Free Online Training about Railroad Safety for Emergency Responders

26 05 2012

CSX recently launched a free, online training program to educate emergency personnel on how to safely respond to incidents on and around railroad property and equipment. The site at www.csxsafe.com, is the first of its kind launched by a U.S. railroad for this audience.

CSXSAFE offers participants the opportunity to gain an understanding of how railroads operate, including some of the hazards of working around the rails and necessary protocols to keep responders safe. This web-based program takes
less than an hour to complete, and is intended to provide important information to public agency personnel in fire and police departments, rescue and emergency medical organizations.

“Every day, emergency workers put themselves in harm’s way to protect the public in homes, office buildings, factories, agricultural facilities and other locations, each with distinct hazards,” said Mike Lunsford, CSX director-chemical safety. “CSXSAFE is one of the ways we help these brave men and women by educating them on the unique challenges posed by railroad operations. Emergency personnel have to know a great deal about a variety of different industries and settings, and we want to make it as easy as possible for them to learn about ours.”

The educational section of the site is organized into four parts, providing basics on Safety, CSX Operations, Initial Response and Railroad Equipment. Upon completion of the training modules, participants take a quiz, print a certificate of completion and are able to browse through upcoming in-person training opportunities being offered across the CSX network.

“For those who don’t work for the railroad, our equipment can be intimidating and some safety risks may not be apparent,” said Cliff Stayton, director of Community Affairs & Safety. “This training is designed to help emergency workers make good decisions quickly and know who to call to get help.”





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.





TEEX’s Emergency Operations Training Center Trains First Responders from New York and New Jersey

4 04 2011

Many Emergency Managers in Texas have been fortunate enough to complete training at the Emergency Operations Training Center (EOTC) in College Station.  The EOTC, a Texas Engineering Extension Service facility in College Station, is a 32,000 square foot facility which uses state-of-the-art simulation and computer-based technologies to train incident managers and supervisors in the management of a large-scale crisis using a unified command approach, which can be tailored to any group.

However, many in the State of Texas take this training asset for granted.  I do not think many realize the national scope of the offerings at TEEX.  Training courses offered by TEEX have delivered homeland security type training for more than 200,000 responders in nearly 7,500 jurisdictions in all 50 states.    Responders from major urban areas in the United States, such as Los Angeles and New York, have traveled to College Station for incident management training.  For information about one recent training exercise, please read from TEEX news release (April 1, 2001) below:

The PATH train station located below One World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial were the focus of a simulated crisis last week at TEEX’s Emergency Operations Training Center (EOTC). The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey brought 47 first responders and emergency management officials to College Station, Texas, to participate in an incident management exercise as part of its preparation for the 10th anniversary and opening of the 9/11 Memorial at the site of the World Trade Center.

The Memorial will be dedicated and opened to the public on Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. On Sept. 12, the public may visit the Memorial with a reserved visitor pass. Millions of visitors are expected the first year.

“The people here (at the EOTC) this week are the leaders who would be working with the Port Authority during an incident,” said Brian Lacey, Director of the Port Authority’s Office of Emergency Management. “This exercise brings together 16 agencies, working together as a team in preparation of a major incident, and allows them to get rid of any prejudices and any mistakes they might make.”

Besides visitors to the 9/11 Memorial each day, One World Trade Center, and other buildings in the area are under construction with 3,000 to 5,000 workers onsite 24/7, he said. “That’s a lot of people to protect, plus about 50,000 riders each day on the PATH station underground. And adjacent to the Memorial is the busiest intersection in New York City, at Church Street and Vessey,” he added.

The Port Authority of NY & NJ is responsible for safety and security at the World Trade Center property, but in case of a large incident, would rely on mutual aid from a wide variety of organizations, many of which were represented at the EOTC exercise. “These groups have gone back and spread the word about our training and exercise model,” Lacey said. “New Jersey Transit and Metropolitan Transportation Authority have adopted this model.”

Representing one of the partnering agencies at the Incident Command System (ICS) training exercise was Daniel Donoghue, Deputy Chief of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), 3rd Division, Midtown Manhattan. “I wasn’t sure what to expect this week. I’m comfortable in a command role, but then I worked in planning and logistics,” he said. “It has taken me out of my comfort zone, but it has been interesting and useful. We’re learning the process.”

