Meet Laura Norman of TEXSAR: Texas Search and Rescue

1 04 2018

The following article was published on March 28, 2018, by VoyageHouston on its website.  Back in 2015, Fort Bend County approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Texas Search and Rescue.  Fort Bend County OEM appreciates our relationship with TEXSAR, but we appreciate our relationship with Laura Norman who, for many years, has been an integral part of the Office of Emergency Management’s volunteer program.  Laura has endless energy and it appears that she often squeezes more than 24 hours into her normal day.  Laura is a fantastic public servant.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Norman.

Laura, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
After having served in search and rescue since Hurricane Katrina, I began working with TEXSAR four years ago, along with my husband Edward. We saw a level of professionalism on the team and the dedicated servant hearts that served there. Since that time we have both deployed throughout the State in a variety of capacities. Working for TEXSAR gives us an opportunity to share our mission with our family and the community.

I started out working for TEXSAR in Incident Management and Ground Search throughout the State. For the last three years, I have headed up the TEXSAR Gulf Coast Division in the Houston/Galveston region. My responsibilities include overseeing training, deployment, and recruitment in this area. Additionally, I sit on the Board of Directors for TEXSAR and assist with developing the strategic direction for the team and in particular the Support Service Branch of TEXSAR.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?


When I first began serving as the supervisor for the Gulf Coast Division of TEXSAR, we had a handful of members and few opportunities to train and deploy locally. Fortunately, some dedicated folks stepped up and added their expertise and sweat equity to the team locally and we began to grow slowly. It was most definitely a team effort, literally.

After my first year, we noticed that our local training had a pretty high percentage of involvement and attendance which encouraged our members to recruit friends and family. We added weekly options for field training for ground search and the K9s, with the help of a very experienced member, Joe Huston coordinating the training. This encouragement allowed us to build our local capabilities and opened up more opportunities to serve.

After Hurricane Harvey, word got out that we had professionally trained responders in the Houston/Galveston region and our membership locally doubled in just a few months. We have many firefighters, law enforcement, EMS and veterans on TEXSAR and many were looking for a place to serve during and after Harvey. It has been a great experience to see so many members of the community step up and prepare themselves for the next disaster.

Our biggest challenge locally is building our reputation throughout this region. We are frequently called by the Texas Rangers to assist with cases in smaller jurisdictions and work alongside many different agencies in Central Texas frequently. In the Houston/Galveston region, we are relatively new and have been spent a great deal of time cultivating relationships and partnerships with agencies and organizations in this region.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about TEXSAR: Texas Search and Rescue – what should we know?


TEXSAR is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with divisions in North Texas, West Texas, Coastal Bend, Central Texas and the Gulf Coast.

With more than 300 members, TEXSAR deploys to all 254 counties in Texas at the request of law enforcement, emergency management, and public safety agencies. TEXSAR personnel are professionally trained to respond to wildland fire, ground search and rescue, flood and swift water rescue, Incident Management, medical response, K9 search (land and water), aerial search with both drones and aircraft, disaster response and recovery as well and advanced search planning. There is never a charge to our requesting agencies for TEXSAR services.

I am most proud of the dependability and the integrity of the team as a whole. Being able to work side by side some of the most amazing law enforcement and public safety personnel in the nation is a humbling privilege that we do not take lightly.

During Hurricane Harvey, TEXSAR deployed nearly 90 trained search and rescue personnel from Corpus Christi, Rockport, Port Aransas, Wharton, Beaumont as well Fort Bend, Harris, Montgomery and Galveston Counties. I have never been more proud of the team’s servant hearts and their professional response. Hundreds of Harvey victims became survivors as a direct result of the service of TEXSAR personnel. They inspire me.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
The quality that makes me successful is the same one that I share with my TEXSAR teammates. We are mission minded people who live our lives on purpose.

Contact Info:

Website: www.texsar.org
Phone: (512) 956-6727
Email: info@texsar.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TEXSAR/

 





CRASAR Demonstrates a New Drone Platform at Fort Bend County EOC

26 03 2018

The Office of Emergency Management hosted the Center for Robotically-Assisted Search and Rescue (CRASAR) as they demonstrated a new drone platform that OEM and the Fire Marshal’s Office is considering using. The DJI Matrice 210 is an advanced industrial-grade drone that is weather-ready and able to fly in support of Emergency Management and Fire missions.

It supports dual bottom-mount cameras with infrared-vision to help inspect burning and burnt buildings as well as assisting in search-and-rescue operations and can mount a camera on the top to assist in bridge inspections after a disaster. Officials from the Fire Marshal’s Office, Sugar Land Airport, Sugar Land OEM, Fort Bend County Drainage District, the FAA, and OEM discussed the platform and then got to see it in action.





Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves

14 02 2018

More than a decade after releasing its original report on mitigation, the National Institute of Building Sciences issued Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report. The 2017 Interim Report highlights the benefits of two mitigation strategies.

