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In the News: News from May 2015

Disaster Relief Fund available for local governments

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Source: Texas Department of Agriculture

After this weekend’s storms, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) reminded local governments that state disaster relief funds are available and how those governments should apply for them.

Cities and counties may apply for Texas Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief Fund monies following a disaster declaration or for qualifying urgent infrastructure needs. Grants range between $50,000 and $350,000.

Applications from local governments must provide documentation that the applicant experienced the whole process, as follows:

  1. Local official declares a local disaster and completes disaster summary outline (DSO), which is available from Texas Division of Emergency Management (DEM).
  2. Local official requests assistance from the County Judge, who then requests assistance from the Governor’s Office.
  3. The Governor mobilizes DEM that reviews the DSO and decides whether to visit the local government’s jurisdiction and perform a preliminary damage assessment (PDA), as summarized in a PDA Worksheet.
  4. If PDA finds costs above a certain per capita amount, the Governor declares a disaster. 

Applications must have sufficient backup documentation for the budget. If applicants know insurance money covering the damage is applicable, then they should not request funds. Applicants should provide documentation that damage is not covered by insurance. 

The full PDA will include a separate sheet for each damaged site. Applicants should be able to furnish the needed level of detail if DEM visited and assessed actual damages associated with the reported storm event. Applicants also should inquire whether the Texas Governor’s letter or declaration of disaster has made it to the DEM Office of Deputy Assistant Director for Recovery, Mitigation and Standards.

> Get DEM contact information.

Applicants should have DEM to provide applicable copies of PDAs for their record and to accompany applications filed with Texas Department of Agriculture. 

They should gather information regarding the eligibility information needed to file applications with the Texas Department of Agriculture for disaster relief. Such information should show the entity has less than six months of unencumbered general operations funds available in its balance according to last available audit required by state statute or funds from other state or federal sources are not available to completely address the problem. An easy-to-understand explanation and most recent audit indicating the unrestricted fund balance must be submitted. The explanation or audit should highlight the applicable amounts of unrestricted balance, the annual general fund expenditures, monthly general fund costs, and the number of months reserve will cover.

All CDBG contract procedures and regulations apply in contract implementation; except, applicants can submit with their application letters requesting the pre-agreement stratagem and waiver of procurement requirements. These methods save considerable time and make the one-year contract period feasible. Sample letters that would be submitted with an application are available upon request.

Under the pre-agreement stratagem, TDA shall not reimburse any costs under the agreement until a Disaster Relief Fund contract is fully executed with the grantee. For non-drought disasters, TDA will consider reimbursement of eligible costs incurred from the date of the disaster event.

> Read more about the Department of Agriculture Disaster Relief Fund.
> Download the Texas CDBG Implementation Manual.
> Download the Disaster Relief application checklist.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Homeland Security Division.

TCEQ closes request for TERP Rebate grants

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TECQ) is encouraging organizations, including small businesses, to submit applications for the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP) Rebate Grant Program before it closes.

TCEQ will stop taking applications on the TERP Rebate Grant Program at 5 p.m., Friday, May 29, nearly a month before the original closing date.

The rebate grant is a first-come, first-serve program to upgrade and replace diesel heavy-duty vehicles and non-road equipment. Vehicles and equipment must have 75 percent of their annual usage spent in Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, Williamson, and/or 34 other Texas counties.

Interested applicants should submit applications before the deadline. Applications received after Friday will not be reviewed, but may be held for later review and consideration if more funds become available.

> Find out more about the TERP Rebate Grant Program.
> Learn about other TERP grants.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.

Kari’s Law ensures direct dialing to 9-1-1

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Kari’s Law, signed by Governor Greg Abbott on Friday, requires multi-line telephone systems to have 9-1-1 direct dialing. An inexpensive feature to deploy in most cases, 9-1-1 direct dialing allows for any caller to dial the numbers 9-1-1 to reach a public safety answering point without first entering another number for an outside line.

“We should be taking every possible step to make access to first responders as fast and easy as possible” said Gregg Obuch, emergency communications director for the Capital Area Emergency Communications District (CAECD), a division of Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG). “Kari’s Law will allow people in office buildings, hotels and other multi-lined phone facilities to access emergency telecommunicators via the simplest way possible – dialing 9-1-1.”

