2011 Texas Legislative Session – January 28th

28 01 2011

As I did two years ago, I will try to use this blog to keep readers updated on emergency management related bills being considered by the Texas House and the Texas Senate.  Below you will find a listing of Emergency Management related bills as of January 28, 2011:

HB 614   –  (Hopson)  Relating to allowing health care providers to provide services across state lines in catastrophic circumstances

SB 418   –   (Williams)  Relating to the carrying of concealed handguns by certain persons attending a school board meeting

SB 432   –   (Jackson)  Relating to the penalty for failure to make a timely installment payment of ad valorem taxes on property in a disaster area

For a PDF listing the above bills:  billreport 1-28-11

If you know of other bills that I may have missed, please leave me a comment and let me know!  Also, please consider subscribing to this blog to receive the legislative information directly.

Katy ISD Working To Develop Model Standards For Large Event Security

28 01 2011

As reported by InstantNewsKaty.com on Friday, January 28, 2011:

As part of its ongoing efforts to improve safety and security throughout the district, Katy ISD administrators have begun developing a safety and security plan to help establish uniform standards for large-scale events.  The district said it expects the standards developed will serve as a model for K-12 districts throughout the state and the nation as they plan for large events as well.

As part of its Readiness and Emergency Management in Schools grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the district will develop protective measures and guidelines for large-scale events, with the assistance of the National Center for Spectator Sports and Safety from The University of Southern Mississippi.According to a statement issued by the district Friday afternoon, catastrophic events and elevated terrorist activity “serve as constant reminders to administrators and Katy ISD police that sporting and entertainment venues are vulnerable to disasters that can result in significant damage to property, personal injury and loss of life.”

District administrators have defined a large-scale event to be one that includes 500 or more spectators or visitors. District facilities that routinely host large number of people include the Merrell Center, which hosts a variety of sporting and public events year-round, as well as Rhoads Stadium, the home field for all Katy ISD high school football teams.

Dr. Walter Cooper, director for research and development at the National Center for Spectator Sports and Safety; Dr. David Corderman, senior partner at Academy Leadership Associates, LLC in Fredericksburg, VA; and Dr. Stacey Hall, associate director for the National Center for Spectator Sports and Safety and assistant professor of sport management at the University of Southern Mississippi, recently visited Katy ISD and met with district leaders to discuss ways of developing a program and uniform standards to improve safety and security at the district’s numerous large-scale events. During their visit, they met with several departments including athletics, fine arts, campus administrators, and the police department to gather data to help formulate new standards.

According to Dr. Cooper, “Katy ISD is comparable to a Division I University such as Ohio State University in terms of the number of facilities, the quality of facilities, and enrollment and its safety and security programs should be reflective of that.”  The center will assist Katy ISD in several areas including training in identifying vulnerabilities and threats, improving physical protections systems, enhancing emergency response and recovery operations and building multi-agency and evacuation capabilities.

Katy ISD received $430,000 in funding by the REMS Grant administered by the U.S. Department of Education. The district applied for the grant last year and received the funds in August 2009, to improve safety and security at Katy ISD’s 52 campuses, private schools in the Katy area, and 15 support facilities, including athletic facilities.  REMS grant awards are typically based on a district’s size. Like all federal grants, REMS money must be used for projects approved specifically in the grant application.

Projects designated in the grant application must be completed by the end of March 2011, according to John Bremer, Katy ISD emergency management coordinator.

Weston Lakes Receives Three Donated Police Radios

28 01 2011

As reported in FortBendNow.com on January 26, 2011:

Weston Lakes’ emergency operations volunteers now have three new police-band radios thanks to a donation to the city from the 100 Club.  100 Club Executive Director Rick Hartley officially presented the radios to Weston Lakes City Marshal Ron Horowitz during Tuesday’s city council meeting.

Hartley said while most people identify the 100 Club with its efforts to assist the families of fallen police officers and firefighters, the organization is also dedicated to providing lifesaving equipment to emergency responders.

“We’re really honored to present these radios because it fits into what we’re all about,” Hartley told the council. “We try to be proactive in saving lives, not only assisting survivors of the fallen.”

Hartley noted the nonprofit had given some $11 million in protective and lifesaving equipment to emergency responders. The focus of the equipment donations is to agencies like Weston Lakes that have equipment needs but lack the funding to pay for those needs.

“We’re glad to do it; we know it will be well used,” Hartley said. “When Ron (Horowitz) called, it was a natural for what we do.

Hartley also took time to praise Horowitz, who also serves as Weston Lakes’ assistant emergency management coordinator.

“I’ve known the marshal for a long time; he’s a good man,” Hartley said.  Horowitz said the three radios – two portables and one base station – will be used as part of the city’s emergency operations center to provide communication during natural or man-made disasters.

Later in the council meeting, Mayor Pro-Tem Clifton Aldrich announced the city would hold an open house for its emergency operations center, which is housed in the Weston Lakes Country Club, on March 19. The public will be invited to join local elected officials and learn more about the city’s preparedness systems.

