Fort Bend Ramps Builds Richmond Resident a New Porch and Ramp

3 10 2015

Article about good folks doing good works in Fort Bend County.  This article was written by Katie Stamy, and published in the Fort Bend Herald on September 24, 2015.

Linda Marin, 52, of Fort Bend County suffered from a stroke several years ago, paralyzing her left side and keeping her from doing what she loves most, spending time outdoors. Marin’s stroke left her homebound. The only way she could go anywhere was with the assistance of her husband, Romera Marin.

That was until Saturday when Fort Bend Ramps built Linda a ramp outside of her Richmond home and Pecan Grove residents presented her with a motorized wheelchair. Sixteen volunteers attended to help with the construction on Saturday and were able to rebuild the family’s porch as well as construct a new ramp in eight hours. Shereen Sampson, a Pecan Grove resident heard of Marin’s situation, posted on the Pecan Grove Facebook page, and was able to raise $600 for the woman. With the money raised, the motorized wheelchair was purchased and the remaining $225 was donated to the family.

Fort Bend Ramps

Mike Funderburke with Fort Bend Ramps, Richard Hyde with Fort Bend Ramps, Robert Gully (seated) from Pecan Grove, Mike Speck with Fort Bend Ramps, Lawrence Jackson from with Fort Bend Ramps, Carson Speck with Fort Bend Ramps, Shereen Sampson from Pecan Grove, David Davenport with Fort Bend Ramps, Christie Glaser from Pecan Grove, Walter Armatys with Fort Bend Ramps, Carrie Brown from Pecan Grove, Reesa Ramos from Pecan Grove, Ron Glaser from Pecan Grove, and Randy Shulze, with Fort Bend Ramps, assisted in the building of the new ramp for Linda Marin. Photo by Shereen Sample

According to Sampson, the smile on Linda and her family’s face was the most beautiful gift. “Part of what made this so great for the whole family was that (Romera) was having to bring (Linda) up and down the stairs,” said Sampson. “It got to the point that she didn’t want to leave at all.” Lazarus, the 13-year-old son of Linda and Romero, spent Saturday helping the team build the porch and ramp along side his father and grandfather, said Sampson.

For lunch, residents provided the builders with lunch including burgers, chicken, casseroles and cookies to show their appreciation.
The team began at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday and finished at 4 p.m. “Fort Bend Ramps has it down to a science,” said Sampson in regards to the construction. “It was tremendous to watch them work. They have so many people, they have their own generator, and no mistakes were made.

“They normally just build a ramp but the porch was so unstable that they did that as well.” Carrie Dannemann Brown, Pecan Grove resident, also brought the family lawn chairs to have on their new porch. “(Linda) loves to be outside, that is one thing she talked about many times,” said Sampson. “That’s why this was so needed. She can go outside by herself now.”

“I think a lot of people assume that social workers are able to help every single person in need, but that is not the case,” she added. “I think there are so many other people in need that we need to keep our eyes and ears open for so we can help.”

Mega Rain Targets Fort Bend County

13 05 2012

Weather Blog entry from Mario Gomez, Meteorologist with KHOU, Channel 2 Houston is below.  This item was posted on May 12, 2012 at 11:15 PM.

We knew that heavy rain fell overnight in Fort Bend county. What we didn’t know is this could turn out to be the heaviest rain ever recorded this year by a volunteer weather observer. The National Weather Service conducts hundreds of training sessions for community volunteers to help fill the gaps where weather data is missing, especially in rural areas of the nation. The network of volunteers is called CoCoRaHS which stands for community collaborative rain, hail and snow network.

Early Saturday morning one of these community observers near Richmond recorded over 11″ of rain in his rain gauge making this the heaviest rainfall total ever recorded this year in the United States. The rain slacked off to about 6″ at Hobby, which is still a respectable 24hr rainfall total. The good news is that Sunday will be completely dry and even less humid with a mild 60 degree start and with highs reaching the 80s just in time for a Mother’s Day back yard BBQs. 