Kari’s Law is the result of Texas Senate Bill 788 filed by Senator Kevin Eltife, of Tyler, after a 9-year-old child could not reach 9-1-1 from a hotel room during a deadly assault on her mother.

Since Abbott has signed the bill into law, the CAECD is prepared to respond to inquiries from businesses and organizations with multi-line telephone systems.

“There’s a lesson virtually every parent teaches their child – if you face an emergency, call 9-1-1,” Abbott said. “I am signing Kari’s Law to ensure that whenever there is an emergency, any child and any adult who dials 9-1-1 is going to be able to connect with emergency personnel to ensure they come to the rescue of those who need help the most.”

According to Obuch, most large businesses and hotels with multi-line telephone systems in Central Texas already implemented a 9-1-1 direct-dial function, but the new law will ensure everybody who uses such a phone system can reach an emergency telecommunicator.

Every business and organization with multi-line telephone systems not using a 9-1-1 direct-dial function should contact their phone providers to request its programing changed to accommodate 9-1-1 direct dialing.

The district is available to assist any business service users in complying with Kari’s Law.

> Read more about Kari's Law and how to achieve compliance or request a waiver.
> Learn about the CAECD.
> Discover CAPCOG's emergency communications division.

CAPCOG calls for GeoMap 2016 projects

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Capital Area Council of Governments has launched its first call for GeoMap 2016 projects. GeoMap is a data-collection program run by CAPCOG to obtain expensive, geographic information while saving local dollars. The first call will end May 29.

The cost-sharing, base map purchasing program has saved local jurisdictions in CAPCOG’s 10-county region more than $9 million since 2002.

Aerial imagery is a mainstay of the products offered, but this year CAPCOG expects LiDAR data to be a high priority for many organizations – especially in fast-developing areas. GeoMap vendors offer many unique and custom products that program participants can also purchase.

CAPCOG is pleased to guide project participation for appraisal districts, county governments, city governments and planning-related organizations.

> Discover more about the GeoMaps program.
> Submit your GeoMaps Projects.
> Contact Craig Eissler, CAPCOG GIS program manager.

EPA seeks National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program proposals

Wednesday, May 13, 2015
Source: The Environmental Protection Agency

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Transportation and Air Quality is soliciting proposals nationwide for projects to fund that achieve significant reductions in diesel emissions in terms of tons of pollution.

The National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program looks particularly for projects from fleets operating at (or servicing) goods movement facilities in areas designated as having poor air quality. Priority for funding also may be given to projects which:

  • Result in outcomes that benefit affected communities;
  • Engage local communities with respect to the design and performance of the project; and
  • Can demonstrate the ability to promote and continue efforts to reduce emissions after the project has ended.

EPA's deadline for project submittals is 4 p.m. (ET), June 15, 2015.  Proposal packages must be submitted electronically to EPA through Grants.gov (www.grants.gov)

> Download the program request application.

Eligible diesel emission reduction solutions include verified emission control technologies, such as exhaust controls, cleaner fuels, and engine upgrades, verified idle reduction technologies, verified aerodynamic technologies and low rolling resistance tires, certified engine repowers, and/or certified vehicle or equipment replacement.

Eligible diesel vehicles, engines and equipment may include buses, Class 5 - Class 8 heavy-duty highway vehicles: marine engines; locomotives and non-road engines; equipment or vehicles used in construction; handling of cargo, including at a port or airport; and agriculture, mining or energy production, including stationary generators and pumps.

Eligible entities include regional, state, local or tribal agencies or intertribal consortia; or port authorities with jurisdiction over transportation or air quality; and nonprofit organizations or institutions that represent or provide pollution reduction or educational services to persons or organizations that own or operate diesel fleets or have, as their principal purpose, the promotion of transportation or air quality.

> Read more about EPA air quality grant programs.
> Discover CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.

Seiley: “The dispatcher is the very first, first responder”

Monday, May 11, 2015

Before 9-1-1 became a number Burnet County residents could dial to reach an emergency telecommunicator, Vickie Seiley manned two emergency phone lines and five administration lines, all of which could ring at once when residents called county dispatch seeking help.