“We will have our EOC set up and have all the equipment there,” Aldrich said. “We are inviting everyone to come out, stay as long as they’d like and chat about our emergency management capabilities.”  Hours for the open house will be 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

When operational, the EOC will house three radio base stations – one for ham radio operators, a short-range radio system for local CERT teams and the newly-donated public safety radios. The center also includes cmputers, projectors and equipment to be used to coordinate operations during an emergency situation.

An emergency power generator is scheduled to be installed prior to the open house.  The equipment has been secured through grants or donations, such as the one from the 100 Club.  Aldrich also noted all emergency operations personnel are volunteers. There are currently more than 45 trained emergency volunteers in Weston Lakes.

(Photo: Weston Lakes City Marshal Ron Horowitz, left, accepts the donation of three police radios from 100 Club Executive Director Rick Hartley. The radio, two portables and a base station, will be used for the city’s emergency management operations.)

More About Personnel Cuts at Training Center

22 01 2011

From the San Angelo Standard-Times (January 21, 2011), written by Matthew Waller: 

 The state’s budget emergencies may affect its ability to handle other emergencies. Texas has opted to discontinue contract funding for an emergency management division’s services, and San Angelo may be feeling its effects, the city’s emergency management coordinator has said.

The National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center got rid of 42 employees after its contract with the state ended, the Texas Engineering Extension Service announced.  “It has been a great asset to the first responders in Texas,” Tom Green County and city of San Angelo, Emergency Management Coordinator Ron Perry said.

TEEX spokesman Brian Blake said that the NERRTC division isn’t closing but that training would become less frequent and limited to bodies with their own funding.  He said groups from New York, New Jersey and California would be seeking training, for example.  “A lot of it was exercise training where they do simulations of disaster scenarios for officials,” Blake said. “None of those programs are ending. They’re just being scaled back.”

Blake said he did not know why the state decided not to renew its contract or what state entity was in charge of the decision, but state lawmakers in the 82nd Legislature have been finding ways to reduce their budget by billions of dollars.  Perry said he had no opinion on the budgeting decision.  “We’ll have to pick up that training on our own,” Perry said.

Perry said he remembered taking a group of Concho Valley Council of Government judges and volunteer fire department workers to a training session.  After the session they learned that near College Station, where they had the training, a plant suffered an explosion, and harmful chemicals were released into the air in Bryan.  “Everybody said, ‘This was a good, useful training,'” Perry said.

Perry said people from the emergency training division came to Tom Green County and gave lessons.  He said their assistance, free of charge, would be missed.  “They are the expert experts in their fields,” Perry said.

“They came several times a year.”

Blake said the group included everyone from business managers to former military personnel.  He said the division still has 25 people.  Blake said the division began in 2003, not to be confused with a federally funded center with the identically titled National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center, which gives out training with grants through the Department of Homeland Security for different programs.

Police spokesman Lt. David Howard said he was unaware of the police receiving any training through NERRTC, and Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Lassiter said the San Angelo Fire Department may be affected indirectly.  “Since 9/11 there are so many different programs we have trouble arranging travel to take advantage of all the trainings,” Lassiter said.

Blake said the cut in the NERRTC division affected salary and hourly employees.  He said the division budgeted about $13 million, and half of that came from the state.  He said 10,069 people received training through the division.

He said TEEX has known about the discontinued contract since Dec. 31.  Tom Green County Judge Mike Brown said he has gone through NERRTC training multiple times.  “They come here more than we go there,” Brown said. “We train continuously. It’s an ongoing process through our appointed emergency management coordinator with the assistance of the Council of Governments.”

Brown said that the last time he went, he and others were reviewing a training process that was in development for other elected officials.  He said that in the past the county has gone to multiple trainings each year, although now they may have fewer training sessions as the budget falls.  “We’re going to do the best we can with what we have,” Brown said.

NERRTC Staffing Cut from 57 to 15 Employees

21 01 2011

Dozens of state employees who prepare emergency responders for catastrophic events were recently laid off due to the state’s budget shortfall.   The Texas Engineering Extension Service’s National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center (NERRTC), located in College Station on the campus of Texas A & M University, dropped from a staff of 57 to just 15.

The 42 people who lost their jobs, which represent administrative, support and management staff, will receive 60 days of severance pay.  Notice of the reduction in force was given earlier this week.  Since its inception in 1998, the center has trained more than 278,000 emergency responders and community officials for natural disasters, man-made accidents and terrorist attacks.

The Training Center was established to enhance the capabilities of emergency responders and local officials to prepare for, respond to, and recover from catastrophic events resulting from natural events, man-made accidents, or terrorist attacks. Congressionally mandated and partially funded by the U.S. Congress, NERRTC was the founding member of the National Domestic Preparedness Consortium. Since its inception, NERRTC has provided local, state, and federal jurisdictions with high-quality, hands-on, scenario-driven leadership training, exercises, technical assistance, and strategy development.

Fort Bend Sheriff’s Office Open House To Showcase Emergency Communications Center

11 01 2011

The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office is holding an open house tomorrow at 10 a.m. to showcase its new emergency communications center.  The $4 million complex will house 15 call-taker stations, 12 radio stations and a training room.

