Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn was among those Friday celebrating the installation at Torrance Beach of the world’s only emergency warning system designed for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals.
“Our beaches belong to everyone and they have to be safe and accessible for everyone,” Hahn said. “So much of our emergency technology ignores the needs of our deaf and hard-of-hearing residents. This simple update to our evacuation alert system could not only save lives — it sends a powerful message to the deaf community that the county is working to serve them and cares about inclusion.”
Hahn was joined by members of Los Angeles County’s deaf and hard-of-hearing communities to commemorate the activation of the Beach Emergency Evacuation Lights System, or BEELS. The concept was originally conceived by Department of Beaches and Harbors Safety Officer Randy Dean and developed with input from the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness.
“GLAD is honored to collaborate on this exciting and long overdue project to improve communication access for our deaf and hard of hearing beachgoers,” said GLAD Director of Human Services Renee Thomas. “We have never had this access until BEELS, and we are thrilled to see this happening.”
BEELS is the first beach evacuation warning system worldwide to incorporate flashing lights specifically designed to alert people who are deaf or hard of hearing to an evacuation, according to county officials.
In addition to flashing lights for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, BEELS features announcements in English and Spanish that indicate the type of emergency and whether it is a water-only or full beach evacuation. The audio portion includes a siren to warn people who may not understand either language.
Lights and speakers are mounted on two lifeguard towers, the permanent lifeguard and restroom building, and the restroom building on the north end of Torrance Beach. During tests, the lights could be seen from more than a quarter of a mile away, and the audio measures 109 decibels at the water in front of the lifeguard building.
“BEELS is another example of how when we expand access with one group in mind, we end up providing a benefit for all,” DBH Director Gary Jones said. “It also shows how one person — in this case, our own Randy Dean — can make a difference and accomplish something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.”
Once the project has been fully piloted at Torrance Beach, DBH officials said they plan to expand the system to other beaches along the Los Angeles County coast.
For more information, visit beaches.lacounty.gov/BEELS.