Skip to content

When disaster strikes, will you be prepared? A Gallaudet student makes sure you are!

February 3, 2014


If a national disaster strikes, people who are deaf or hard of hearing may not have access to potentially life-saving information.

Fortunately, that may change soon, thanks to Richard Spiecker of Rochester, N.Y., a senior majoring in business administration with a focus on human resources and marketing. Spiecker, a marketing intern for NPR, is helping the non-profit, multimedia organization test a system to deliver emergency alerts to deaf or hard of hearing people living in the Gulf Coast states through local public radio stations and the Public Radio Satellite System (PRSS®).

This is the first effort to deliver real-time accessibility-targeted emergency messages via radio broadcast texts. For example, during natural disasters like hurricanes, hearing people frequently have access to battery-powered radios to receive emergency information, Richard explained.

NPR, which provides radio programming to 27 million listeners each week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) hope to keep deaf and hard of hearing people informed of emergencies in the event of a power outage through a prototype battery-operated device named the Nipper One.  The receiver, which updates users 24 hours a day about flash floods, hurricanes, and other major crises, picks up emergency messages transmitted by public radio stations, then alerts users by triggering warning devices such as bed shakers or strobe lights. It is also capable of sending alerts to an Android tablet for display.

Spiecker did marketing research in the Gulf Coast states (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas) to identify deaf and hard of hearing volunteers to test the Nipper One, and to instruct them in how to use it. As a result, NPR is sending Nipper Ones to nearly 500 volunteers. In addition, NPR, DHS, and FEMA identified 26 radio stations in the region to participate in the alerting demonstration.    

“The volunteers will provide feedback to NPR on the alerting system, and the data will be shared with DHS and FEMA, who will decide if the system should be rolled out nationwide,” Spiecker said.  

Another task Spiecker was assigned during his internship at NPR was to work on developing frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the emergency alerting demonstration in a simple to read, easy to understand format accessible to everyone, including those for whom English is a second language. He hopes to develop a video version of the FAQs in American Sign Language.  

“I learned how to apply the wealth of information learned in class during my NPR internship,” Spiecker said. For example, he used lessons taught in the Gallaudet Business Department’s  “Introduction to Marketing” course to make suggestions on how NPR can improve its marketing strategies.  He also critiqued the NPR Distribution Division’s websites and social media platforms.

Spiecker, who learned about the internship through Gallaudet’s Career Center, said “I wish I had started my internship earlier, because the experience helped me to narrow my interests.” His goal after graduating this May is to enter the marketing and finance field as a financial analyst. “The [internship] experience helped me grow as a person, since [radio] was a new setting, a new environment, with new people, new approaches, and new concepts,”  said Spiecker.  “It is hard to find an internship that is fun, stimulating, and friendly-NPR fits them all.  This internship also taught me how to be a professional where I can bring my skills to the table, and network with others.”

3 February 2014


Recent Posts

Roberto E. Wirth, E-’74 & H-’09, passed away on June 5 in Rome, Italy. Mr. Wirth was owner and managing director of the Hotel Hassler in Rome, one of the most prestigious family-owned hotels in the world, and owned several other hotels and resorts throughout Italy. He was a strong advocate for deaf people in...

Alumnus Timel Benton has signed a contract with the Bay Area Panthers of the Indoor Football League (IFL). Benton, who graduated last month, is the first Gallaudet Bison to sign a professional football contract since Tony Tatum signed on with the Utah Blaze in the now-disbanded Arena Football League (AFL) in May 2013. Benton was...

James Caverly, ’11, who plays Theo Dimas in Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building, will play Professor Harold Hill in the Olney Theatre Center’s summer production of Meredith Willson’s Tony-winning musical The Music Man, which opens tonight and runs through July 23. The show’s official opening is on Thursday, June 23. Sandra Mae Frank, ’13,...

About the Author

Gallaudet University

Published Articles: 849

Recent Posts
Deaf hotelier Roberto Wirth passes away
Alumnus Timel Benton to play professional football
Alumni, faculty featured in The Music Man at Olney Theatre Center
Related Categories
Media Inquiries

For any other media inquiry, please contact:

No media contact found!

Stay up to date on all the Gallaudet happenings, both stories and initiatives we are doing with our Signing community!​

Admissions Requirements

Hearing Undergraduate