Bretagne: The Last Known Living Search and Rescue Dog Who Worked at Ground Zero

20 09 2015

As members of Texas Task Force 1, Bretagne and her mom/handler Denise Corliss had an intense first deployment They joined nearly 100 other search and rescue dogs to find and save people trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Center after 9/11. They’ve had an unshakable bond ever since.

After hearing Bretagne’s story and learning that her 16th birthday was coming up, there was no question in our minds that she deserved a Dog’s Best Day for the ages.

To celebrate her birthday and thank her for her incredible service, we were honored to team up with the dog-lovers at 1 Hotels to bring this New York City hero and her mom back to the city for the ultimate Dog’s Best Day.

 





Never Forget – 9/11/2001

11 09 2015

World Trade Center Memorial Night_Reuters





The Value of Travelers’ Information Radio Stations

9 01 2013

Travelers’ Information Stations are operated by governmental entities for the purpose of broadcasting information by low-wattage AM radio to the traveling public.  Fort Bend County operates 1670 AM, and other jurisdictions in Fort Bend County also operate such stations (Missouri City, Stafford, Sugar Land); sometimes referred to simply as “TIS.”  Agencies operating a TIS must be licensed, operate in the AM Broadcast Band; are limited to a 10 watt transmitter output tower; and may not transmit commercial information.

Fort Bend County belongs to the American Association of Information Radio Operators (AAIRO).  AAIRO is comprised of 346 members, consisting of government agencies and associated individuals in the public safety community in the United States.  For several years, AAIRO has advocated for changes in the regulations governing TIS;  the organization is requesting specific changes to FCC regulations so that such stations are authorized to broadcast critical weather and safety information to the traveling public in advance of, during, and following disasters and emergencies.  By doing so, TIS can assist in mitigating the loss of life and property.

It is hoped that the FCC will take into account the experiences of coastal communities in New Jersey that experienced severe weather during the landfall of Hurricane Sandy last year.  As you will see below, these AM radio stations became the primary source of information for citizens during and after the storm due to the failures of other means of communication.  As reported in The Source newsletter, October 2012, here is the story of what occurred in Manasquan, New Jersey:

Withstanding Sandy

Hurricane Sandy slammed ashore south of this New Jersey coastal community on October 29. Ninety MPH winds pushed a wall of water into flood-prone Manasquan, causing massive flooding. Emergency Manager Chris Tucker tapped his Information Radio Station on AM 1620 to be the solitary source to keep residents apprised, with the anticipation that “data and internet connections might be compromised.” They were. Additionally, his station’s antenna system encountered enormous winds and was engulfed by 3 feet of storm surge. It kept working. The station’s battery backup – occasionally charged via generator – powered the station continuously through the storm.

Manasquan operates an Alert AM Information Radio Station with a hurricane wind rated antenna system, designed to withstand gusts of up to 150mph. Several flashing alert signs are positioned on local roads to alert motorists.
Manasquan001
Eighty miles downshore near Sandy’s landfall, Police Chief Robert Matteucci of North Wildwood, NJ, utilized his 1640 signal to protect life and property. The signal remained on the air throughout the storm. The broadcast
, which was simulcast to the Internet, advised residents how to find assistance and provided emergency numbers for electric and gas companies. The internet stream was monitored by more than 1000 people in nine states, some as far away as California. Internet listeners to North Wildwood’s stream logged more than 14,400 minutes the day Sandy made landfall.
Manasquan002
Manasquan’s and North Wildwood’s Information Radio Stations comprise but 2 of more than 40 stations installed in NJ in the past 10 years to protect citizens’ lives/property in a disaster.

At North Plainfield, NJ, operator Rich Phoenix comments, “Only radio stations and battery or crank-powered receivers will survive [during a disaster]. Local information is king; and the TIS stations are top of the heap.”

AAIRO’s Petition Docket 09-19 for rulemaking as been under consideration by the FCC for a very long time with no action being taken by the FCC.  Many communities across the nation, including many along the coast in New Jersey, have written letters to the FCC supporting the AAIRO position.  Now is the time, that the FCC revise TIS content rules to specifically state that weather forecasts (e.g. NOAA radio rebroadcasts), warnings, and emergency preparedness information can be broadcast at any time— before, during, and after a disaster—as a means of mitigating loss of life and damage to property.





TAMU System gets $285.6M contract for center to combat terrorism

22 06 2012

From the Texas Government Insider, published Friday, June 22, 2012:

An economic impact of more than $1.3 billion in Texas is expected from the announcement that the Texas A&M University System has been awarded a $285.6 million contract to develop a center whose goal will be to enhance the United States’ ability to counter biological and pandemic threats. The Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing will represent one of the largest research grants to come to Texas since NASA, said TAMU System Chancellor John Sharp.

