In case of a tragic disaster, earthquake or fire, Fresno State’s campus is not equipped to handle all students and faculty in the deaf community.

What about the deaf community?

In case of a tragic disaster, earthquake or fire, Fresno State’s campus is not equipped to handle all students and faculty in the deaf community.

“ I have been in several emergency situations where I have been ill-equipped to handle what was going on just because of lack of information and/or lack of access to communication,” Professor Rosemary Diaz, a communicative disorders and deaf studies teacher at Fresno State, said.

The University Police Department was supposed to have set up a pager alert system for the entire deaf faculty, which has not been done yet, Diaz said. The alert system would be designed to let the deaf faculty know of any announcements or emergencies via text, Diaz said.

During a typical earthquake or earthquake drill, there is a voice that makes an announcement through the phones in all classrooms and offices, Diaz said.  This method is great for the hearing community, but what about the deaf community?

For example, during an earthquake drill Diaz was in her office and was fortunate to have a hearing student along with her at the time. The announcement came through the phone, and the student had to fingerspell E-A-R-T-H-Q-U-A-K-E to let Diaz know what was going on.

“As an advocate and person who will work with the deaf community in the future, I believe that our school’s preparedness for the needs of the deaf community in the event of a disaster or an emergency is unprepared,” Maegan Seegers, a communicative disorders and deaf studies student, said.

If a deaf faculty member is in their office, and there was an evacuation drill or actual fire, they would have no indication of what is going on until they smelled smoke or saw actual fire, and by then it would be too late.

“I work on the second floor and there is no way I would survive a jump out of my window,” Diaz said.  “I don’t think I could even fit through my window, so that would be tragic.” To help a future situation such as an evacuation, visual flashing alerts can be installed throughout offices.

The emergency poles around campus are also ill-equipped for the deaf community. You push a button for help, and there is a voice that responds to you. How is the deaf community supposed to alert the campus police with their emergency? A simple screen and keyboard can help solve this problem, Ashlee Lynch, a community health student, said.

“It’s not fair to the deaf community when they are trying to contact the police through the emergency poles, they need some sort of screen,” Lynch said.

Fresno State’s campus has a wide variety of faculty and students.  The number-one goal for the campus besides education should be the safety of all staff and students. “Our campus fulfills the needs of many students and faculty, but it seems like they skipped over the deaf community on campus,” Seegers said.

“As a faculty member I have never received any type of training on what to do if there is an emergency, whether it is a natural disaster, or a student passing out in class,” Diaz said.


Jennifer Campos is a writer for The Collegian in the Mass Communication and Journalism 102W class.