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In the News

CAPCOG master trainer strives to help others prevent falls, others can too

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Melinda Carter has worked as a registered nurse since 1982 throughout Texas and has actively treated people’s illness and conditions. But in 2012, she wanted to give back to her community in a different way; she wanted to help prevent people from even entering the hospital. So Carter volunteered to be a coach and then a master trainer for A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns about Falls — a CAPCOG program that seeks volunteers to improve the health and wellness of older adults.

“I love it, I love to teach, and I love older people, and I love protecting people,” said Carter, who has been training other volunteers since 2016. “I have been teaching people at senior centers, community centers, and churches ever since.”

The A Matter of a Balance, evidence-based program is one of the greatest tools to prevent falls. It helps older adults reduce their risk and fear of falling, through practical strategies and to maintain active, healthy lifestyles. CAPCOG’s Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP) puts on the eight-week program several times a year at different locations. While AAACAP pays some coaches, the program relies mostly on volunteers to spread the program throughout the region. At least once a year and more often if there is demand, AAACAP hosts a coaches training.

Falls among older adults can be costly and end with long hospital stays. One in four Americans who are 65 years old or older fall every year, and falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older adults. Being A Matter of Balance coach helps teach older adults to view falls as controllable, set realistic goals for increasing activity, change their environment to reduce fall risks, and promote exercise to increase strength and balance.

“As a volunteer you can be out in the community doing exactly what I am doing,” Carter said. “It is so rewarding, because I get to see such drastic changes in every single person. When they do their exercises and learn the program, they are empowering themselves and staying safe.” This program uses a variety of methods to illustrate its practices, making it fun and active to teach. “All the facets of what people learn over the eight weeks come together, and as your students experience the whole program, it is priceless to know they might not restrict their activities, they might go places, they might not just sit in the recliner because they are afraid of falling,” Carter added.

> Find out how to schedule A Matter of Balance programs or to become a coach.
> Learn more about AAACAP.

CAPCOG encourages teens to pursue law enforcement careers

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Roger Sprott and Kelsey Dean sit at a booth during a career fair at Georgetown High School.

Roger Sprott, RLEA Chief Instructor, and Kelsey Dean, PSAP specialist, attend a Georgetown career fair.

The CAPCOG Regional Law Enforcement Academy and Emergency Communications Division attended a career fair at Georgetown High School to educate students and their parents about becoming a peace officer, jailer and emergency telecommunicator and how these positions have an invaluable role in every community.

“In public safety, there are several career paths people can take, and it’s important that students know all their options to make informed decisions,” said Kelsey Dean, CAPCOG public safety answering point specialist. “Many students don’t even know becoming an emergency telecommunicator is an option they can pursue right out of high school.”

Peace officers and emergency telecommunicators are positions in high demand by local governments. There are currently 13 agencies seeking emergency telecommunications positions at the 29 public safety answering points, or 9-1-1 call centers, throughout the region. Several jurisdictions are also seeking peace officers.

> Read more about RLEA.
> Learn more about the Emergency Communications Division.
> Find your public safety training.

Residents should update their WarnCentralTexas information

Thursday, October 18, 2018

CAPCOG recently upgraded the regional notification system (RNS) that powers to bring residents and emergency response personnel a more streamlined way of connecting with each other during natural and man-made disasters. As part of this upgrade, it is recommended that previously self-registered participants update their RNS information by either using a link inside an email from the new vendor, Everbridge, or going to, clicking on the “Get Alerts” button, and completing the sign-up form.

On Sept. 26, CAPCOG sent emails to self-registered participants who had previously registered with email addresses encouraging them to update their contact information. The emails could have been sent from, or Updating or registering anew gives participants access to a user account portal that lets them opt to receive emergency notifications by either cellphone calls, emails, or text messages for one more addresses. They also can opt-in to receive particular national weather alerts, such as severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado warnings, and flashflood warnings. After updating their information, the portal grants them access to make future updates and read active local government notifications in their area.

Using the Warn Central Texas system, emergency responders can send hyper-local, targeted messages to people in specific neighborhoods or on a particular street. While self-registering is highly recommended, residents who don’t register their cellphone or email information will receive emergency warnings on landline and VoIP phones using CAPCOG’s 9-1-1 database. All jurisdictions in the ten-county region can use the system to share critical emergency information events, such as:

  • Evacuations from floods and wildfires 
  • Shelter-in-place information during law enforcement incidents 
  • Public health and medical emergencies

> Get Alerts.
> Learn more about Warn Central Texas.
> Read about the Homeland Security Division.

