Exciting Day for Fort Bend Seniors

4 03 2015

FBS logoOne of OEM’s key emergency management partners is having a special day today.  Today Fort Bend Seniors Meals on Wheels will be holding its groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new 3,600 square foot administrative building—-more about this project is described below in an article from the Fort Bend Herald that was published yesterday.  For many years, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has worked collaboratively with Fort Bend Seniors to deliver emergency preparedness materials to the clients of Fort Bend Seniors.  Fort Bend County Health and Human Services (HHS) is another key player in emergency management in our County and they also work closely with Fort Bend Seniors to help identify those individuals in our community that might need special assistance before or after a disaster.  So, today, staff here at OEM is very happy for Fort Bend Seniors and we look forward to working closely with the agency for many years to come.

Fort Bend Seniors prepares for the future

Here’s a nod to the Fort Bend Seniors Meals on Wheels, which will be holding its groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday to celebrate a major milestone in nonprofit’s history with the renovation and expansion of the Senior Center in the O’Shieles Community Center and the construction of a new 3,600 square-foot administrative building, which will be adjacent to the center.
What’s notable about this $3 million capital endeavor, is that it is a collaborative project between Fort Bend County and Fort Bend Seniors, with major funding provided by the county, Henderson-Wessendorff Foundation, George Foundation, Fred and Mabel Parks Foundation, Gulf Coast Medical Foundation and the FBS board of directors.

To date $2 million has been raised completing Phase I of the campaign, and plans are underway to raise the remaining $1 million by the end of 2016.
Since inception 40 years ago, Fort Bend Seniors Meals on Wheels has served over 3.4 million congregate and home delivered meals to older adults age 60 and over, regardless of income, in Fort Bend and Waller Counties.

Through its efforts, Fort Bend Seniors has helped seniors remain independent by enhancing their quality of life through services and resources.

This project is also an important preemptive measure for the nonprofit. Studies show that within the next 15 or so years the population of senior citizens will double and for the first time in history, people 65 years old and older will outnumber children under five years of age.

The groundbreaking will take place at 10:30 a.m. at the Bud O’Shieles Community Center at 1330 Band Rd. in Rosenberg. Other elements of capital project include: renovation of the Bud O’Shieles Community Center to provide for a library, education and activity rooms, and a care area for seniors with early signs of dementia; and a new kitchen to more efficiently deliver meals. (Published in Fort Bend Herald on Tuesday, March 3, 2015)

Failure Is Not An Option – Albert Darago

18 01 2015

The following article was written by Michael E. Ruane, and published on December 15, 2014 by The Washington Post.  Ruane is a general assignment reporter who also covers Washington institutions and historical topics.

Photo credit:  Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post

Photo credit: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post

In 1944 Battle of the Bulge, Albert Darago, then 19, took on a German tank by himself

Albert Darago had never fired a bazooka before. He was an “ack-ack” guy, a fuse-cutter on a 90mm antiaircraft gun. But on Dec. 19, 1944, the brass was looking for volunteers to go after some German tanks. And Darago said sure.

He was a 19-year-old, color-blind draftee, a native of Baltimore’s Little Italy and a musician who played piano and clarinet. He was no hero, he said.

But when Adolf Hitler launched the massive attack that began World War II’s bloody Battle of the Bulge, he had not reckoned on GIs like Darago.

Seventy years ago, Darago, now 89, crept down a long, open hill with a loaded bazooka, figuring that he was going to die. He peeked over the top of a hedge and, at a distance of a few yards, fired at a German tank, disabling it.

He then scampered back up the hill under heavy fire. “We were in open territory,” he said. “You didn’t need a sharpshooter. Anybody with a gun could have killed us.”

He received the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest award for valor, after the Medal of Honor.

Tuesday marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Bulge, so called because of the bulge that the massive surprise German attack made on the Allied lines.

It was a full-scale, last-ditch assault by the German army on Hitler’s western front, five months before the war in Europe ended.

