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In the News: News from October 2014

Got questions about text-to-9-1-1? Get answers

Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Source: Answers are compiled from the FCC and CAPCOG’s Emergency Communications Director, Gregg Obuch.

If cellphone users in the Capital Area text their emergency to 9-1-1 today, they would receive a message telling them to call. But soon those messages will be answered by a live operator who can dispatch the proper emergency responders.

While a few areas in the United States already rolled out a text-to-9-1-1 service, the Capital Area Council of Governments and the Capital Area Emergency Communications District anticipate responding to text-to-9-1-1 reported emergencies in 2015.

But what is text-to-9-1-1, and why would someone want to use it?
Text-to-9-1-1 is the ability to send a "short message" (SMS) or other kind of text message to 9-1-1. Texting during an emergency could be helpful if you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, or if a voice call might otherwise be dangerous or impossible. However, those who are able should always call 9-1-1.

Do area phone companies support text-to-9-1-1, and do regional Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) have the equipment and training to use it?
The "Big Four” wireless carriers – Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile – began providing text-to-9-1-1 capabilities in mid-May of this year. Under current FCC requirements, other service providers have until Dec. 31, 2014 to provide the service. The PSAPs in the CAPCOG region have the necessary equipment in place. Training for call takers will be provided before text-to-9-1-1 is activated in the region. Planning for the deployment of text-to-9-1-1 currently is underway.

Why is it important to plan the implementation of text-to-9-1-1?
Text messaging is one of the primary ways people communicate today, especially younger people and people with hearing and speech disabilities. Several studies estimate more than 6 billion SMS text messages are sent daily in the United States. To ensure emergency texts are routed to the proper 9-1-1 center; it requires proper coordination with each service provider.

What are issues CAPCOG and the emergency communications district want to avoid when implementing text-to-9-1-1?
A key challenge in activating text-to-9-1-1 in our regional call centers is selecting the text-to-9-1-1 platform that works best in the emergency call centers. CAPCOG is conducting extensive research and reviewing methods used by other 9-1-1 areas that participated in the testing phase of the deployment and were the first to activate text to 9-1-1 in their areas. This will help CAPCOG and the regional call centers select the best option that fits our needs.

If I am able to text-to-9-1-1, will the 9-1-1 center automatically know my location?
Texting 9-1-1 is different from making a voice call. During a voice call to 9-1-1, the call taker will typically receive a phone number and the phone’s approximate location automatically. This is called "Enhanced 911" or "E911." However, in most cases when texting 9-1-1 from a wireless phone, the call taker will not receive this automated information. For this reason, it is important to give the 9-1-1 call taker an accurate address or location as quickly as possible when using text-to-9-1-1.

If text-to-911 is available to me, why should people use it only when calling 9-1-1 is not an option?
Voice calls to 9-1-1 are usually the most efficient way to reach emergency help. For example, voice calls allow the 9-1-1 operator to more quickly ask questions and obtain information from the caller, while two-way communication by text can take more time and is subject to limits on the length of text messages.

> Read more about CAPCOG's Emergency Communications Division.
> Learn more about text-to-9-1-1.

CAPCOG seeks nominations for Jack Griesenbeck Award

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Capital Area Council of Governments will accept nominations for its annual Jack Griesenbeck Leadership in Regionalism Award until Nov. 7.

Named after Bastrop County Judge Jack Griesenbeck, who was CAPCOG’s first chairman, the award traditionally honors someone that consistently advocates a regional and multijurisdictional approach through their work with local governments, nonprofits, and other organization. Nominations can be either an elected official or a volunteer who has played a pivotal role in bringing the spirit of regionalism to the 10-county CAPCOG region.

CAPCOG has honored individuals with this award for more than 10 years. Previous recipients of the award include:

  • Mayor Kirk Watson, City of Austin
  • Dr. W. Neal Kocurek
  • Robert J. Huston, Chair of Texas Commission of Environmental Quality
  • Mayor Ray Sanders, City of Lockhart
  • Bob Daigh, Texas Department of Transportation Austin District Engineer
  • Texas Senator Gonzalo Barrientos
  • Mike Simpson, City of Austin and Texas Radio Coalition
  • County Judge H.T. Wright, Caldwell County
  • Police Chief Mark Whitacre, City of Marble Falls
  • Texas Senator Troy Fraser
  • Mike Fisher, Emergency Management Coordinator of Bastrop County
  • Seth S. Searcy, Attorney at Law

To submit nominations to CAPCOG, download the form and submit it to Mason W. Canales, the CAPCOG member services coordinator, by email or fax, 512-916-6001, by Nov. 7. The recipient of the award will be announced at the Dec. 10 CAPCOG General Assembly meeting.

> Download the Jack Griesenbeck Leadership in Regionalism Award nomination form.
> Contact Mason W. Canales, the CAPCOG member services coordinator.
> Read about last year’s honoree, Seth S. Searcy.

Schreck joins CAPCOG to aid economic development across the region

Friday, October 10, 2014

Chris Schreck has joined the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) staff as its economic development manager. In the position, he will assist with regional economic planning and provide analysis support for entities in CAPCOG’s 10 counties.

Schreck looks forward to helping area communities take advantage of economic opportunities as the region’s technological, demographic, and competitive landscapes continue to develop.

Prior to starting at CAPCOG, Schreck provided economic and technology policy consulting for SRI International, where he focused on technology-based economic development, higher education, and economic data analysis. He also worked for the US Treasury Department and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and provided wireless market forecasting for IMS Research.