CAPCOG offers emergency ride reimbursement region wide

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

As part of its Commute Solutions Program, CAPCOG is offering sustainable commuters, those who use  non-single-occupant cars to travel, an option to offset their cost to get home if an emergency occurs — the Emergency Ride Home Program. The program reimburses those who log their carpool, vanpool, public transit, bicycle or walking commutes at if they need to pay a ride service to travel home or to get to another location, such as a hospital, for an emergency.

Worrying about not having a personal car with them at work or on an errand to get to an emergency destination can prevent some commuters from making more sustainable choices; the Emergency Ride Home Program seeks to eliminate that concern by letting residents know they have an option for reimbursement. Single-occupant vehicle commuters make up a significant portion of the traffic in the region, which contributes to traffic congestion and the creation of air pollutants.

To qualify for the program, residents must meet the following:

  • Have a account
  • Logged at least one sustainable commute at in the seven days prior to the emergency
  • Used a qualifying mode of transportation such as carpool or biking
  • Live or work within the CAPCOG region
  • Have a qualifying emergency such as a personal or family illness or personal or family emergency like a home break-in

> Get more details about the Emergency Ride Home Program and its qualifications.
> Learn more about Commute Solutions.

CAPCOG solicits Jack Griesenbeck award nominations

Monday, October 08, 2018

CAPCOG is soliciting nominations for its 2018 Jack Griesenbeck Leadership in Regionalism Award that recognizes a person who has played a pivotal role in strengthening the region through their actions.

Named after Bastrop County Judge Jack Griesenbeck, CAPCOG’s first chair, the regionalism award honors someone who consistently advocates a regional and multijurisdictional approach through their work with local governments, nonprofits, and other organizations. Nominees can include volunteers, community leaders or elected officials whose work has stretched beyond county lines to further regional efforts.

> Get the regionalism award nomination form.
> Read about previous Jack Griesenbeck awards recipients.
> Submit the form to Mason Canales, CAPCOG member services coordinator.

ADRC to hold workshop about veterans, families’ needs

Monday, October 08, 2018

The Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of the Capital Area, a CAPCOG program, will conduct a workshop educating regional organizations that provide services and benefits supporting active-duty military, veterans and their families. The Military Veteran Peer Support Network will lead the workshop from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 30 at CAPCOG, 6800 Burleson Road Building 310, Suite 165 in Austin.

“Many active-duty military service members, veterans and their families may be unaware of benefits and support that are available to them, and often there is a communication disconnect between them and those offering the services,” said Vivian Harris, ADRC coordinator. “Workshop attendees will learn more about the communication differences and recognizing particular needs that service members may not even recognize themselves.”

The ADRC is the region’s primary connection between older adults, individuals with disabilities and community-based organizations servicing them, so it strives to ensure those organizations are addressing veterans’ needs properly. The workshop will inform attendees about military culture; common physical and behavioral health challenges; treatment options; and resources for service-members, veterans and their families. It also teaches how to be an effective mentor.

> Register for the workshop.
> Learn more about the ADRC.

CAPCOG upgrades Warn Central Texas notification system

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

(CAPCOG is upgrading the regional notification system that powers to bring residents emergency and public safety warnings they need to protect their families, properties and selves. As part of the upgrade, CAPCOG recommends that previously self-registered participants update their notification information by using the link inside an email sent through the new Everbridge system.

Current self-registered participants should have received an email from Warn Central Texas using either a, or email address. Following the link inside the email will give them access to a user account portal that lets them update multiple voice and text phone numbers as well as email addresses and physical addresses. They can also opt-in to receive particular national weather alerts, such as severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado warnings, and flashflood warnings. After updating their notification information, the portal grants them access to make future updates and read active notifications in their area sent by their local governments. is a free public service provided by CAPCOG in conjunction with the region’s cities and counties for individuals living, working or visiting Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis, and Williamson counties. Using this system, emergency responders can send hyper-local, targeted messages to people in specific neighborhoods or streets. Local governments communicate primarily in English, and make every effort where possible to also send critical alerts in Spanish. The notification information is strictly used by local governments to send emergency warnings and opted-in messages.

If a resident receives multiple emails from the system requesting they update their information, it is extremely important they do so using the link in the email. Updating their information will ensure its accuracy letting them continue to receive emergency warnings for their current address and preventing them from receiving the same notification multiple times.

