Experiencing a natural disaster is terrifying for everyone. Now imagine that you are deaf or hard of hearing.

Natural disasters are traumatic enough on their own, but they present additional challenges for people with hearing loss who try to navigate countless agencies to get the services they need.

Virginia Moore is executive director of the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. She says FEMA center officials are filling that gap with telecommunications equipment such as amplified phones and automated captioning devices accessible through smartphone and iPad apps.

“When they walk into a shelter and see something like this, they’re going to be like, ‘Okay, they know I need something to help me communicate,’ and it just takes that little bit of a stress level off them,” explains Moore.

Moore was instrumental in ensuring the deaf and hard of hearing community was not forgotten during Governor Andy Beshear’s daily press briefings at the start of the pandemic.

Now, sign language is part of all of the governor’s press conferences, which has been vital for the more than 700,000 Kentuckians who are deaf or hard of hearing. Moore is also focused on educating each of us on how to step in and help.

“If someone doesn’t answer you…or if you talk to someone and that person hasn’t turned around and listened, that person has hearing loss,” she says. “Come up to them, tap them on the shoulder, and if you notice them looking at you, say, ‘Do you hear what I’m saying?’ or ask them “What is the best way to communicate with you?” Get into a rhythm. Breathe. Make sure that if you give someone instructions, they are watching you or following your instructions.”

Moore will be carrying an emergency phone specifically to help the deaf and hard of hearing community. If you know anyone who needs this line, it’s: 502-319-24-57.