The Institute’s project team looked at the results of 23 years of federally funded mitigation grants provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and found mitigation funding can save the nation $6 in future disaster costs, for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation.

Cover of the Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim ReportIn addition, the project team looked at scenarios that focus on designing new buildings to exceed provisions of the 2015 modelbuilding codes. The 2017 Interim Report demonstrates that investing in hazard mitigation measures to exceed select requirements of the 2015 International Codes (I-Codes), the model building codes developed by the International Code Council (ICC), can save the nation $4 for every $1 spent.

The project team estimated that just implementing these two sets of mitigation strategies would prevent 600 deaths, 1 million nonfatal injuries and 4,000 cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the long term. In addition, designing new buildings to exceed the 2015 International Building Code (IBC) and International Residential Code (IRC) would result in 87,000 new, long-term jobs and an approximate 1% increase in utilization of domestically produced construction material.

Sponsors of the report include FEMA, HUD, EDA, ICC, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Access the full Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report and Supporting Documents.





City of Missouri City Searching for Emergency Management Coordinator

7 02 2018

Click to Home

The City of Missouri City, TX seeks its next Emergency Management Coordinator for the Missouri City Fire Department. Reporting to the Fire Chief, the Emergency Management Coordinator is the Subject Matter Expert for the implementation, management, and continuous improvement of the City’s Emergency Management System. He/she manages the City’s Emergency Preparedness Division while ensuring the delivery of excellent service to all internal and external customers consistent with a High-Performing Organization (HPO). Competitive candidates will have enjoyed strong internal and external relationships throughout their careers and demonstrated a proactive approach to creating mutually beneficial partnerships in the community and the fire profession.  Salary range is $80,745 – $90,434.  Deadline for applying is March 2, 2018.

Brochure:    http://www.cpshr.us/documents/ExecSearch/MissouriCity_EMC.pdf

To apply:     https://secure.cpshr.us/escandidate/CandidateApplication?ID=317

 





Is Yellow Fever Knocking At Our Door?

25 04 2017

The following article was passed along to me by David Olinger, the County’s Public Health Preparedness Coordinator.  It is an article that is written by Michaeleen Doucleff and published by Houston Public Media News 88.7

It is a good reminder that, even as we prepare for hazards that we know too well (like river flooding and hurricanes), everybody needs to be equally prepared for hazards that come from the public health realm.  Back in 2009, it was H1N1.  Then it was Ebola a couple of years later.  And then last year it was the Zika virus that still is hanging around causing problems.  As the author says—- is Yellow Fever the next infectious disease we will have to worry about in the Houston area?

 

 

 

Scientists love patterns.

It’s what makes science possible — and powerful — especially when it comes to infectious diseases.

Over the past 30 years, scientists have noticed a distinctive pattern of mosquito-borne diseases in the Western Hemisphere: Three viruses have cropped up, caused small outbreaks and then one day — poof! — they hit a city and spread like gangbusters.

All three viruses are carried by the same mosquito, called Aedes aegypti. All three have caused millions of cases in Latin America and the Caribbean. And all three have gotten a foothold in the U.S., causing small outbreaks.

Now there’s a fourth one lurking in the Brazilian rain forest, says Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health. It’s familiar. And it’s deadly: yellow fever.

In a recent commentary for the New England Journal of Medicine, Fauci and his colleague Dr. Catherine Paules explain the pattern seen across Latin America and how the historical information could help us intercept the next epidemic.

The waves of epidemics from the three other viruses started in the 1990s.

First dengue — a nasty virus that can cause hemorrhaging — re-emerged in parts of Latin America after it had been eliminated in 18 countries.

Next up came chikungunya. The virus first appeared in the Caribbean in 2013. It hopped around the islands for a few months and then finally hit the mainland of Central and South Americas, where it caused debilitating joint pain in thousands of people.

Then last year, Zika emerged as the first mosquito-borne virus that can cause birth defects. Still today, the U.S. is seeing about 30 to 40 Zika cases in pregnant women each week.

“Now all of a sudden you start to see this very interesting clustering of yellow fever cases in Brazil,” says Fauci.

The outbreak started in December and has swelled to about 600 confirmed cases and more than a thousand suspected cases, the Brazil Ministry of Health reports. Symptoms can include fever, nausea and muscle aches. In about 15 percent of cases, the disease progresses into a toxic phase, which can include jaundice, bleeding and organ failure. There have been about 200 deaths in Brazil.

“That’s a potential threat,” Fauci says.

So far, the disease is still isolated to a rural area, Fauci says. And it’s spreading only among mosquitoes that live in the forest and not in mosquitoes that thrive in cities, called Aedes aegypti.

But that scenario could change quickly, Fauci says, if Aedes aegypti picks up the virus from infected people.

“If Aedes aegypti mosquitoes start spreading yellow fever in Brazil, there’s a possibility that you might have an outbreak in very populous areas in Brazil, such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo,” Fauci says.

“Whether that’s going to happen, I don’t know. But if it does, we’re going to get a lot of travel-related cases in the U.S.,” he says, “which means physicians here have to be aware of it.”

