Meeting Minutes of September 19 and 20, 2007
Passenger Vessel Emergency Alarms Advisory Committee

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The meeting was opened by Mr. Roffee (Executive Director, Access Board). Committee members and others in attendance introduced themselves. Mr. Capozzi (Director of the Office of Technical and Information Services, Access Board) provided an overview of Access Board responsibilities, the rulemaking process, development of passenger vessel accessibility guidelines (PVAG) under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and why the Board formed the advisory committee.

Mr. Beatty (Designated Federal Official, Staff member of Access Board) led a committee review of the draft operating protocols. After making changes, the committee approved the protocols. The changes were, in the first paragraph, adding the words “designs and practices” after the words “emergency alarm systems” and changing the word systems to system. Thirdly, at the end of the second paragraph, adding the sentence “the advisory committee shall take into consideration the potential effect on other persons with disabilities, including, but not limited to, persons with epilepsy”.

Mr. Raggio (General Counsel, Access Board) reviewed the requirements of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, and Mr. Silverstein (Facilitator) introduced himself and reviewed the three tasks (shown below) the Committee is authorized to make recommendations on:

  1. Whether current emergency alarm system designs and practices on passenger vessels meet the access needs of individuals with hearing loss or deafness.
  2. Alternative designs or technologies for emergency alarm systems that meet the access needs of individuals with hearing loss or deafness.
  3. Contents of proposed accessibility guidelines for passenger vessels related to emergency alarm systems.

Mr. Beatty reviewed the portion of a committee handout which contained sections V215, V224.4, and V806.3.1, of the 2006 draft PVAG. These sections contained the draft provisions that required emergency alarm systems to comply with principles of best practice. The handout also contained an excerpt from the supplementary material provided with the 2006 draft PVAG which addressed why the draft contained principles of best practice.

Mr. Silverstein reviewed the portion of the handout which contained the proposed ADA effective communication requirements in sections 39.57, 39.85, 39.89, 39.93 from the Department of Transportation’s notice of proposed rulemaking on passenger vessels (Federal Register, January 23, 2007, pages 2833 to 2851). To provide recommendations on the three assigned tasks, Mr. Silverstein reminded the committee that they did not need to be concerned about whether their recommendations fall under the ADA jurisdiction of the Access Board (which has authority to address design, construction and alteration of fixed parts of a vessel) or under the ADA jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation and Department of Justice (whose authority includes addressing non-fixed parts and operational issues related to vessels). In conjunction with the other agencies, the Access Board will take the committee’s (future) final report and divide up the recommendations based on whose authority applies.

Following lunch, committee member Mr. Thompson made a presentation and answered questions concerning emergency alarm systems and operational practices provided on cruise ships owned by members of his association, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), subject to the International Convention of Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). Using Mr. Thompson’s presentation as a reference point, member Mr. Brockway (and public participant Mr. Lauridsen) discussed with the committee how smaller US flag cruise ships, and other US flag vessels without overnight accommodations (e.g., ferry, dinner, excursion, and gambling vessels), provide emergency notifications to passengers. Matters highlighted included:

  • Many overnight vessels (e.g., cruise ships) hold a practice general alarm drill for passengers when getting underway. Passengers are instructed that when they hear the general alarm, they automatically take certain actions, such as immediately going to a muster station.
  • In many non-overnight vessels (e.g., dinner vessels and ferries), the general alarm gets the attention of passengers but primarily communicates a message to the crew, and then passengers receive directions from crew as to what actions to take.
  • Overnight vessels have low crew to passenger ratios (e.g., 1:3), and non-overnight vessels often have higher ratios (e.g., 1:100).
  • Cruise ships are not hotels.
  • The general alarm is not sounded for every emergency, only where there is a threat to the entire ship, or if action is not taken there will be a threat to the entire ship.
  • A goal is to provide a safe and secure vacation experience for everybody.
  • Questionnaires seeking emergency accommodation information from passengers should be written to better encourage self-identification of needs before the cruise.

Mr. Richardson provided the committee with an overview of the National Fire Protection Association NFPA 72 standard. NFPA 72 contains requirements for audible and visual emergency alarms and was referenced by the 2004 draft PVAG.

