City of Simonton Holds Emergency Operations Exercise

11 05 2011

 Emergency preparedness is not simply a responsibility for large cities or Texas counties.  All jurisdictions, not matter what the size need to prepare for emergencies that happen locally.  In Fort Bend County, one only needs to look at the efforts of the City of Simonton’s Emergency Management Coordinator over the last seven years. Under the leadership of Lou Boudreaux, Simonton, a community of only 814, has undertaken preparedness activities which many larger communities have not completed.

Simonton understands the threats to the community, primarily flooding issues given its proximity to the Brazos River.  As the article notes, many of its elected officials and its citizens have completed various training designed to make the community safer in times of disaster.  Working in collaboration with Miles Tollison, Senior Planning Coordinator from the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management (FBC OEM), the City is developing Emergency Management Guidelines describing how the jurisdiction wants to meet its emergency management responsibilities.  

Doug Barnes, FBC OEM’s GIS Planning Coordinator, has worked with the Boudreaux to develop a set of maps which can be used by local officials and trained citizens to map damage that may occur following a disaster, like a hurricane.  Other preparedness efforts that the City has completed include developing memorandums of understanding with the neighboring City of Weston Lakes and Fort Bend County; procuring equipment to outfit a small Emergency Operations Center; working to identify necessary hazard mitigation efforts designed to prevent future damage; and, as noted below, procuring the necessary equipment to pump water from areas that might flood during an emergency.

As reported by FortBendNow staff on Monday, May 9, 2011, please read the article below which will tell you more about the substantial preparedness efforts being made by this small community located in Fort Bend County.

With hurricane season looming and bad weather always a threat, the City of Simonton recently held a preparedness exercise to ensure the community was prepared to handle a flood event.

The exercise, which lasted several hours, involved training 15 community volunteers to effectively and efficiently pick up, deliver, deploy, operate, take down and return the city’s trailer-mounted flood pumps.

The city recently agreed to coordinate flood pump operations with the Valley Lodge Property Owners Association, which is located wholly within the city limits. The agreement gave the association the responsibility for maintaining, staffing and operating the pumps. The effort will be led by board member Stephan Sear.

According to Simonton Emergency Management Coordinator Louis Boudreaux, the exercise showed the pumps could be removed from storage, set up on-site and operational in less than 50 minutes.

“A quick response is very important when it comes to dealing with an emergency,” said Boudreaux. “The volunteers did an excellent job in this exercise and showed a significant commitment to protect their community.”

Simonton Mayor Daniel McJunkin said the city was working with local organizations such as VLPOA to help protect the community.

“It’s not easy being a small city in Texas because the public’s expectation for emergency preparedness is high,” McJunkin said. “We have limited financial resources and no paid city staff to set up and run emergency equipment, but, what we lack in resources, we make up for with community spirit and preparedness.”

The mayor added the city had achieved an important preparedness milestone by partnering with community groups to take on important tasks.

“I am pleased with the turnout and with the outcome of the exercise. The volunteers learned about pump operations and the city has learned from the exercise as well,” he said.

Boudreaux said in addition to this exercise, the city intends to hold regular training events to prepare for other types of emergencies.

“Our primary concerns are the potential for hurricanes and river flooding. We are also preparing for how to deal with tornados, wild fires, chemical spills and other general emergencies,” Boudreaux said.

Boudreaux also praised the leadership Fort Bend County Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Braun in helping the city partner with the other communities in the area to achieve better emergency preparedness. Simonton has also developed its own emergency action plan, which was created with the help of Alderwoman Sandy Bohannon. 

Simonton City Council Members, as well as a number of local volunteers, have also completed numerous online training courses provided by FEMA covering the “National Incident Management System,” which is a standardized nationwide approach to manage emergency events. The city has also become active in Citizen’s Emergency Response Teams and the Medical Reserve Corps program.  Simonton residents interested in volunteering can contact city hall at 281-533-9809.





