensure our neighbors are aware of the situation at hand and know how to prepare.”

 
Image of students participating in a drill
Teachers show DHH students how to
shelter in place during AASD's
PrepareAthon! tornado drill. Location
determinded to be best available
refuge area by Georgia Emergency
Management Agency's Director based
on site surveys.

More than Just a Drill: Building Relationships for Independence and Resiliency

Part of the school’s mission is to empower students “to live independent, fulfilling lives and to become productive, contributing members of society.” Equipping them for disasters supports that effort in a practical and potentially life-saving way.

Throughout the past year, AASD staff have worked to improve the school’s relationship with local police, fire, and emergency responders. Working with these emergency responders “helped our local officers see our students as people who want to help, and both groups have learned how to communicate more effectively,” explained Ferrell.

“Our relationship-building effort with local law enforcement has had a very positive impact on the daily safety of our students and staff at AASD,” said Ferrell. “We look forward to working with them, as well as other professional responders during future PrepareAthon! exercises.”