Residents who haven’t registered to receive emergency warnings at should do so. It is important to note newer cellphone models receive federal notifications, such as Amber Alerts. is a separate system and a critical tool for local first responders to reach the affected public during an emergency. All jurisdictions in the ten-county region can use the system to share critical emergency information events, such as:

  • Evacuations from floods and wildfires 
  • Shelter-in-place information during law enforcement incidents 
  • Public health and medical emergency messages

> Go to
> Read more about the RNS.
> Learn about the CAPCOG Homeland Security Division.

County road inventory leads to more maintenance funding

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The CAPCOG Planning and Economic Development Division helped Blanco, Caldwell, Lee and Llano counties inventory every county-maintained road in effort to not only produce accurate information for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) but also to assist the counties in securing additional road maintenance funding.

Using the region’s 9-1-1 database, which is updated on a monthly basis, CAPCOG identified every county-maintained road and checked it against TxDOT’s current information. “In every county, CAPCOG identified road segments that needed to be added to the TxDOT database,” said Chris Schreck, CAPCOG Planning and Economic director. “With as much growth and development as is happening in our region, there’s a lot to be done to keep databases of roadways current.”

Besides planning purposes, TxDOT uses the county road inventory to distribute funding to the counties for roadway maintenance. The funding is distributed in proportion to the number of lane-miles maintained by each county, so the more county-maintained roadway miles there are in TxDOT’s County Road Inventory database, the more funding a county receives from the state.

> Read more about the CAPCOG Planning and Economic Development Division.

Warn Central Texas self-registrations postponed during system transfer

Friday, September 21, 2018

CAPCOG and its local government partners selected a new regional notification system vendor — Everbridge — and is moving to the new platform. To manage the data transfer, CAPCOG is temporarily shutting down self-registrations at from Friday, Sept. 21 to Wednesday, Sept. 26.

Local governments in Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis, and Williamson counties will still be able to send emergency warnings to residents during this time, and information at will remain on the website. When the self-registration portal is turned back on starting Sept. 26, CAPCOG and Everbridge will send an email to all current self-registered participants asking them to update their information. Updating their information will ensure their info is accurate and may prevent them from receiving the same emergency alert multiple times.

> Read more about the regional notification system.
> Go to
> Learn about the CAPCOG Homeland Security Division.

Fayette County Narcotics K-9 Unit receives Interdiction Awards at annual conference

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sgt. Randy Thumann, of the Fayette County Sheriff's Office, was named 2017-18 Criminal Interdiction Officer of the Year for his work stopping drug trafficking through Fayette County. Thumann has worked with CAPCOG’s Criminal Justice Program to secure Office of the Governor grants to buy equipment that improves Fayette County’s Interdiction Officer’s law enforcement capabilities. As part of the county’s most recent grant awards, the Sheriff’s Office purchased an x-ray scanner that lets Thumann search vehicles for hidden compartments containing drugs. “This just shows what a great partnership between the county and CAPCOG can achieve,” said Janet Carrigan, Fayette County homeland security chief and emergency management coordinator.

Thumann was given the award during the annual Motor Vehicle Criminal Interdiction Conference in late August in San Diego. Being named the Criminal Interdiction Officer of the Year is the highest achievement attainable for an interdiction officer in the country. He also received an award for the largest cold-stop heroin seizure in the country.  The record heroin seizure occurred on March 2, 2017 when he discovered 35 kilos, or about 77 pounds, of heroin. He has made 12 seizures in 2018. Thumann was joined in San Diego by his family and Fayette County Sheriff Keith Korenek and Sgt. Ron Naumann.

Sgt. Randy Thumann, of the Fayette County Sheriff's Office, receives the Criminal Interdiction Officer of the Year award at the annual Motor Vehicle Criminal Interdiction Conference. He stands long with his wife and Fayette County Sheriff Keith Korenek.

> Read more about the CAPCOG Criminal Justice Program.

9-1-1 network project finishes early, brings added resiliency

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

CAPCOG completed the construction of a secondary, independent fiber-optic line, or a backup network, into every public safety answering point location within the ten-county region. The project was started in mid-2016 and finished a year early. The exception is Hays County since it’s currently constructing a new combined emergency communications center; the backup line to be installed in that facility will be done during its construction.

Installing the additional fiber network creates redundancy for the region’s emergency communications system. Before its installation, a network outage could cause 9-1-1 calls to automatically be rerouted to neighboring PSAPs. This reroute process would lose a caller’s location information, which is beneficial in dispatching emergency responders if a call is dropped. Outages are often due to construction sites cutting a fiber-optic line. The back-up network established two routes for the fiber lines to enter the PSAPs. The backup network also allows for shorter downtimes for network maintenance.