Weather Blog: Mega Rain Targets Fort Bend County

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.

Fugate Says FEMA Is Reevaluating Future Of CERT

19 08 2010

From John Solomon and his Blog—- “In Case of Emergency, Read Blog:  A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness; posted on his site on August 18, 2010:

In response to a question from the audience at the Red Cross Emergency Social Data Summit last week, Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) Administrator Craig Fugate mentioned that the agency is doing some serious rethinking about the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program as it approaches its 25th Anniversary.

The questioner urged Fugate to move CERT from the Department of Homeland Security to FEMA’s jurisdiction. Fugate  was able to answer, with smile, “Done,” noting that he now oversees the program which trains citizen teams to assist during emergencies. That answer was easy. However, Fugate knows that determining and then making the necessary changes in CERT to make it most useful for FEMA, local authorities, the citizen volunteers and the nation will not be as simple.

Fugate said that FEMA is considering major changes in the program, including creating a shorter training course which could be offered to more Americans and significantly expanding CERT training for schools and other youth groups in order to better imbed preparedness into society for the long-term.

The CERT program faces a good news/bad news situation, according to Fugate. There are just not enough emergencies in which the civilian teams can take part in. Without activity, it is difficult to keep the citizen volunteers energized, interested and trained.

“Here’s the problem,” he explained, “People say I’ve taken all this training and there are no disasters. Well that’s good thing.” Maybe for the nation as a whole but not for the strength of the CERT program.

FEMA and local emergency management officials have to answer, in Fugate’s words, “a perennial question we run into: after CERT training, what’s next?”

And more importantly what’s next for the CERT program as a whole?

As Fugate correctly diagnoses, there is need for some changes in the program. Right now, in most places there is just not enough work for CERT’s to do. It is a theme that I also hear from members around the nation who contact me through the blog, and I see from my own experience as a CERT here in New York City.

But while CERT teams are not getting enough business, Fugate is bullish about a larger market for preparedness training among the general public.

“We’re looking if there are ways we can take the CERT training and break it up. A lot of [business and social] groups have approached us and said we think this is really great but attention span of our audience won’t get you there. [At present, the CERT training is 20 hours, usually taught over 10 weeks.] But if you could give us 2-4 hours and we could give you our group what could you put together for us in that time that would empower and train people not necessary not to the level of CERT.”

From my experience both serving and reporting on CERT, the idea of spreading its resources out more broadly through the community for adults and kids makes a lot of sense.

One question is how the government should organize this new horizontal model of citizen preparedness training. What should stay under CERT? Should these new ideas (shorter training for adults, kids) be put in another high profile civilian volunteer preparedness or resilience program?

I’ve always felt that CERT training is less about the skills you learn and more about awareness about the community and the various emergency authorities (and identifying citizen crisis organizers in advance). To me, CERT is just basic citizenship training for the 21st Century, which I think every American should get a chance to receive. I might suggest that the smaller reduced curriculum be called something along the lines of “Citizen Resilience Training”.

The overarching philosophy of CERT is terrific: take advantage of citizen’s desire to want to help in crises and their ability to be useful. I believe that interest is even more robust since 9/11, Katrina and with other threats on the horizon. (The rapid  growth of the CrisisCommons citizen technology initiative over the past year is just one example of how much public interest there is to assist in emergency situations.)

An extensive survey done by the Citizen Corps (which oversees the CERT program) found that almost two-thirds (64%) of Americans say they would be willing to take a 20-hour training class to assist their community recover from disasters. The 64% figure was striking to me, because it points out an interest of many Americans to become more knowledgeable in emergency preparedness/response. That’s not to say that two-thirds of the population want to join the CERT program, but it does seem to indicate that a lot of Americans would be amenable to some sort of disaster education/training — particularly it was held in their workplace, house of worship, social club, etc.