FEMA Considers Changes to CERT

28 09 2010

Carol McKenna recently wrote an article, “Local Programs Adapt as FEMA Considers Changes to CERT,” for Emergency Management magazine.  The article was published on September 23, 2010 and provided thoughts from Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)  Coordinators across the Country on what changes might be good for the program.  The text of that article is found below, but let me take this opportunity to tell you what has been going on in Fort Bend County related to CERT.

Shauna Evans, the County’s CERT Coordinator, reports to me that the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management has trained over 400 citizens since implementing its training program in 2007.  Seven classes have been completed this year – including one in Stafford; two in the Fulshear/Weston Lakes/Simonton area; three in Sugar Land; and one in the Andover Farms/Fresno area.

As noted in the McKenna article, making preparedness training available and relevant to teenagers needs to be an important goal of furthering CERT Program growth.  Fort Bend County OEM agrees.  In December 2009, in conjunction with Lamar Consolidated Independent School District, a Teen CERT class of 23 was graduated.  In April of 2010, Shauna awarded graduation certificates to 16 Boy Scouts from Sugar Land.  Shauna and the County Emergency Operations Center recently hosted 63 Boy Scouts and leaders for an evening of preparedness information; an overview of the EOC’s capabilities; and an introduction to what CERT is all about.

Shauna is currently planning training and events for 2011.  If you are interested in learning more about the County’s CERT Program, please respond to this blog entry or feel free to contact Shauna at 281-342-6185.

Carol McKenna Article:

As FEMA considers changes to the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program, local coordinators offer their own solutions. 

At the Red Cross Emergency Social Data Summit on Aug. 12, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate said the agency was looking at ways to use CERT to increase the level of disaster preparedness education in the United States.

Fugate said he’s looking at increasing the relevancy of CERT training for young adults and high school students. “We’re also looking at are there ways we can take the CERT training and break it down, because a lot of groups have approached us said, ‘We think this is really great, but the attention span of our audience won’t get you there,’” he said.

The agency is looking at ways of implementing disaster preparedness education into the curriculum of the nation’s schools. “[The] Red Cross and others have built tremendous tool kits for children in the public schools and private school systems to begin that process early. But it’s not very consistent across this country,” Fugate said. “And I think, in any social context of trying to change behavior across a community over the long term, we know that if you’re not talking to different groups — particularly focusing on children when they are willing and impressionable on these issues — it’s hard to come in after we’re adults and talk about this stuff.”

On the Ground

Asked about what the federal government could do to improve the program, local CERT leaders pointed to the need for increased funding to continue training programs and equip volunteers, and an updated curriculum including an advanced module for students who complete the initial training.

Carol Willis, a Teen CERT coordinator from Sacramento who participated in the summit webcast, said national preparedness curriculum standards would benefit area students. “Teen CERT is good because it reaches some of the students in the schools, but it doesn’t reach all of them, and I really think there needs to be something that every student gets,” Willis said. “They may not be responders, but hopefully they wouldn’t panic and they would know what to do. And that is all we can ask of everybody is to be aware of what to do in a disaster.”

According to a CERT website, Teen CERT is taught to teenagers in high schools and the community. It also will help school safety teams during an emergency or disaster that affects the school.

Even schools that implement Teen CERT into the curriculum can find sustaining the program challenging. “What I’m finding that happens is that the teacher that teaches it then goes to another district or goes somewhere else and nobody picks it up,” Willis said.

That’s what happened to the program at Sacramento’s Natomas High School, which graduated a class of 30 students in March 2008. “It was our old activities director — she brought in the trainer, the kids got trained, we did the assembly, they had the packs [and] she then left. She’s not even at our school any more,” said Angela Herrera, the school’s assistant principal for student services.  

Natomas High School is currently working with the district office to restart the program, Herrera said.

Also, programs supported by grants can take a hit when funding runs out. “The situation I have right now is I was contracted to [the U.S. Department of] Homeland Security when I started Teen CERT,” Willis said. “That grant money is now gone, and so I’m teaching it on a voluntary basis at this point.”