And that’s why Fauci penned the commentary: To alert public health officials and doctors so they won’t miss cases.

“This is a wake-up call,” Fauci says. “Be careful. If someone comes in with an illness that’s compatible with the yellow fever, you might want to ask them, ‘Have you traveled to this part of Brazil?’ “

But there’s another reason to keep an eye on yellow fever in the Americas. Unlike Zika, chikungunya, and dengue, the world actually has an effective way to prepare for an outbreak. We have a vaccine that is 99 percent effective.

“That’s really an amazing asset,” says biologist Erin Mordecai, who studies infectious diseases at Stanford University.

“So this is a great example of a time that we could be proactive,” she says. “We have a good vaccine, and we need to make sure that there’s enough available in the case of a large outbreak.”

And right now, that’s a bit of a problem, Fauci says. The world’s supply of the yellow fever vaccine is low. There aren’t enough doses to protect Brazil’s population of 200 million, not to mention the rest of Latin America.

“We don’t have enough vaccine. Period,” he says. “We’re going to have to make more vaccine. And that will take time.”

In the meantime, predictions that Brazil’s outbreak would burn out quickly have turned out to be wrong. The outbreak continues to grow while health officials make deep cuts into the vaccine stockpile.





Emergency Preparation Supplies Sales Tax Holiday Scheduled for April 22-24, 2017

18 04 2017

Important information from Glenn Hegar, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts:

You can purchase certain emergency preparation supplies tax-free during the 2017 Emergency Preparation Supplies Sales Tax Holiday. There is no limit on the number of qualifying items you can purchase, and you do not need to issue an exemption certificate to claim the exemption.

This year’s holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, April 22, and ends at midnight on Monday, April 24.

These emergency preparation supplies qualify for tax exemption if purchased for a sales price:

Less than $3000
Portable generators

Less than $300
Emergency ladders
Hurricane shutters

Less than $75
Axes
Batteries, single or multipack (AAA cell, AA cell, C cell, D cell, 6 volt or 9 volt)
Can openers – nonelectric
Carbon monoxide detectors
Coolers and ice chests for food storage – nonelectric
Fire extinguishers
First aid kits
Fuel containers
Ground anchor systems and tie-down kits
Hatchets
Ice products – reusable and artificial
Light sources – portable self-powered (including battery operated)
Examples of items include: candles, flashlights and lanterns
Mobile telephone batteries and mobile telephone chargers
Radios – portable self-powered (including battery operated) – includes two-way and weather band radios
Smoke detectors
Tarps and other plastic sheeting

These supplies do not qualify for tax exemption:

Batteries for automobiles, boats and other motorized vehicles
Camping supplies
Chainsaws
Plywood
Extension ladders
Stepladders
Tents
Repair or replacement parts for emergency preparation supplies
Services performed on, or related to, emergency preparation supplies

Additional Charges Affect Purchase Price

Delivery, shipping, handling and transportation charges are part of the sales price. If the emergency preparation supply being purchased is taxable, the delivery charge is also taxable. Consider these charges when determining whether an emergency preparation supply can be purchased tax free during the holiday.

For example, you purchase a rescue ladder for $299 with a $10 delivery charge, for a total sales price of $309. Because the total sales price of the ladder is more than $300, tax is due on the $309 sales price.

For more information, contact the State Comptroller’s Office at Tax Help, or call 1-800-252-5555.





This Day in Texas Disaster History – April 16th

16 04 2017

April 16, 1947 – Ammonium Nitrate Explosion, Texas City, TX

The Texas City disaster was an industrial accident that occurred April 16, 1947, in the Port of Texas City. It generally considered the worst industrial accident in U.S. history, and one of the largest non-nuclear explosions. Originating with a mid-morning fire on board the French-registered vessel SS Grandcamp (docked in the port), its cargo of approximately 2,300 tons (approximately 2,100 metric tons) of ammonium nitrate detonated, with the initial blast and subsequent chain-reaction of further fires and explosions in other ships and nearby oil-storage facilities killing at least 581 people, including all but one member of the Texas City fire department; 27 of the 28 members of Texas City’s volunteer fire department and 3 members of the Texas City Heights Volunteer Fire Department who were on the docks near the burning ship were killed.

One firefighter, Fred Dowdy, who had not responded to the initial call, coordinated other firefighters arriving from communities up to 60 miles (100 km) away. Eventually 200 firefighters arrived, from as far away as Los Angeles. Fires resulting from the cataclysmic events were still burning a week after the disaster, and the process of body recovery took nearly a month. All four fire engines of Texas City were twisted and burned hulks.  It is said that one positive result of the Texas City disaster was widespread disaster response planning to help organize plant, local, and regional responses to emergencies.

Hundreds of lawsuits were filed as a result of the disaster.  The disaster triggered the first ever class action lawsuit against the United States government, under the then-recently enacted Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), on behalf of 8,485 victims.