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Christiaan Patterson

Tornado Caught Deaf Family Off Guard; Now Face Communication Barrier with Relief Agencies

May 29, 2013


When the tornado on May 20th struck Moore, warning was given to the public and sirens went off. But what happens when you can't hear those sirens and communication is knocked out? Andrew and Emily Pitchford, a deaf couple living in Moore, lost their house with almost no warning.

Andrew was at home before the tornado hit and his wife Emily was driving back with their two kids. Emily picked up Andrew and they left to exchange vehicles in Norman with family when they saw the tornado form. Not thinking it was anything major, they stayed in Norman until reports started to come through.

Upon arriving, the family found it difficult to communicate to first responders, even being ignored when asking for water. They tried to gather as much of their belongings as they could from the rubble and finally left to stay with friends and family.

"I just wasn't prepared, I didn't know what to do. FEMA, the Red Cross I mean where do you even go? How do you even begin to utilize those resources? All these people are walking around, I don't know what they are trying to say, are you ok are you not ok? It was just overwhelming. There was just not coordination, no cooperation so we are kinda just depending on our friends," said Andrew Pitchford.

Currently, there are no assigned interpreters to FEMA or the Red Cross in Moore. If you know of any interpreters that could help this family or the five other know deaf families affected by the tornado, please contact the Sign Language Resource Services at

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