October 17, 2008  

Passenger Vessel Emergency Alarms Advisory Committee

Passenger Vessel Emergency Alarms Advisory Committee


 The Passenger Vessel Emergency Alarms Advisory Committee presented its report on accessible vessel alarms systems at a meeting of the Board in September. The Board organized this committee last year to prepare recommendations on how new guidelines the Board is developing for passenger vessels should address emergency alarm systems for passengers with hearing loss. The committee’s membership included representatives from disability organizations, the vessel and cruise ship industry and trade groups, and the National Fire Protection Association, among others.

In the course of its work, the committee reviewed current emergency notification and safety practices, protocols, and standards adopted by the U.S. Coast Guard, international authorities, and other countries. Representatives of the U.S. Coast Guard and industry representatives provided information for the committee’s use on standard procedures for notifying passengers of emergencies aboard various types of vessels, including cruise ships, ferries, excursion vessels, and gaming boats. Disability organizations presented information on the population of people with hearing impairments and common methods and technologies for providing communication access.

The committee’s report outlines consensus recommendations on providing access to vessel alarm systems in public use areas and to those located in passenger cabins. Based on its review of available signaling technologies, the committee recommends the incorporation of visual appliances so that audible alarm systems are equally accessible to passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing. Recommendations also address hazards flashing signals can pose to individuals with photosensitive epilepsy. In addition to alarms systems, the committee’s report covers how access to safety briefings and evacuation instructions can be provided for passengers who are hard of hearing through available communication technologies, such as assistive listening systems. The committee identified areas where further research is needed and recommended that the Board coordinate it work on this issue with other authorities in the U.S. and abroad, such as the International Maritime Organization, the International Organization for Standardization, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Board will address access to emergency alarm systems according to the committee’s recommendations in guidelines it is preparing for passenger vessels. These guidelines will be made available for public comment. Information on the work of the committee, including its report, is available on the committee's homepage. For further information, contact Paul Beatty at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., (202) 272-0012 (v), or (202) 272-0082 (TTY).