The $6.4 million project had been a major priority for the Strategic Advisory Committee and was recommended for funding to CAPCOG’s Executive Committee, acting in its role as the Capital Area Emergency Communications District Board in 2016.

> Learn more about the CAPCOG Emergency Communications Division.

Ritchey leads CAPCOG Homeland Security Division with public safety pride

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Former Caldwell County Emergency Management Chief (EMC), Martin Ritchey joined CAPCOG in August to lead its Homeland Security Division; he brings with him a vast amount of emergency preparedness and response experience, an understanding of regional needs and cooperation, and a desire to further regional efforts enhancing emergency management planning.

CAPCOG's Homeland Security Director, Martin Ritchey, received a plaque from emergency management peers for serving as the Homeland Security Task Force chair while working as Caldwell County Emergency Management Chief. Ritchey became the CAPCOG Homeland Security director in August after 6 years of service in Caldwell County. Also pictured are Emergency Management Coordinator, Dorothy L. Miller (left); and Hays County Office of Emergency Management Director and Emergency Management Coordiantor, Kharley Bagley Smith (right).

“Public service is a privilege, and I thought I could have a bigger impact by serving not just my community but the region here,” Ritchey said. He started his emergency management career for the City of Hometown, Illinois Emergency Disaster Agency and as a volunteer chief for the Salvation Army’s Emergency Canteen Service for three Chicago area counties. While living in Caldwell County, the 2011 fires, which spread across Bastrop, Caldwell and Travis counties, called him back to the emergency management field. “The fire struck a chord with me,” he said. “It could have been my house on fire, and they were my neighbors’ homes. I thought I could help in future disasters.”

During 2012 and 2013, Ritchey served as the volunteer coordinator for Caldwell County before becoming the county’s EMC. He also was instrumental in creating Caldwell County’s Emergency Services District No. 4, of which he still serves as a volunteer firefighter and a commissioner. In his Caldwell County role, Ritchey has overseen the response, recovery and mitigation for five federally declared disasters in five years including hurricanes, floods and fires, and a hot air balloon crash that killed 16 which is classified as a Type I Incident Management Team event. Ritchey has served on CAPCOG’s Homeland Security Task Force for five years and has been the advisory committee’s chair and vice-chair. “I have worked with many of the people throughout the region for several years, and working with my colleagues in the cities and the counties at this capacity is an honor,” he said.

> Learn about CAPCOG's Homeland Security Division.

Criminal Justice Program seeks stakeholder input

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The CAPCOG Criminal Justice Program launched a digital survey and set two meetings to seek stakeholder input for developing the 2020 Criminal Justice Comprehensive Plan and determining the funding priorities for the ten-county region. The plan provides direction to CAPCOG’s Criminal Justice Advisory Committee that recommends projects to the Office of the Governor for the General Victim Assistance Program, Violence Against Women Justice and Training Program, Juvenile Justice Grant Program, and Justice Assistance Grant Program.

“Input from organizations working in these areas of expertise is invaluable and can help the region better allocate funding to programs that address regional needs while also maximizing the region’s funding opportunities,” said Chris Schreck, CAPCOG Planning and Economic Development director.

The survey available at will close Sept. 16, while the meetings will take place on Oct. 1 and 3 at CAPCOG’s office, 6800 Burleson Road, Building 310, Suite 165 in Austin.

> Take the survey.
> Register to attend the Oct. 1 stakeholder meeting.
> Register to attend the Oct. 3 stakeholder meeting.

The 2020 Criminal Justice Plan Year process started in July this year with a series of three applicant roundtable discussions about the process and what applicants want to make applying easier. As a result, CAPCOG will equip grant applicants with more information about the grants and the regions’ priorities. It also will provide information about similar funding opportunities as well as access to examples of previous applications that successfully received state funding. Grant workshops will take place in January.

> Learn more about the CAPCOG Criminal Justice Program.

RLEA offers new CIT course, new use-of-force training

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

CAPCOG’s Regional Law Enforcement Academy (RLEA) offered its first 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training course Aug. 13 through 17. As of April 2018, the course is a new state requirement for officers seeking intermediate certifications; those without an intermediate certificate or higher will need to complete the course within two years and take an update every four. Other new courses such as De-escalation Techniques Limiting the Use-of-Force in Public Interactions also will be available later this year.