About 19,000 Americans were killed in the wintry, month-long battle, 47,500 were wounded, and 23,000 were captured or were reported missing in action.

German captives walk past a disabled tank as they are led into captivity by U.S. troops, on Jan. 25, 1945, north of Foy, Belgium, in the final days of the Battle of the Bulge. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

German captives walk past a disabled tank as they are led into captivity by U.S. troops, on Jan. 25, 1945, north of Foy, Belgium, in the final days of the Battle of the Bulge. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

On Tuesday at noon, the Friends of the National World War II Memorial is scheduled to host a wreath-laying at the memorial on the Mall.

Also Tuesday at noon, the National Archives is scheduled to air a 90-minute documentary on the battle in its downtown Washington William G. McGowan Theater.

In addition, the Archives has on display, among other artifacts from the battle, the proud holiday message U.S. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe issued to his 101st Airborne Division troops besieged in the Belgian town of Bastogne on Christmas Eve, 1944.

Last week, “Al” Darago sat in an easy chair in his apartment in Parkeville, Md., with his medal framed on the wall above the piano, and said all he had done was help disrupt the Nazi timetable.

By December 1944, the Allies thought that Nazi Germany was near defeat. Allied armies had surged across France after the D-Day landings that June and had crossed into Germany in some places.

“We thought the war was about over,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Claude “Mick” Kicklighter, chairman of the Friends of the National World War II Memorial’s board. “We were caught by, I think, almost total surprise.”

On Dec. 16, 1944, the Germans attacked with more than 200,000 troops and hundreds of tanks along a 75-mile front through the rugged Ardennes forest in Belgium and Luxembourg.

The area, in part, was patrolled by relatively weak U.S. forces — green troops who had just arrived, and battle-weary soldiers who needed a rest, said National Archives senior curator Bruce Bustard, whose father fought in the battle.

For most of the green troops, “it was the first Christmas they’d been away from home,” said retired Brig. Gen. Creighton W. Abrams Jr., whose father commanded a tank battalion in the battle. “And there they were fighting to liberate Europe.”

As the German army overran U.S. defenses, they were met by pockets of stiff resistance, including some of which had hundreds of African American troops in the then-segregated Army.

The most famous resistance came from the 101st Airborne Division and other units in the Belgian crossroads village of Bastogne. When the Germans called on the beleaguered Americans there to surrender, their commander, McAuliffe, replied, “Nuts!”

But there were other stubborn American outposts, Bustard said, “small groups of U.S. soldiers who are delaying the German advance.”

“Maybe it’s a company,” he said. “Maybe its a squad of U.S. soldiers that held on to a crossroads for an extra 10 or 15 minutes.”

In Darago’s case, it was a guy or two with a bazooka — a shoulder-fired antitank weapon.

He had been part of his artillery gun’s loading team in the mobile 143d Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion. The gun fired a potent round that resembled a small missile, and it could be used against aircraft, tanks or troops.

American infantrymen of an armored division march on a snow-covered road southeast of Born, Belgium, on Jan. 22, 1945. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

American infantrymen of an armored division march on a snow-covered road southeast of Born, Belgium, on Jan. 22, 1945. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

On Dec. 19, 1944, his outfit was caught up in the fighting near a Belgian town called Stoumont, north of Bastogne and west of Malmedy, where German soldiers had executed American POWs two days earlier.

“We were coming into Stoumont,” Darago said. “They told us to unload the ammunition . . . and start digging foxholes, because the Germans are right down that hill and [would] be up here pretty soon.’”

As Darago dug and as the ground around was hit by enemy fire, he met a friend, Roland Seamon, then 19, from Shinniston, W.Va.

“He said, ‘Hey, Al, they’re looking for volunteers to go down this hill and knock this tank out. They’ve got a couple tanks down there. We should go down and knock them down,’ ” Darago recalled.

They approached a lieutenant and Durago asked, “What did you have in mind?” The officer explained, and Darago and Seamon volunteered.

