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The 3 tools in the suite include:
As public health and emergency preparedness professionals, we all are aware of the critical role that effective communication plays during a disaster, and recognize that any obstacle to communicating effectively with responders and volunteers can further raise people’s levels of stress and anxiety and hinder timely and effective access to necessary services.
With that in mind, in 2011 the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management (OPEM) began work on a new tool designed to enhance communication between individuals with communication challenges and staff within a shelter setting. Show Me: A Communication Tool for Emergency Shelters was the result of those efforts. In developing the booklet, the Office’s goal was to provide a simple, hands-on tool that will reduce communications barriers between shelter staff and residents and help individuals to make their needs and concerns understood.
OPEM contracted with health communications professionals to develop the tool, and worked collaboratively with a wide range of public health professionals experienced in shelter operations as well as representatives of the populations for whom the tool was developed, including:
The booklet is intended to be used by a shelter staff member and any shelter resident that may have difficulty communicating, and has been divided into topic-themed sections identified by labeled tabs. Shelter staff members and residents alike can flip through the pages of the booklet to find images or messages to help ask questions or communicate a need.
For example, a shelter staff member can let a new resident know that he or she needs to sign in upon arrival by flipping to the ‘Arrival’ section of the book and pointing to the image representing ‘Sign In’. A shelter resident who needs a meal can tell a staff member by flipping to the ‘I Need…’ section and pointing to the image representing ‘Food’. This is an interactive tool that was created for effective two-way communication.
If users find that they need to communicate a message that is not included in the booklet, they can use dry erase markers to create a new message on one of the laminated blank pages, or modify an existing message to meet their needs. The booklet also includes a section on language assistance for users who need assistance from a spoken or sign language interpreter.
Once the booklet was completed and printed, OPEM distributed two copies to every city and town in Massachusetts: one copy to the local public health authority and the other copy to the local emergency management director. The Office also sent targeted mailings to partner agencies and organizations involved in emergency planning for at-risk populations and providing various services to the disability community.
View a copy of the tool: Show Me: A Communication Tool for Emergency Shelters (DOC)
To order a copy of the booklet or to request print files to print your own booklets, please visit the Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse.
Show Me for Emergencies, our first mobile app, piggybacked on the foundation of the Show Me booklet, and incorporated and expanded upon all of the icons and concepts from the booklet. The app includes not just shelter environments, but also emergency dispensing sites (EDS) and door-to-door outreach required for shelter-in place or evacuation directives. While a paper-based tool has certain limitations (funding for reprints of hard copies, wear and tear that renders a paper tool unusable, the possibility of being lost/misplaced, etc.), a free mobile app affords a number of benefits: the app can have widespread distribution reaching more end users across a greater geographical area; it’s not cost prohibitive to end users; it takes up no space and users can have the tool with them as long as they have their electronic device; after initial development costs, maintenance costs are relatively low; and changes/updates to the app can be incorporated relatively easily and pushed to those who already have the app downloaded to their device.
The audience for this app includes volunteer organizations and staffers, mental health workers, and various public safety personnel. Upon opening the app, users have the option either to get started immediately or walk through a brief tutorial. The app is organized by response scenario, and end users choose their scenario based on the real life incident. Upon entering a scenario, the user has four categories to choose from: Identify communication needs; Communicate the type of emergency; Use that chosen scenario’s icons; and Use more icons to help communicate. It is important to note here that the navigation of the app is logical and consistent throughout the scenarios. Once a user makes his/her way through one scenario, the screens and navigation are mirrored in all of the other scenarios.
Each screen contains a row of icons that allow the user to go back to the home screen, utilize the app’s time and calendar function, search for particular icons/concepts, view starred/favorited icons, and access a list for further options. Some screens include staff tips which act as helpful reminders to responders for how the app can aid them in their communication exchanges. One of the most exciting aspects of the app is the language translation feature. Users have the ability to select from a list of ten language translations, which when chosen, will add translated icon labels under the written English label. And much like the paper-based tool, the Show Me app is an interactive tool that was created for effective two-way communication: just as users of the booklet can use a dry erase marker to modify or create their own messages, the app incorporates a ‘write’ ability, that when selected, brings up a keyboard for custom entries to be typed.
Show Me for Emergencies is available to download from both the iTunes® and Google Play® stores.
Show Me for Emergencies: FAC (Family Assistance Center) is the final tool in the Show Me suite. It, too, is a free app that was built upon the foundation of the tools before it and incorporates and expands upon some of the previous icons and concepts. Show Me: FAC is intended to be used within the scenario of a mass casualty or mass fatality incident, and it’s thought that disaster relief and medical professionals like American Red Cross volunteers and forensic nurses would use the app to supplement the tools they employ to communicate information to and collect data from families and loved ones of victims.
Upon opening the app, users have the option either to get started immediately or walk through a brief tutorial. Once the user gets started with the app, there are five categories to choose from: Identify communication needs; Tell me who you’re looking for; What happens at the FAC; What to bring to the interview; and Use more icons to help communicate. The navigation of the Show Me: FAC app is logical and its use and basic functionalities mirror those of the Show Me for Emergencies app.
Show Me: FAC incorporates not only staff tips which act as helpful reminders to responders for how the app can aid them in their communication exchanges but also suggestions for what to say to family members and loved ones throughout particular points in the interaction. Mass casualty and mass fatality events often are accompanied by heightened emotions and uncertainty as people seek information about the missing, and the very personal and sensitive nature of the situation when combined with unfamiliar concepts can be confusing and overwhelming for some. These ‘What to Say’ clips can be found in the sections pertaining to explaining what happens at the FAC and telling people what they need to bring to an interview, and they incorporate plain language and basic, distilled concepts to help mitigate some of the apprehension. Just as Show Me for Emergencies incorporates a language translation feature, so too, does Show Me: FAC. When selected, translated icon labels appear under the written English label, and the ‘What to Say’ clips can be played out loud as translated audio clips.
Show Me for Emergencies: FAC is available to download from both the iTunes® and Google Play® stores.
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