The 40-hour crisis intervention course replaces its 16-hour predecessor by focusing more on key concepts, safety techniques and communication skills for responding to those in a mental health crisis. It trains peace officers to recognize indicators of mental illness, understand mental illness, how to work with mentally ill individuals and their families, and how to implement intervention strategies for low and high risk situations. While August’s course is full, CAPCOG will continue to offer the course throughout the training cycle.

The new de-escalation course is a requirement for intermediate and advanced certifications. Peace officers with basic certifications will need to take the new de-escalation course every four years. The course improves officers’ response to incidents involving people in crisis who are behaving erratically. It emphasizes public and officer safety while teaching tactical de-escalation to reduce the intensity of an encounter with a suspect. The training enables officers with additional options for voluntary compliance and to mitigate the need for a higher level of force while they maintain control of the situation. CAPCOG plans to offer the course in October.

> Check course availability.
> Learn more about RLEA.

CAPCOG General Assembly to set budget in September

Friday, August 17, 2018

CAPCOG’s General Assembly meeting is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12 at the Wyndham Garden Austin, 3401 South IH 35 Frontage Road in Austin where its General Assembly representatives will consider the 2019 Fiscal Year Budget and elect the committee charged with recommending next year’s Executive Committee membership.

The current proposed budget, which goes before the CAPCOG Executive Committee in August, estimates expenditures for FY 2019 at $26.6 million, $13.3 million of which is allocated for 9-1-1 emergency communications expenses and $6.8 million of which is allocated to aging services program expenses. The Executive Committee will recommend a budget and a list of General Assembly members to serve on the Nominating Committee, a committee of seven members elected every September to develop a slate of city and county elected officials to be considered at December’s General Assembly meeting for the 2019 Executive Committee. They must also nominate four state legislators. A full meeting agenda and proposed budget will be mailed to General Assembly representatives later in August.

> General Assembly Members can RSVP for the meeting.

General Assembly members can attend for free and should contact Mason W. Canales, CAPCOG member services coordinator for a registration code.

Others can attend for the cost of lunch, $35.

> Learn about the General Assembly.

Striking a Balance Conference balances caregiving, self-caring

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

This year’s Striking a Balance Conference conducted by the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP) will feature Dr. Barry Jacobs, a clinical psychologist, family therapist and author of “The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers: Looking After Yourself and Your Family While Helping an Aging Parent”.  The conference will be 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 25 at the Doubletree Hilton, 6505 North IH 35 in Austin.

Jacobs will lead the 17th annual Striking a Balance Conference for family caregivers by discussing how to make sense of the turmoil caused by caregiving and ways to cope with competing loyalties, role reversal and changes caused by illnesses. “Speakers like Dr. Jacobs can be an extremely valuable resources for family caregivers,” said Patty Bordie, CAPCOG’s AAACAP director. “He is a practitioner who treats issues related to family caregiving because of his own passion about the subject born from his own caregiving experiences.”

Every year the conference brings national speakers to the region to educate family caregivers about achieving equilibrium in their lives while caring for loved ones. It is organized by AAACAP and Age of Central Texas, which seeks to improve the lives of caregivers by providing them with resources.

The conference also will include several breakout sessions on a variety of caregiving topics including caregiver 101, working caregivers, nutrition and aging and sleep changes through aging. However, the sharing and conversation among caregiver attendees is often the most valued benefit provided by the conference.

“When you bring more than a hundred caregivers together, they share stories and experiences and learn from one another,” Bordie said. “They learn they are not alone in experiencing their feelings, and they learn about what others have accomplished to strike a balance to be the best caregiver for their loved ones and their selves.”

> Register for the conference.
> Learn more about AAACAP.
> Learn about Age of Central Texas.

Disaster debris workshop empowers governments with pre-planning

Monday, August 13, 2018

CAPCOG will host a workshop on Planning for Disaster Debris Management from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18 to help prepare communities for mitigating trash and rubble caused by natural and man-made incidents. The workshop will be at CAPCOG’s offices, 6800 Burleson Building 310, Suite 165, in Austin.

“Local governments that have pre-approved disaster debris management plans by the Texas Division of Emergency Management and FEMA can initiate response and mitigation activities immediately knowing that they will be eligible for reimbursement and sometimes receive greater re-imbursement rates than those without,” said Ken May, CAPCOG regional program coordinator.