They were given bazookas, a weapon Darago said he had never fired before. “I didn’t know the first thing about them,” he said.

The officer advised the two to fire into the tanks’ rear-engine compartment, according to a 1945 article about their deeds in the Stars and Stripes newspaper.

The bazookas were loaded, and the pair set off separately, Darago said.

There was no cover, and he headed down the hill under fire, according to his medal citation.

“I knew I was going to get it before I got down there, but God was with me,” he said.

At the bottom of the hill was a hedge. He stuck his weapon over it and spotted, not two but four German tanks backed up by infantry.

“I pulled the trigger,” he said. “And you never heard such a racket and noise when that thing hit. . . . I heard them hollering and screaming.”

He said he didn’t linger and ran back up the hill as German soldiers fired at him.

The lieutenant asked how he had done.

“I got a hit,” Darago said he responded. The officer said, “How about going down and making sure?”

With a reloaded weapon, he crept down the hill again, looked over the hedge and spotted his tank, apparently immobilized. He fired again and got another hit, and this time it caught fire.

Again, he escaped.

Seamon, who Darago said died several years ago, had similar success. Both received the Distinguished Service Cross, with its blue and red ribbon and cross and eagle medallion.

Last week, Darago,who has white hair and hearing aids, sat in the light of a reading lamp with his eyeglasses on a cord around his neck. His wife of 66 years, Dorothea, sat nearby.

“Believe it or not, I didn’t even think about it,” he said of volunteering for the task. “It was something that had to be done and we did it. . . . I never considered myself brave. . . . Somebody had to do it, and I was there.”

Community Paramedicine

8 01 2015

Below you will find a great article written by Mihir Zaveri, on December 14, 2014, in the Houston Chronicle.  As you will note in the article, the establishment of “community paramedicine” programs are an effort by some of our local counties to provide enhanced health care to citizens.    Congratulations to the Montgomery County Health District for putting together the described program as a new way for meeting the needs of their citizens. Fort Bend County is also moving into this area, and Fort Bend County citizens will be hearing more about the program as it grows.

Fort Bend County’s Community Paramedic Program is designed to give hope, support, and guidance to the citizens of Fort Bend County by providing in-home assessments, education, and health care system navigation.  For more information about the effort in Fort Bend County, feel free to email Mary.Fuglaar@fortbendcountytx.gov; or call 281-633-7086


Brett Coomer/Staff/Houston Chronicle

Brett Coomer/Staff/Houston Chronicle


Paramedics’ house calls highlight of new health care approach

William Jones sat on a brown sofa in his small, cluttered living room, as a paramedic rolled up his jean leg and pulled down his sock, revealing a limb swollen with fluid.

The 77-year-old’s faulty kidneys concerned paramedic Nivea Wheat.

“We might need to get you in to your doctor,” Wheat told Jones.

Several feet away, Morgan Clark, another paramedic, sat at a wooden kitchen table, methodically sorting some 10 different types of medication for Jones’ heart problems, kidney disease, diabetes and other health problems into a color-coded pill box.

It’s an unusual role for paramedics who are used to seeing a patient for 15 minutes in the back of an ambulance. For about two months now, Wheat and Clark have visited Jones’ house every week, checking his blood sugar, taking his blood pressure readings, setting up appointments with his doctor and helping Jones find a home health nurse.

These relationships are becoming increasingly common as health care organizations push to reduce reliance on the costly emergency response system.

Wheat and Clark are part of a new six-member group in the Montgomery County Hospital District, an adaptable team of paramedics that helps patients who repeatedly find themselves in the emergency room navigate a dauntingly complex health care system and identify more proactive approaches to their health.

They’re calling the program “community paramedicine.”

“Obviously for much of the population, 911 is a great service. For the heart attacks, the strokes, the trauma, it’s a great system, and we do that very well here at MCHD,” said Andrew Karrer, who is running the district’s community paramedicine program. “But for a lot of individuals, that’s not necessarily what they need. They need other options.”