At the end of the day, a period of public comment was provided. Ms. Gabry provided comment, and the meeting adjourned for the day around 5 pm.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mr. Silverstein opened the second day of the meeting. The committee was informed that the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) had appointed Ms. Schacter to be their representative on the committee because the original HLAA representative was unable to participate. The committee was reminded that the operating protocol approved by the committee allowed one committee member to represent two organizations.

Members Mr. Bakke, Ms. Schacter, and Ms. Hamlin, each made a presentation on the needs of people with hearing loss, or deafness. Matters highlighted included:

  • Different communication methods are required because people have a variety of needs and abilities.
  • Increasing volume does not help those with hearing loss in particular frequency ranges.
  • Importance of redundancy in notification systems.
  • 34,500,000 in US have hearing loss or deafness.
  • 62 percent of hearing aid users have t-coils, enabling independent access to inductive loop assistive listening systems.
  • Examples were given of portable warning devices on the market and how they operate.
  • Example of the US Department of Agriculture using, at some facilities in the Washington, DC area, 11 different types of emergency notification systems (e.g., visual alarms, computer screen message pop-ups, and pagers).

Following the lunch break, the committee decided its next meeting will be held November 28 and 29, 2007. The meeting is planned to be held at the same location as the September meeting (1331 F Street, NW, Room 1000, Washington, DC). A notice in the Federal Register will formally announce the date and location.

Mr. Silverstein led the committee in identifying the principles which may apply in developing committee recommendations. Principles discussed included:

  • Recognize safety as fundamental responsibility of the crew.
  • Recognize the responsibility to provide effective communication.
  • Differentiate between overnight and non-overnight passenger vessels.
  • Recognize heterogeneity of population.
  • Balance flexibility and certainty.
  • Recognize authority of Access Board and DOT.

Near the end of the day, the committee allowed a time for public comment. As no public attendees desired to comment, the committee adjourned.

Appendix A – List of Post-Meeting Tasks

Mr. Beatty
Explore possible vessel visits to further educate the members on the topic.
Send copies of all PowerPoint presentations to the committee members and public participants.
Provide SOLAS text on the topic.
The unedited transcript from the two day meeting will be sent to those who request it.
Mr. Richardson
Provide copies of the NFPA 72 standard.
Provide the report from the Fire Protection Research Foundation on Optimizing Fire Alarm Notification for High Risk Groups Research Project: Waking effectiveness of alarms (auditory, visual and tactile) for adults who are hard of hearing.
Mr. Thompson
Provide copy of CLIA standard on smoke alarms.
Ms. Tuck
Provide the text of the Australian Standard AS1428.2 (1992) Clause 18.2.1 (Emergency warning systems), and Clause 18.2.2 (Audible alarms), and Clause 18.2.3 (Visual alarms), in addition, Standard AS2220 (1989).
Assist in identifying other accessibility standards applicable to this topic used by other nations.
US Coast Guard
Provide a memo to the advisory committee which would summarize Coast Guard policy with respect to notification and the general alarm systems.

Appendix B - Attendees

Committee Members
Matthew Bakke Gallaudet University
Bryce Brockway Passenger Vessel Association
David S. Chapman Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers
Lise Hamlin Community Emergency Preparedness Information Network
Barbara Raimondo National Association of the Deaf
Lee Richardson National Fire Protection Association
Janice Schacter Hearing Access Program, and
Hearing Loss Association of America
Ted Thompson Cruise Lines International Association
Kathleen C. Yannias Epilepsy Foundation

Access Board
Paul Beatty Designated Federal Official, Access Board
David Capozzi Director, Office of Technical and Information Services, Access Board
James Raggio General Counsel, Access Board
Lawrence Roffee Executive Director, Access Board
Elizabeth Stewart Board Member, Access Board

Public Participants
Tiffany Bergman Holland America
LCDR Marie Byrd US Coast Guard
Jay Cardinali Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
Deborah Gabry Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Vicki Langlois Disney Cruise Lines
Peter Lauridsen Passenger Vessel Association
Lou Nash US Coast Guard
CAPT James Scheffer National Transportation Safety Board
Jan Tuck Cunard Line
Ed Welch Passenger Vessel Association