Schreck earned a master of public policy from Georgetown University in Washington D.C. and a bachelor of arts in economics from the University of Texas at Austin.

> Contact Chris Schreck, CAPCOG’s community and economic development manager.
> Read more about CAPCOG’s community and economic development program.

AAACAP aids residents with Medicare enrollment

Friday, October 10, 2014

Benefit counselors with the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP) are prepped to assist those in the region with Medicare open enrollment that starts Oct. 15.

Medicare open enrollment is the one time of year people who use Medicare can switch their Medicare Advantage and Medicare prescription drug coverage plans. There are so many choices involved in selecting a Medicare program; it can be hard for people to determine what provides the best savings for them.

AAACAP counselors are available to help navigate those tough decisions. They also provide screening for qualification into the Medicare Savings Program and low-income subsidies for every person they counsel during the open enrollment period.

Residents can receive assistance from AAACAP benefit counselors at 512-916-6062 or toll free 888-622-9111, ext. 6062.

> Learn more about Medicare open enrollment.
> Discover more about AAACAP benefit counselor services.

Bastrop County and its students promote sustainability

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Several Bastrop County entities teamed up to improve proper household hazardous waste disposal and recycling awareness and reduce the amount of trash entering landfills.

In September, Bastrop County, the cities and school districts of Elgin and Smithville, and Keep Bastrop County Beautiful began creating an informational campaign that will educate the public about their local waste disposal options.

Students around the county will be the primary movers and shakers by creating the campaign, which is anticipated to be completed before the end of the school year.

Bob Haisler’s high school marketing class in Elgin ISD will develop print materials such as bookmarks, advertisements, and other traditional media to distribute to students, place in public buildings and hand out at events.

Smithville ISD students will create videos about how to reduce, reuse, recycle, and, when all else fails, keep hazardous waste off garbage trucks and out of landfills. The videos will be posted on several social media sites operated by entities throughout the county.

 “I am so very proud to see Bastrop County students working together and using new media to educate the public about the importance of proper disposal of hazardous household waste,” said Bastrop County Judge Paul Pape. “This program enables us to continue achieving the goals we established in our regional Solid Waste Management Plan (back in 2007) to reduce improper disposal of hazardous materials and stop illegal dumping in our beautiful county.”

The Capital Area Council of Governments administered about $7,500 in grant funds for the project through its Solid Waste program, which selects local projects to receive state funds acquired by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“This grant supports our commitment to sustainability in Bastrop County, and we appreciate the confidence and support from the Capital Area Council of Governments,” Pape said.

The projects also will update Keep Bastrop County Beautiful’s interactive website and the companion “Talking Trash in Bastrop County” guidebook.

The program continues a long partnership between Bastrop County and its cities and school districts. The entities worked on the Recycling in the Schools project in 2010, which provided recycling resources for Smithville and Cedar Creek schools, and the Household Hazardous Waste Clean Up in 2013. Both were funded in part by the CAPCOG Solid Waste program.

> Visit Keep Bastrop County Beautiful’s website.
> Read more about the CAPCOG Solid Waste Program.
> Contact Jill Strube, Bastrop County grant administrator, or Jack Page, Smithville public works director

General Assembly approves CAPCOG FY 2015 Budget

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Capital Area Council of Governments General Assembly representatives in September approved a $23.8 million budget for expenses during the 2015 fiscal year.

The FY 2015 budget will continue to support CAPCOG’s numerous programs such as nutrition assistance of older adults, air quality planning, and the regional law enforcement academy. But it also allows for the expansion of other programs to include the creation of an Aging and Disability Resource Center and a Homeland Security Emergency Management disaster debris management plan.

Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area’s portion of the budget included $7.9 million in expenditures and the Capital Area Emergency Communication District’s budget included $11.9 million in expenditures.

The General Assembly also appointed the nominating committee that will help select CAPCOG’s 2015 Executive Committee.

The next General Assembly meeting will be Dec. 10.

> Download the CAPCOG Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Budget and Work Plan.
> Read more about the General Assembly.

Regional Law Enforcement Academy graduates 23

Thursday, October 02, 2014

CAPCOG Regional Law Enforcement Academy cadets of the No. 72 Basic Peace Officer Course prepare to enter their graduation ceremony at the Texas Capitol on Sept. 26.

Eight of the 23 cadets from the CAPCOG Regional Law Enforcement Academy No. 72 Basic Peace Officer Course filled positions in area policing agencies right after graduation on Sept. 26. The remaining cadets are expected to also obtain jobs in the region after completing testing for peace officer positions in area communities.

With the region’s growth, there are plenty of opportunities for cadets to serve the public as law enforcement officers. CAPCOG and the academy are honored to help fill that need by providing practical training and exercises to ensure cadets become TCOLE certified before serving their communities.

The cadets also learned about opportunities outside the region when police departments from Houston, College Station, Flower Mound, Pasadena and Lubbock pitched their agencies to the cadets during the five-month course.

Other departments coming to the academy is a testament to the training CAPCOG is offering, said Mike Jennings, RLEA director. “I would like to think that it says our academy is recognized as one of the best for producing a quality police officer.”

The eight cadets will become officers for San Marcos and Llano police departments, Caldwell and Williamson counties sheriff’s offices, and the Travis County Fire Marshall’s Office.

Another full-time, day class is accepting registration for a course beginning in January 2015.

> Learn details about the January 2015 Basic Peace Officer Course.
> Discover more training opportunities offered by CAPCOG.

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