The new communications center is scheduled to go live on Wednesday.

A portion of the renovation was paid with grant funds through the Department of Homeland Security and administered by the Texas Terrorism Task Force. The funding is designed to upgrade the radio equipment. 

During the open house, other vendors and organizations that will be present include Greater Houston 911, Verint Technologies, Fisk, Turner Construction and Motorola.  The open house will be held from 10 a.m. to noon and tours of the facility will be given.

Candlelight Vigil for Deputy John Norsworthy

6 01 2011

The following was written by Jamie Mock, and published by FortBendNow.com on January 6, 2011:

The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office Peace Officers Memorial Monument was surrounded Wednesday night by somber faces reflecting flickering candlelight as hundreds gathered to honor the life of Deputy John “J.D.” Norsworthy, who died Tuesday from injuries sustained in an on-duty car accident.

Hundreds gathered Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil in honor of Deputy John J.D. Norsworthy.

Norsworthy’s family filled seats to the side of a podium where law enforcement co-workers spoke in remembrance of Norsworthy, who was described as a brother, a dedicated peace officer, a proud father and a loyal husband.

“Heaven has gotten a little bit safer with his presence,” said Sgt. Wayne Hastedt, president of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Association.

Norsworthy’s wife Melissa sat with their 16-year-old son Jacob on her right and their 13-year-old daughter Katlyn on her left. Her son comforted her throughout the ceremony, holding her hand as she cried.

“Melissa, you spent 19 years married to a loving, honorable family man,” said Captain James Pokluda “Jacob, Katlyn, your father often spoke of you with great pride.”

To Norsworthy’s father, “You raised a son who was a success in every aspect of his life. John was in every way what we all want to be. J.D. was our friend and he was our brother. We will be here for you every step of the way.”

Hastedt related a story that he said illustrated Norsworthy’s well-defined sense of humor.

A young deputy, new to the Sheriff’s Office, responded to a call involving young boys throwing frogs against a wall.

When the deputy returned from the call, Norsworthy asked, with a straight face, if the young deputy had followed protocol and called the Frog Abuse Hotline. The deputy, eager to complete his duties, asked for the number. Norsworthy complied, giving him the number of the newly promoted patrol sergeant.

John J.D. Norsworthy’s family is shown at Tuesday night’s candlelight vigil held in honor of the deputy, who died Tuesday as the result of an on-duty car accident Dec. 27. His wife Melissa is shown on the left between their two children, 16-year-old Jacob and 13-year-old Katlyn.

The deputy called the number and reported the “frog abuse” to his patrol sergeant, believing he was reporting it to the “Frog Abuse Hotline.”

“Needless to say, J.D. got the new deputy and the new patrol sergeant,” said Hastedt.

“Heaven called one of our finest home today,” he finished. “May God bless you, J.D. Until we meet again.”

Chief Deputy Craig Brady said he didn’t get to know Norsworthy very well, which was probably a good thing, because “in my position typically the guys I get to know very well are in some sort of trouble.”

“At the time he died, he was doing what he loved to do,” said Brady. “Y’all are part of our family. Anything y’all need, we are here for you.”

Sheriff Milton Wright told the family that according to the Red Cross, the blood donations made in Norsworthy’s name were the highest ever in Texas for a single cause. The previous record was 500, as of yesterday, donation in his name were still coming in, totaling more than 700.

John J.D. Norsworthy’s father, also John Norsworthy, spoke at the Wednesday night vigil in honor of his son.

Norsworthy’s brother-in-law Daryl Roth read a statement prepared by the family.

“Our hearts are so deeply broken, and our lives will never be the same,” said Roth. “John was a happy, tender, kind, courageous and honorable husband, father, son, brother,  grandson, uncle, friend…and so much more. He has always provided comfort to our family as well as plenty of fun and laughs. John truly loved being an officer and he would do it all over again – with no regrets. We will miss him dearly until we see him again in Heaven. We know this world is not our home, but this pain still hurts incredibly deep to the core.”

Norsworthy’s father, also John Norsworthy, spoke last.

“I am humbled and honored for John David, J.D., to have been my son,” said John Norsworthy.

He said his son took the best from all the generations of his family. He said he and his wife suspected when their son was between 2 and 4 years old that he would either be career military or a policeman.

“He wasn’t a great high school student, but boy he busted those academy tests,” said Norsworthy’s father. “He was top of the line.”

He said he son, explaining to him his dream to be a peace officer, told him “Dad, if I can save one child from being approached by someone dealing drugs, or if I can catch a thief, make this world a better place, it is worth it.”

“He died probably being one of the happiest guys in the world because he was on his way to maybe catch a thief,” said his father. “And no one hated a thief more than J.D.”

He went on to say that he has never seen such a showing of support and kindness as he has from the Sheriff’s Office.

“If you knew John, you were honored,” he said. “As a parent, I could not be more proud than I am this week, as I am here tonight, and as I will be when I put my son, his mother’s son, John David J.D. Norsworthy, to rest.”