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Free tool helps remove barriers to communication in emergencies

What would you do if you were in an emergency situation trying to help someone who did not speak a shared language? What if your neighborhood was being evacuated door-to-door, but an elderly neighbor living alone had a hearing disability?

In moments like these, it is important to have a tool that can help you or others working in an emergency setting communicate quickly and effectively.

Show Me for Emergencies is a free mobile application developed by the Northampton-based business, CommunicateHealth, for Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Office of Preparedness and Emergency Management (OPEM). The app is designed to assist first responders, emergency staff, volunteers, and individuals working in emergency shelter settings, dispensing sites, and evacuation and shelter in place scenarios communicate with people with cognitive disabilities, people who are deaf or hard of hearing, those limited English proficiency, and anyone else who may have difficulty communicating verbally during an emergency.

Jessica C., a reviewer in the Google Play Store, also recommends this app for neighborhood responders. “[It’s] a great app to have,” she says, “especially if you participate in any neighborhood emergency prep work.” She calls the app “convenient and easy to use.”

CommunicateHealth worked to develop and test the app with those who would be using it, developing universally understood icons to represent vital emergency information.

The OPEM website further explains: “Within each scenario there are options to communicate information such as an individual’s preferred language, the type of emergency that’s happening, personal and medical needs, animated instructions for actions like boiling water or gathering items, along with a multitude of other concepts.”

The app can be downloaded to smartphones, tablets, and other devices running android via the Google Play Store or iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches through the App Store.

A printable “Show Me” booklet with simplified content is available free to Massachusetts residents and can be downloaded at www.mass.gov/dph/showme. You may also call 617-279-2240x326 to request a hard copy.