Now, there are some communities around the U.S. where CERT teams are more fully engaged with activities than others. When I asked readers  last month for their thoughts on CERT, Paul Garth from an Ojai, California team said it was up to the members themselves to go out and find things to do, which his group had. To some extent, Garth is right that CERTs themselves should try to develop ideas, but it can also be difficult because they are usually dependent on government emergency officials.

One question is whether the expectations for CERT service be more clearly delineated. There are no ‘cuts’ for anyone who passes the training, and then there are some members who go to every meeting and assignment and others who never show up. It can be difficult to keep a cohesive, engaged group going when some of the team — particularly when it involves sensitive emergency activities — are not fully committed.

It might make sense to have a better-trained CERT civilian group along the lines of another Citizen Corps program, Medical Reserve Corps, which is comprised of volunteer medical personnel. That might make government officials more comfortable in integrating CERT volunteers into its activities like a police auxiliary.

Fugate’s idea of broadening CERT-type training may be most useful when it comes to a younger generation. He believes that if the nation really wants to change social behavior on preparedness it needs to do so with the younger generation — who are not only more impressible than adults but are more likely to influence their parents and will also have a more long-term influence.

It would also be an opportunity to include preparedness into the curriculum in the schools where Fugate believes a culture of preparedness has the best chance of becoming imbedded. One useful historical model is the commitment to school-based fire education after the 1974 publication of the national “America Burning” report. In some cases, youth preparedness/CERT training can piggy back on these existing classroom programs.

Fugate mentioned that there are some excellent CERT programs for young people in parts of the nation. I recently wrote about interesting youth initiatives sponsored by READYColorado and the Colorado Division of Emergency Management, including the creation of a teenage ‘Social Media Response Team’ to help the authorities and the public during disasters. Eastern Michigan University has also taken leadership in developing Teen CERT programs in a number of states

I believe that a decision to expand CERT-type training in the schools would be welcomed on a bipartisan basis. In an interview I did with former Bush Administration Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff last year he agreed that a key to creating a long-term prepared nation is to focus on schools and kids. In the discussion, he sketched out two suggestions  – a “minimum” and a “maximum” approach. The “minimum” would be “to get the fire management and emergency management people to come together to create a program to be exported to the schools on basic preparation.”

Chertoff’s “maximum” option is that there be a more substantive course developed for U.S. schools on planning and preparation, which would include teaching “basic skills”. It would almost serve as a very limited albeit useful national basic training.

“If you’re not going to have a national service then as part of graduation from high school there should be a course over a period of time that teaches you the kind of basic things you might need in an emergency,” Chertoff says, adding “It’s going to do two things. It’s going to create a cadre of more capable people, but it is also going to demystify the process of preparation. Most people are intimidated that they don’t know how to do it. They’re afraid of being embarrassed.”

As FEMA officials examine what to do with CERT going forward, I imagine they will be undertaking an analysis of the future need and demand. Though it is a very well-intentioned idea — and I have really enjoyed and learned from my CERT work — there may well be that there a limit to what moderately trained part-time volunteers can really do in the official emergency services world. Maybe the bulk of CERT volunteers who are willing to commit just to the basic training and limited participation would be better to be transferred to the disaster services unit of Red Cross chapters from around the U.S.. which is busier with fires and local emergencies.

I recommend that FEMA  should also reach out to some CERT team leaders/members in communities around the U.S. as government officials do not always know what is going on within the CERT teams. To me, civilian CERT members can best serve the community by being, in Fugate’s words, preparedness “ambassadors” providing information and guidance to their neighbors. When it comes to citizen preparedness, there is a real need for explanation and modeling, and CERT members can be hugely helpful in part as emergency management offices don’t always have the time always the inclination to do so. Further, the growth of social media platforms underscore the value of friend-to-friend, peer-to-peer education both before and during emergencies.