“This training is about how to operate in a high-profile, large incident. This training is extremely valuable because it allows us to work with numerous city agencies, something we do not often get the chance to do. For example, we’ve been able to discuss real-life questions relating to a mass-casualty incident with the Medical Examiner’s Office and the Department of Health, as well as talking to the Port Authority. The networking is great; we’re making contacts and learning what other agencies can contribute.”

“For these jurisdiction rotations, we respond to an “incident” on our own terrain, and we create an event that could really happen,” said Jim Munday, Senior Manager of Emergency Readiness for the Port Authority. “Last year, a short time after we completed the full-scale exercise at the Newark Liberty International Airport, we had the scare of a bomb in a FedEx package. Because of our training, our response at the Newark Airport went extremely well.”

“So far, we’ve had seven rotations with TEEX, and it’s been a tremendous experience,” Munday added. “We bring a cohort group of people from our region. They are working together as a team, and they will go back and continue this with some drills and orientations and a full-scale exercise, following the HSEEP (Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program) model. It’s really beneficial because it’s better to meet people in a learning environment than it is to meet for the first time onsite at a major incident. This is the model for the United States. It is the model we’re using and now other agencies have been copying. We’re taking a methodical approach, and we’ve had tremendous success.”

Lacey agreed: “My office has partnered with TEEX for several years doing these jurisdictional rotations. I’ve been very impressed. I think it’s a great program. It’s tough economic times, but my chain of command couldn’t be more supportive of what we’re doing. We’re able to use federal grant funding and leverage it for our mutual aid partners as well.”

The Port Authority also plans to hold an exercise involving JFK Airport at the EOTC in May, Munday said, adding that future exercises will likely involve the George Washington Bridge, the Jersey City Transportation Center, and LaGuardia Airport.

The Port Authority has 7,000 employees and operates five airports, two tunnels, four bridges, the Ports of New Jersey and New York and 13 stations on the PATH lines, as well as property at the World Trade Center.





5th Annual Transborder International Police Training Conference

4 03 2011

In November 2007, a group of 37 officials from Texas and Mexico met at Rancho Río Grande in Coahuila and founded Policía Internacional Transfronteriza / Transborder International Police (PIT/TIP).  In attendance were members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Houston Police Department, United States Marshal Service, Texas Attorney General’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, Brownsville Police Department, Arizona Highway Patrol and the National Insurance Crime Bureau.  Representing Mexico were officials from the Coahuila State Police, Tamaulipas State Police, Agencia Federal de Investigaciones, Policía Federal Preventiva, and various other state and local law enforcement agencies. 

For the last five years these law enforcement officers have been working cooperatively to expedite the investigation of hundreds of trans-border crimes.   Just recently, a joint operation that began as an auto theft investigation in Houston, Texas resulted in the arrest of 11 suspects in Mexico City and the confiscation of weapons, 499 rounds of ammunition and 16 stolen vehicles.

The Policía Internacional Transfronteriza / Transborder International Police (PIT/TIP) is proud to invite you to the 5th Annual Training Conference. All eligible attendees will be entitled to receive 40 TCLEOSE credit hours and the opportunity to network with Federal, State and Local Law Enforcement Officers from North and Central America.

Theme: Influencing Policy From The Ground Up

Each investigative agency has its unique transborder challenges. As investigators or prosecutors, we find ourselves thinking “my unit could do a more effective job if only ____________.” This conference will serve as as a platform to fill in that blank and to have those wishes be heard by those who actually formulate policies.

Additionally, thanks to the feedback we received in our previous conference, organizers are scheduling more workshops into this year’s agenda. Topics will include:

human trafficking,

money laundering,

homicide,

fugitives,

car bombs,

auto theft, and much more.

The full agenda will be available online as soon as all presenters are confirmed.

Eligibility:

Attendees must be law enforcement officers and security personnel.

Registration Fee:

Registration fee is $200 per participant and it includes three luncheons. Those who register before March 28, 2011 will receive a $25 discount. Register now!

When:

April 4th – 8th, 2011

Venue:

Houston Marriott North Hotel

225 N. Sam Houston Pkwy. East
Houston, Texas 77060

Hotel Accommodations:

Conference participants who stay at Houston Marriott North Hotel will have a special rate of $89 per night/room. This rate includes breakfast, Internet (WiFi), and parking.

Reserve online

• Call 1.800.228.9290





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.





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.