Alachua County unveils text alert system for deaf and blind residents

Alachua County's new AHAS system sends out emergency alerts for people who are deaf or blind.

Text alerts and social media has made it easier than ever for most of us to learn about emergencies, but it's not been so easy for people who are deaf or blind.

That's why Alachua County has started a new service called the Accessible Hazard Alert System, also known as AHAS.

"Folks that have a hearing difficulty or visually impaired, they need to know if bad weather or a tornado is approaching Alachua County, just like anyone else would," said Jeff Bielling of Alachua County Emergency Management.

During the next emergency, AHAS subscribers will receive video alerts that include voice, text and American Sign Language.

Bielling says the alerts are usually generated within four to five minutes.

Stephen Hardy is an ASL professor at the University of Florida and a member of the deaf community.

"I do feel like it helps us feel more connected to the community because we now have access, and before wed didn't," Hardy said. "People would stay home and their homes would be flooded or a tree would fall on their roof and many people weren't aware of what was happening, and now with this service they know what to do."

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