I received a thoughtful e-mail last year from the State of Florida’s former CERT coordinator Bill Firestone who served under Fugate in which he elaborates on the value of the “ambassador” role.

While it’s very unlikely that most CERTers will participate in a mass casualty triage or perform in pairs in fire suppression, CERTers will talk to their neighbor, participate in their children’s schools, attend neighborhood activities. Consequently, they can reach out to people that government and non-profit preparedness messages cannot reach or it is too expensive.

In my role as a “CERTer”, here in Florida, I am reaching out to neighbors and talking to them about the network of non-profits in disaster and the importance of knowing what services and assistance they can provide before and after disaster. Here in hurricane-prone Florida I have begun to send along the url for information about the importance of completing an SBA loan application and how that is tied to receiving additional disaster assistance. Most of my neighbors that have incurred damages to their house have been told about the low-interest loans following disaster, but not aware of the other benefits to completing the application.

Fort Bend Sheriff’s Office Accepting Applications For Citizens Police Academy

6 02 2010

There are many volunteer and educational opportunities offered by Fort Bend County for those citizens who want to learn more about public safety and  emergency management.  The Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) offers Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training, for example.  The County’s Health and Human Services Department offers Medical Reserve Corps (MRD) training. 

And the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office offers training at its Citizens Police Academy.  The following article was printed in  The article was published on February 5, 2010 and was written by John Pape.   The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office is currently accepting applications for its upcoming Citizens Police Academy.  The academy consists of 11 sessions held on consecutive Thursday evenings from 7 – 9:30 p.m.  The sessions begin March 11.

Everything needed for the course is supplied to students at no cost. Classes will take place at the new Gus George Law Enforcement Academy at 1521 Eugene Heimann Circle, directly across the street from the main complex of the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office in Richmond. 

The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office Citizens Police Academy is intended for members of the community wanting to become more informed on law enforcement issues. Those contemplating a career in law enforcement are also welcome to attend.  The course is designed to teach members of the community firsthand about the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office and its operations. The focus of the program is to provide an overview, through course work and practical hands-on experience, of the sheriff’s office and the Fort Bend County criminal justice system.

Participants will have an opportunity to tour the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office in its entirety, as well as learn the workings of each of the department’s divisions, including patrol, criminal investigations, detention, 911 emergency communications center, law enforcement training and narcotics and dangerous drug enforcement.   “In completion of this program, graduates will have gained a better understanding of the policies and procedures of the sheriff’s office, as well as the approach taken to provide law enforcement services to our Fort Bend County communities,” FBSO Public Information Officer Terriann Carlson said. “Graduates will also be extended an opportunity to participate in a ride-along session with a patrol deputy.”

Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and not have a criminal arrest record.   Those interested in enrolling or needing additional information can contact the Gus George Law Enforcement Academy at 281-341-4780 or visit the academy in person during regular business hours.

Become a Disaster Volunteer at American Red Cross

31 12 2009

The American Red Cross – Southwestern Branch is located at 2610 B.F. Terry Boulevard in Rosenberg, Texas.  Every first Monday of every month, the Southwestern Branch Office is holding a Disaster Volunteer Meeting.  This meeting is for interested volunteers who want to get involved in American Red Cross Disaster Services.  Various volunteer opportunities, projects, and programs are discussed at these meetings.  In addition, members of the Red Cross Disaster Action Team (DAT) meet to discuss training opportunities, local disasters, and disaster preparedness.  The next meeting will be held Monday, January 4, 2010, at 6:30 pm at the above address.  The scheduled meeting for February will be Monday, February 1, 2010.  Same time; same location.

If you are interested in becoming a Disaster Volunteer, or attending one of the Disaster Volunteer Meetings, please contact Caroline Egan at 281-342-9480, or via email at

To review the Jan/Feb 2010 Southwestern Branch Newsletter: 

Jan-Feb 10 ARC Newsletter

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: