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Pagers Alert Deaf of Okla. Storms

July 2, 2001

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A pager system that relays storm warnings from the National Weather Service has been set up for Oklahoma’s largest concentration of deaf residents, officials announced Monday.

Albert Ashwood, the state’s top emergency official, said the program is believed to be the only one in the country that directly relays the alerts through pagers to people with hearing problems.

The pilot program was set up for 50 people in Sulphur, home of the Oklahoma School for the Deaf. It may expand statewide.

Vincent Wood, a deaf researcher at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, got the idea of using pagers to warn the deaf after tornadoes hit the state in May 1999, killing 44 people.

Wood conducted a nine-month survey and found 81 percent of deaf and hard-of-hearing people have experienced fear about being unprepared for weather emergencies.

After all, he said, the deaf can’t hear alerts on radio or television, nor can they hear sirens or noise from coming storms.

``This pilot program is a giant first step in getting the critical weather information to everybody,″ Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin said.

A pager system is already in place to alert government officials of potential weather disasters. Weather Affirmation, an Oklahoma company, supplied the software for the new project, and pagers are supplied by those using the service.

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