Coordinators mentioned the turnover of CERT volunteers who take the course for a variety of reasons — including being able to help themselves and their families during disasters or being able to assist first responders — and the need to fill a gap in available volunteers.

One local government would like to put a Teen CERT program in the local high schools to fill future needs for volunteers during disasters. “We have several small communities in our county, for instance, and those people are already volunteering for the fire department or EMS service or something of that nature,” said James Fair, the Sumner County, Kan., emergency manager.“That’s a way for us to be able to have each of those communities prepared and protected,” he said.

Updated Curriculum

The Carnation-Duvall Citizen Corps Council in Washington state taught a CERT class to a group of teachers who requested it. It also offers CERT members additional training, including classes in the Incident Command System, Red Cross sheltering and ham radio as well as Fire Corps training and Neighborhood Watch programs.

Council President Kathy Brasch would like to see updated textbooks and a continuing education program specific to CERT. “I know individual CERT programs have started to develop their own additional training as well, but there is not a formal program,” she said. “Also, we’d love to see the latest curriculum. I know they’ve been talking about it for a number of years, but we haven’t seen the actual new curriculum and the train-the-trainer courses come out.”

Brasch said her program’s textbooks date from about 2000.

“I know they started putting together a new curriculum about two years ago, and it’s still in the testing phase,” she said. “I’ve been told that it’s supposed to be coming out in the next couple of months. So we’re looking forward to that.”

The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has not yet developed a framework for disaster preparedness education in the nation’s K-12 schools. However, training students in disaster preparedness is an allowable expense under Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grants, said Sara Strizzi, a subject-matter expert with the DOE. The department recently announced that $28.8 million in REMS grants were awarded to 98 school districts across the country.

On Sept. 15, FEMA, the DOE and the Red Cross hosted the National Summit on Youth Preparedness to discuss development of standards for preparedness education curriculum in K-12 schools. A FEMA spokeswoman said a report on the summit’s findings would be published at a later date.





Crossing Guards Learn to Safeguard Fort Bend Neighborhoods

21 09 2009
The Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management has completed another successful CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) class.  This particular session involved a coordinated effort with the Fort Bend Independent School District (FBISD) and resulted in the graduation of nine individuals, all who serve as crossing guards for the District.  To read more, go to:  
 




Texas Citizens Corps will hold Conference in Houston

22 05 2009

The Texas Citizens Corps Conference will be held June 30-July 1 at the Omni Houston Hotel, Four Riverway, in Houston. Dr. David H. McIntyre, director, Integrative Center for Homeland Security at Texas A&M University, is the invited speaker for the first day’s luncheon. Some of the conference topics will include starting and maintaining a CERT program, using technology to recruit and maintain volunteers, neighborhood watch and fire corps. To view the draft agenda, click here. For more information and to download a registration form, go to the following link:

http://www.txregionalcouncil.org/display.php?page=cc/conferenceNotice.php&sub=cc

Fort Bend County initiated its CERT Program in 2007.  The first class of trained citizens graduated on April 10th of that year.  Since that time, the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management has sponsored ten additonal classes.  The number of FBC CERT Alumni now totals 185.   For more information about the County’s CERT Program, please contact Shauna Evans, OEM’s Volunteer Program Manager, at 281-342-6185.





Fort Bend County CERT Program

30 03 2009

Tonight is a special night.  The Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management is kicking off its 2009 training schedule with CERT classes in Meadows Place.   This eight week training course provides a perfect opportunity for citizens to learn about emergency preparedness.  With this knowledge, graduate of the course will be better able to protect his or her family during a disaster.  Equally as important, graduates of the CERT Training Program will be able to assist others in their own neighborhood.  The recovery efforts performed by Fort Bend County citizens during and after Hurricane Ike illustrate the importance of the CERT Program and its focus on neighbors helping neighbors.

For more information about CERT training opportunities, please call 281-342-6185, or go the Fort Bend County CERT website at http://www.fbcoem.org/go/doctype/1528/30168/