‘Back and forth’

While still new and untested in many areas of the country, emergency response providers are increasingly creating similar programs. Harris County Emergency Corps, an emergency response provider for north Harris County, started a community paramedicine program in the summer, which it calls “mobile integrated health care.”

A few months ago, Fort Bend County announced a similar program.

Matt Zavadsky, a spokesman for MedStar in Fort Worth, one of the earliest adopters of the community paramedicine program that consults with others throughout the country, said according to his organization’s research, there are about 230 different community paramedicine programs in the country. When Fort Worth started its program in 2009, there were only three, he said.

“People are seeing that these programs can have a really big impact,” said Richard Bradley, chief of the EMS and disaster medicine division at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Partly driving the proliferation is a desire to improve patient outcomes. Patients in these programs receive more intimate instruction and care, rather than being treated by multiple doctors in an ER.

But Zavadsky said a bigger impetus is likely the passage of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which penalizes hospitals for readmissions and creates a financial incentive for proactive programs like community paramedicine.

A goal for the MCHD is to reduce 911 calls from frequent users, Karrer said.

While he said that in its first year, almost two-thirds of the patients who worked with community paramedics reduced their 911 usage, there’s not enough data to say whether the program is working.

“We just want to see we’re moving in the right direction for these individuals,” he said.

That goal has meant paramedics playing a variety of new and unique roles – from health care adviser to social worker to therapist – for a segment of the population that has been “falling through those cracks” in the health care system, he said.

Some patients they visit have only an elementary school education and can’t understand the pages of verbose medical instructions they receive after being discharged from the hospital. Some are uninsured and don’t have primary-care physicians. Some have severe anxiety or other behavioral health problems.

They all see 911 as their only option to access the care they need, Karrer and his team said.

Jones would repeatedly end up in the emergency room after fainting due to low blood sugar because he didn’t take his insulin shots or medication properly. “I’ve been back and forth in the hospital forever,” Jones said.

Managing 42 patients

To pinpoint whom to contact, Karrer looks at who has called 911 between 10 and 35 times in the past six months. Then paramedics contact those individuals and ask if they’d like help, an offer they’ve found has been overwhelmingly appreciated.

“The single most common thing people tell me is, ‘I’ve never had someone explain this in common terms before,’ ” said Cathy Kraus, the case manager for the program.

So far, paramedics in Montgomery County are managing 42 patients, up from 26 last year when the program started. After hiring four paramedics this October, the goal is to reach 120 patients and 145 the year after that, Karrer said.

That number pales in comparison to the need in the county. Based on the 911 data he looks at, Karrer estimates there are likely thousands of people overusing the system.

At Jones’ house, when Clark swings open the door of the fridge, it’s filled with gallon jugs of milk, regular and chocolate, orange juice and a bottle of Dr Pepper, which, upon some light interrogation, Jones coyly admits drinking from time to time.

But the beverages risk dangerously elevating Jones’ blood sugar, so Wheat volunteers to bring him some Crystal Light or another, healthier drink. With other patients, paramedics in these programs might do groceries, help them with their electric or water bills, or simply show up and provide a regular social presence in patients’ lives.

“We’re kind of doing a reboot on our thinking of what is this role of the ambulance, what is the role of the heath care providers that are on it,” said Chivas Guillotte, vice president of clinical services for the Harris County Emergency Corps.

At least for Wheat and Clark, the ultimate goal isn’t to be waiting on Jones indefinitely. Their job is to connect him with the right resources and, eventually, get him off the high-frequency 911 user list.

But for Jones, the paramedics are a mainstay in his life. There are tight embraces and kisses on the cheek when Wheat and Clark enter and leave his house.

“I hope I can stay in contact with y’all,” Jones said.

“I don’t have nothing else.”