Of the total contract, $176 million will come from the federal government, with the remainder from academic and commercial partners and the state. The facility is expected to be operational by December 2015.

Sharp said the center will allow the United States to counter biological and pandemic threats with vaccines manufactured in this country. He said <!– –>the need for this capability was identified following a comprehensive review of federal public health emergency medical countermeasures called for by President Barack Obama in his 2010 State of the Union address. The Department of Health and Human Services issued a request for proposals on March 30, 2011 and TAMU was among the applicants. The contract was awarded following a year-long competitive nationwide process.

“The Texas A&M System is the prime contractor for a team of world-class academic, commercial and non-profit institutions. This highly integrated R&D team will utilize state-of-the-art processes for development and testing of new vaccines and therapies,” said Sharp in a written statement.

Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives Brett Giroir noted that securing the project would mean “hundreds of millions of dollars in up front federal investment, and a 25-year potential commitment.”The center will be located on a site of nearly 150 acres owned by the city of Bryan. Upwards of 1,000 jobs are expected to be created by the addition of the center.





Fort Bend County Regional SWAT Obtains New Vehicle

5 02 2012

The following item is an article that was published online by yoursugarlandnews.com on February 2, 2012.  It provides good information about an effort over the last two years to build a Fort Bend County team of law enforcement officers capable of responding to high-risk situations.  It is important to note that the “Fort Bend County team” is a multi-agency collaborative effort involving the cities of Missouri City, Rosenberg, Stafford, Sugar Land and the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.  Danny Jan, Captain in the Sheriff’s Office, has been integral part in facilitating meetings and getting all the agencies to come together to form the team.  The Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management has played a key role in the development of the grant applications required to fund the team’s formation.  By using Urban Area Securities Initiative (UASI) monies, the Fort Bend County Regional SWAT effort is able to be deployed anywhere in the five-county Houston Urban Area should a need arise.  The article below provides more information about the team and the new vehicle it has just recently received:

Leaders of the Fort Bend Regional SWAT Team are shown with the team's new Bearcat. They include, from the left, Capt. Scott Soland, Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office and West Division Commander; Sgt. Wayne Coleman, Sugar Land Police Department, East Division; Sgt. Kurt Maxheimer, Missouri City Police Department, East Division; Sgt. Brian Baker, Rosenberg Police Department, West Division; Sgt. Patrick Herman, Stafford Police Department; Capt. James Davis, Sugar Land Police Department and East Division Commander; and Sgt. Reggie Powell, Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office, West Division.

Fort Bend County’s new tactical, armored response and rescue vehicle is expected to enhance the safety of SWAT officers throughout the region.

Known simply as the Bearcat, the newly realigned Fort Bend Regional SWAT Team will utilize the vehicle for deployments throughout the county. The Bearcat, which carries up to 10 people, can traverse a variety of terrain. The vehicle has been utilized by police for barricaded situations, high-risk warrants, active shooters, dignitary transport and more. The Bearcat has proven itself in the field as an invaluable resource in high-risk situations, most recently in Tyler, Texas, where a SWAT team last year approached a kidnapping and murder suspect who was armed with an AK-47 assault rifle.

Excerpts from a PoliceOne.com article follow:

The officers were investigating the house of Howard Granger, a suspect in the murder of Benjamin Gill Clements – the son of a former Texas governor. The suspect fired 35 rounds at the Bearcat before a sniper brought him down.  “It allowed officers to approach the residence safely and protected them under heavy fire from a very high-powered rifle,” said Tyler PD SWAT Commander Rusty Jacks, noting the vehicle saved lives and prevented injury to SWAT officers.

Fort Bend County purchased its Bearcat with an Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grant provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Homeland Security Grant Program.  According to FEMA, the UASI Program provides funding to address the unique planning, organization, equipment, training and exercise needs of high-threat, high-density urban areas and assists them in building an enhanced and sustainable capacity to prevent, protect against, respond to and recover from acts of terrorism. Per the 9/11 Act, states are required to ensure that at least 25 percent of UASI appropriated funds are dedicated towards law enforcement terrorism prevention activities.

The Fort Bend Regional SWAT team is comprised of an east division staffed by the Missouri City, Sugar Land and Stafford Police Departments and a west division comprised of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office and the Rosenberg Police Department.  The effort through the five agencies here is also a component of a higher security push in the Greater Houston area with other law enforcement agencies.

The objective of the regional team is to:  1) allow for the integration of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communications operating within a common organizational structure; 2) enable a coordinated response among various jurisdictions; and 3) establish common processes for planning and managing resources.

The acquisition of the new Bearcat is one example that illustrates a year-long effort by law enforcement agencies throughout the county to collaborate more closely on regional partnerships, especially in the area of SWAT response.





Risk of small-scale attacks by al-Qaeda and its allies is rising, officials say

1 10 2010

Article by Peter Finn, The Washington Post, September 22, 2010:

Al-Qaeda and its allies are likely to attempt small-scale, less sophisticated terrorist attacks in the United States, senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday, noting that it’s extremely difficult to detect such threats in advance.

“Unlike large-scale, coordinated, catastrophic attacks, executing smaller-scale attacks requires less planning and fewer pre-operational steps,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Accordingly, there are fewer opportunities to detect such an attack before it occurs.”

Terrorism experts have puzzled over al-Qaeda’s apparent unwillingness after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to use car bombs, improvised explosives and small arms to conduct assaults in the United States. The group appeared fixated on orchestrating another dramatic mass-casualty event, such as the simultaneous downing of several commercial airliners.

Indeed, attacks inspired by al-Qaeda in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005 involved multiple, coordinated bombings targeting mass-transit systems.

But the risk of a single-target bombing or an attack by a lone gunman has increased, officials say, with the rise of al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in the tribal areas of Pakistan, in Yemen and in Somalia, and with the emergence of radicalized Americans inspired by the ideology of violent jihad.

“The impact of the attempted attacks during the past year suggests al-Qaeda, and its affiliates and allies, will attempt to conduct smaller-scale attacks targeting the homeland but with greater frequency,” said Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, pointing to plots against the subway system in New York, the attempt to down a commercial airliner approaching Detroit and the failed car bombing in Times Square.

Leiter said in his testimony that “al-Qaeda in Pakistan is at one of its weakest points organizationally,” but he noted that “regional affiliates and allies can compensate for the potentially decreased willingness of al-Qaeda in Pakistan – the deadliest supplier of such training and guidance – to accept and train new recruits.”

Officials in the United States and Europe have expressed concern about some of their citizens and residents turning to the Taliban in Pakistan; al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; and al-Shabab, a militant group in Somalia, for inspiration and training.

“The spike in homegrown violent extremist activity during the past year is indicative of a common cause that rallies independent extremists to want to attack the homeland,” said Leiter.

“Key to this trend has been the development of a U.S.-specific narrative that motivates individuals to violence. This narrative – a blend of al-Qaeda inspiration, perceived victimization and glorification of past plotting – has become increasingly accessible through the Internet, and English-language Web sites are tailored to address the unique concerns of U.S.-based extremists.”

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said it is troubling, and a challenge for investigators, that homegrown extremists have increasingly diverse backgrounds.

“During the past year, the threat from radicalization has evolved,” he said. “A number of disruptions occurred involving extremists from a diverse set of backgrounds, geographic locations, life experiences and motivating factors that propelled them along their separate radicalization pathways.

“Beyond the sheer number of disruptions and arrests that have come to light, homegrown extremists are increasingly more savvy, harder to detect and able to connect with other extremists overseas.”





Terrorism: Understanding More about Threat Awareness and Detection

30 12 2009

The recent act of terrorism attempted on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 provides another reminder that all citizens need to be aware of their surroundings and be vigilant for activities and behaviors that do not appear normal.  This is true when one goes flying, but it is also true as we move around our County on a daily basis.  Unfortunately, it appears that acts of terrorism are here to stay and all of us need to be concerned and ready to react.

Experts in homeland security and protection of critical infrastructure are very much concerned about the safety of “soft targets.”  What is a “soft target?”  In general, a hard target would be a military installation or a chemical plant which is a well defended installation.  On the other hand, a soft target is one that is most likely an undefended civilian location which could easily be attacked by terrorists.  Shopping malls, like Katy Mills or First Colony, could be a soft target for terrorists.  A football stadium, be it Reliant or Mercer, is a soft target.  Even a Little League baseball field full of kids and families on a Saturday afternoon is defined as a soft target.

So what is a citizen to do?  Experts from the Emergency Management and Response Information Sharing and Analysis Center (EMR-ISAC) recommend that all citizens 1) Recognize the threat from suspicious behavior or activities; 2) Report the threat to appropriate personnel; and 3) React to the threat by knowing what to do.

The Soft Target Awareness: Threat Awareness and Detection for Retail and Shopping Center Staff training video was developed by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Bombing Prevention and Commercial Facilities Sector to provide information for retail staff to understand how to identify and report unusual activities and threats in a timely manner.  This training tool uses case studies and best practices to explain suspicious behavior and items, how to reduce vulnerability of an active shooter threat to a soft target, and the appropriate actions to take if employees notice suspicious activities.  Though the video is directed toward retail staff, the information provided in the video is good information for all citizens.

The link below takes you to a self-initiating video, requiring Adobe Acrobat software.  It is self-paced and can be played for individual use or any size group.  The video is 23 minutes in length.  If you would like somebody from the Office of Emergency Management to make a presentation on this topic to a group or organization you belong to, please just respond to this blog posting and let me know.  We will get something scheduled for you.

Link:   https://connect.hsin.gov/p21849699/