Attendees will learn debris management components and best practices by using existing plan examples and case studies giving them the materials and skills needed to effectively and efficiently plan for debris management. Proper pre-planning for disaster debris protects critical infrastructure, minimizes health and safety risks, and assists with efficiently restoring a community to its pre-disaster state. While designed for emergency managers, this workshop benefits a variety of groups to include law enforcement personnel, government administrators, city planners, firefighters, hazardous materials teams, public works personnel, and community and residential volunteers

> Register for the workshop at
> Contact May for assistance in developing a disaster debris management plan.

AAACAP enlightens professional care managers

Thursday, August 09, 2018

The Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area, a division of CAPCOG, is conducting a seminar for professional care managers and counselors so they can promote more positive caregiving support interventions throughout the region. The three-hour seminar starts at 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 24 in Room 1.108 at the JJ Pickle Research Center, 10100 Burnet Road in Austin.

Two national speakers — Clinical psychologists, Dr. Barry J. Jacobs, Psy.D. and Dr. Julia L. Mayer, Psy.D., — will discuss with social workers and care managers how the long-term care they provide affects the lives of care receivers and their family caregivers. Jacobs presents regularly on caregiving for family caregivers, community groups, and medical and mental health professionals, and he is the national spokesperson on caregiving for the American Heart Association. Mayer specializes in women’s issues, including caregiving. Both are published on caregiving topics.

> Register for the seminar.
> Learn more about AAACAP.

Social Work CEUs will be offered.

CAPCOG hosts Connected Nation to discuss rural broadband issues

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Connected Nation, a nationwide nonprofit that helps expand broadband Internet, will bring together state and federal agencies with local leaders to discuss issues related to broadband infrastructure development and broadband adoption rates in rural communities. CAPCOG will host Connected Nation to conduct the meeting from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 23 at its offices, 6800 Burleson Road, Building 310 Suite 165 in Austin.

Access to the Internet via broadband services can be a major economic driver for rural communities, and there are multiple grants available to assist communities in developing the infrastructure to support the service; however, these resources often go untapped, said Tom Stephenson with Connected Nation. This meeting and several others being conducted around the state are to help garner feedback about access to such programs and how to get people and businesses better connected to the Internet. The feedback will be used to help foundations better target their programs.

Attending the meeting will be representatives of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Texas Department of Agriculture, and Central Texas Library Systems. Local elected officials from every jurisdiction who are interested in the topic are welcome to attend.

> Learn about Connected Nation.
> Read about the CAPCOG Planning and Economic Development Division.

Symposium shares emergency planning best practices for schools

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

The development of a school safety protocol and how its work with schools for planning, education, collaboration, communication and operational exercises was outlined by Hays County Emergency Services Director Kharley Smith at CAPCOG’s School Safety Symposium. CAPCOG also demonstrated its use-of-force simulator to school district attendees which uses mock scenarios to train officers for responding to threats inside schools.

To develop its School Safety Protocol, Hays County Emergency Management, the Sherriff’s Office, San Marcos Police Department, and San Marcos Fire Marshall’s Office collaborated with each school district in the county and launched the protocol at every campus. “It really doesn’t have to be complicated,” Smith said noting the county’s protocol briefly outlines actions for faculty, staff and students to take during all emergencies. “You have four directives that would apply to all hazards.”

The event brought together public safety agencies and school districts representatives to discuss emergency planning for school campuses by featuring Hays County’s county-wide School Safety Protocol program recently recognized by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

Hays County conducts an emergency drill at every school once a year. “We drill, we practice for muscle memory,” Smith said. During the drills, students, faculty and staff practice the protocols either a lockdown or lockout drill while public safety teams practice responding as if the incident was real. Training in tandem prepares everyone involved to know what to expect from one another during emergencies. It also builds a relationship between the first responders, students and school district personnel, Smith said. As part of the drill, emergency personnel and school district staff discuss the operation before and after the exercise to learn from each drill.

Hays County also conducts an educational campaign once a year at every campus, where they show videos and hold a general assembly for older students while teachers present the information to younger students — first through third graders. “Every year, every year, we are teaching this to the students and the first responders,” Smith said. “So the faculty, staff, and students all learn the same thing. We have trained over 300,000 people in Hays County since the program began… we have trained so much that the procedures have become common language.”

Lt. David Burns with the Hays County Sherriff’s Office also discussed the Avoid, Deny and Defend strategy or ADD, which teaches people to first attempt to avoid a shooter or threat, then attempt to deny an assailant entry into their location, and defend themselves as a last resort. The strategy is taught through Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center’s Civilian Response to Active Shooter Event Program.

> View the Hays County Emergency Services School Safety Protocol presentation.

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