Katy Plans to Begin Construction on New Fire Station by April

29 12 2014

Katy city officials are preparing to sell bonds to pay for a new fire station (as seen in accompanying artist’s rendering) to serve residents and businesses south of Interstate 10. Voters approved a $5 million bond proposal in November to pay for capital improvements, including a new fire station.

New Katy Fire Station

The new facility will feature three apparatus bays and an additional apparatus area, dormitory for fire and emergency medical services personnel, a kitchen, dining room and living area, a fitness and exercise room and a training tower, noted City Administrator Byron Hebert.

Construction on the city’s second fire station should begin in March or April, Hebert said. The timing is right to sell bonds as interest rates are low and the city’s credit rating was just upgraded, Hebert noted.

Competition Intense for Suburban Emergency Service Providers

24 12 2014

The following article was written by Jayme Fraser, and published by the Houston Chronicle on December 16, 2014.

FBC EMS patch

Competition Intense for Suburban Emergency Service Providers

Rapid growth and a changing health care market have increased competition among some suburban emergency service providers, driving up starting wages and challenging Fort Bend County and other communities to fill vacancies.

“We’ve had an unusual number of openings,” said Daniel Kosler, Fort Bend County’s director of emergency medical services.

Of the 76 paramedic positions budgeted for 2015, he had as many as 15 positions open at any one time. He said it drove up overtime spending, left the county unable to deploy some units and made it difficult for the remaining paramedics to use vacation time.

County commissioners on Tuesday approved a one-time exception allowing paramedic employees to exceed a cap on the number of vacation hours they carry over to the new year. One employee will start January with more than 300 vacation hours, almost twice the county’s limit.

Demand for health care workers, including paramedics, has been rising around the nation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the number of jobs for emergency medical technicians and paramedics will increase 26 percent between 2012 and 2022, more than double the rate across all industries. In the last five years, Texas has seen median wages for those positions rise 10 percent, more than the national average of 4 percent, based on federal statistics.

Although local governments have employed a third or more of EMTs and paramedics for decades, the expanding health care industry will shrink that share, the bureau predicted.

Dr. Richard Bradley questioned the federal bureau’s projections, noting that EMTs and paramedics serve different health care roles and attract different people. EMT certifications require less training, which limits what they’re authorized to do for patients. Paramedics build on EMT education to perform more advanced kinds of emergency medical care and make critical care decisions faster in high-risk environments. Bradley said few who push through the intense two-year paramedic training do so to be employed as an EMT transferring patients between hospitals rather than as a paramedic rushing to the scenes of accidents.

“The 911 jobs are what every paramedic wants to do,” said Bradley, who worked as a paramedic and firefighter before becoming a doctor and the University of Texas Health Science Center’s chief of emergency medical services and disaster medicine. “You don’t see many paramedics leaving a government job for a private sector job.”

Harris County Emergency Corps. also reported a slowdown in applications received for recent openings. Marketing Director Abbey Lee attributed the shift to changing qualifications and on-the-job expectations that have limited the number of people who complete training.

“The paramedic role is in a period of transition from vocation to profession,” she said. “Education requirements to become a licensed paramedic have changed in the last decade, making the paramedic role not as achievable as it once was.”

In part because the jobs are more demanding and often require specialized skills, government employers on average pay paramedics and EMTs more than many private-sector businesses do, according to federal labor statistics from May 2013. Average wages by employer type ranged from $9 to $26 an hour.

The Houston region’s growth could push salaries even higher, Bradley said.

“A lot of our outlying neighborhoods are growing so quickly we’re seeing an increase in the number of ambulances that have to be available to answer 911 calls,” he said.

He has heard reports from Houston EMS providers that they are losing employees to positions elsewhere that pay more and have better schedules.

Lee reported that the rise of combined Fire-EMS departments also has increased job competition.

Kosler agreed those factors contributed to Fort Bend’s slew of vacancies, as well as a handful of retirements. He expects that a job fair held Monday helped fill some open positions, but not all.

Kosler warned that retention problems likely will remain unless the commissioners court approves recommendations he plans to make in January, including pay increases to make the county more competitive with other EMS services.

“To be competitive,” he said, “you have to be in the marketplace.”

Practice makes perfect………….

17 12 2014

Pulling Trailer Out of Parking BayMVDR 1

In 2012, the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management purchased two trailers designed to deploy during times of emergency. OEM’s two Mobile Voice and Data Redundancy (MVDR) trailers will provide critical voice and data redundancy to the County EOC and other county buildings, allowing the EOC and the government operations to function in a complete data outage.

This original purchase of the MVDR trailers enhanced savings by utilizing trailers, since facilities can have connectivity without fixed satellite or cellular backup systems. This project provides data for our seat of government and our EOC simultaneously in the event of connectivity loss by either natural or man-made causes. OEM is able to consolidate equipment to two vehicles and have the same benefit of dozens of satellite dishes and service plans.

Raising the Zumro TentRaising the Zumro Tent

Purchasing the equipment was the easy part.  To ensure that the trailers are ready to use when needed, OEM staff has practiced using the trailer and learning how to get it set-up as quickly as possible when necessary.  This past week, OEM staff spent the day pulling-out one of the trailers from its bay; working through the tasks required to get the trailer ready to use; and documenting all the steps necessary to raise the antenna; remove equipment from the trailer; erect the tent enclosure; power up lights and generators; and a host of other necessary actions.

Thinking about PracticingRaising the generators

Though none of this activity is particularly fun, it is very necessary to ensure equipment that is in proper working order and is ready for action at a moment’s notice.  In the real estate business; the mantra is:  Location. Location. Location.

Moving the MVDR generatorsRolling up the matsCalculating the next move

Similarly, the mantra to keep the MVDR trailers ready to roll is:  Practice. Practice. Practice.

Meadows Place Receives Rare National Distinction

13 12 2014

The following article was posted on fortbendstar.com by Michael Sudhalter on October 31, 2014.

JPG, Logo, Meadows Place

The City of Meadows Place welcomed Deputy State Fire Marshall Jesse Williams and Insurance Services Office (ISO) Manager Phillip Bradley to their October council meeting to award a rare distinction on the City of Meadows Place and their fire department.

The ISO utilizes a statewide classification system that ranks and scores cities based on their ability to service their community for fire suppression. The ranking system takes into account the fire alarm facilities, quality of equipment (maintenance as well as their capabilities), planned water distribution methods and effectiveness. Cities are broken down in to a Public Protection Classification (PPC), which provides tiers ranked 1 to 10, with 1 being the best. Larger cities are traditionally well financed and usually are rated between 3-4. Smaller, and more rural communities tend to have higher ranking results.

Meadows Place has been award the rare honor of a PPC top ranking of 1. To put that in context, the ISO grades over 48,000 cities / communities nationwide. Of that, 80 have received the ranking of 1 nationwide. Texas leads the nation with 23 of those communities, however in Fort Bend County, only Stafford joins the City of Meadows Place with the distinction of being ranked 1.

“It takes the entire leadership of a city to achieve this distinction. This award is truly a statement to the willingness of the city to prioritize their resident’s safety,” said Deputy Fire Chief Jesse Williams.

Having a top ranked Fire Department assists in peace of mind for residents, but the ranking can also have financial implications. Most homeowner insurance rates are influenced by the specific community’s claim experience. The PPC rating also influences the rate. A report by the Texas Department of Insurance noted “The premium on a brick veneer house is 39 percent higher in an area rated 10 (worst) than one rated 1 (best).” They went on to show that the range is even greater for frame houses.

Mayor Charles Jessup was awarded the honor on behalf of the city, “Earning an ISO Class 1 rating is a great accomplishment, and one to be proud of. I applaud the efforts of all involved, for this was no easy feat. It took drive, determination and the political will to achieve, but most of all, it took the desire to be the best.”


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