At the age of 22 in 1984, she was one of four people who worked at the Burnet County dispatch center and the only person to work during her shift. There weren’t any computers to aid her in directing or answering calls from all over the county. She connected residents to area police, fire and emergency medical services including municipal departments such as Marble Falls, Burnet and Granite Shoals.

“It could get pretty hairy in there because there was only one person working at a time,” Seiley said. The population was smaller and so was the workload, but the job was still critical. Seiley “loved it.”

Seiley, who is now the Burnet County Sheriff’s Office communications supervisor, didn’t mind the hustle and bustle of busy hours back then. She worked the job for the same reasons emergency telecommunicators do the job today – to serve the community, help their neighbors during times of crisis, and aid emergency crews.

“I lived and breathed it,” Seiley said. “It was awesome. Whenever you make a difference in someone’s life, it makes you feel good.”

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week was April 12-18. The week honored the endless commitment emergency call-takers make for serving their communities and ensuring those facing crisis are connected to services they need.

The Capital Area Emergency Communication District, which serves CAPCOG’s 10-county region and  31 public safety answering points (PSAPs), has more than 600 telecommunicators that answered more than 1.5 million emergency calls during the 2014 fiscal year, about 130,000 a month. The Burnet County Sheriff’s Office PSAP has 12 people handling about 1,100 monthly 9-1-1 calls.

> Read more about CAPCOG's Emergency Communications Division.

“I don’t think people realize the dispatcher is the very first, first responder,” Seiley said.  “They are not at the scene, but they try to do what they can before help arrives.”

The job has changed a lot since Seiley worked the switch board.  There is so much more information at the fingertips of emergency telecommunicators, Seiley said. That doesn’t mean the job is any easier. Larger populations, bigger cities, more information, and modern equipment all adds to a call-takers job.

GIS mapping is a common tool to help telecommunicators and emergency crews locate people making calls now, but that wasn’t always the case.
Seiley used to be a roadmap for officers. Seiley would describe roads, turns, and landmarks to officers who needed help navigating county and city streets to arrive at emergencies.

Officers didn’t carry maps in their squad cars, and there would be large areas where radios would go dead, Seiley said.  Sometimes the only way for officers to find a location would be to stop at a local store and call dispatch. Occasionally, officers called from payphones.

When 9-1-1 first came to Burnet County, a large box was placed inside the dispatch center. Red letters and numbers scrolled across a digital display, Seiley said. It either displayed a phone number or an address. A large tape reel, probably the size of a movie reel, used to record every conversation that came into the dispatch center. Whoever worked at night was responsible for changing it.

Thanks to computers and GPS, such critical information is almost always guaranteed.

In the district now, more than 95 percent of 9-1-1 calls are answered within 10 seconds; almost 98 percent are answered within 20 seconds. The national recommended goals for answering calls are 90 percent at less than 10 seconds and 95 percent at less than 20 seconds.

Each second an emergency telecommunicator is on the phone, they are providing residents with public safety.

“(Telecommunicators) are trying to keep all the guys out there safe and make sure everyone gets the help they need,” Seiley said.

Find training opportunities for emergency telecommunicators.

RLEA hosts regional Glock armorer course

Friday, May 08, 2015

Many Texas police agencies use Glock pistols as part of their everyday equipment. While the weapons often remain holstered, it’s critical to ensure an officer’s sidearm is working properly before it is needed.

On April 23, CAPCOG’s Regional Law Enforcement Academy (RLEA) hosted a Glock Armorer Certification workshop so agencies throughout the state could ensure the safety and functionality of the weapons.

Participants in the course learned how to dissemble and reassemble the pistols, but more importantly, the instructor taught how to diagnose problems with the firearms and make repairs if needed.

Twenty-nine law enforcement officers attended. Attendees included Texas Commission of Law Enforcement Executive Director Kim Vickers; members of the US Probation Office and Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife; officers from Houston, The Colony, Port Aransas, San Angelo, Pflugerville, Texas State University; and others.

Upcoming Courses

In May, RLEA will offer multiple law enforcement in-service courses including: Report Writing; and Intermediate Arrest, Search, and Seizure. 

Registration has started for the full-time, day basic peace officer course (BPOC) No. 77. The course will begin in September at Georgetown Police Department.

> Register for an RLEA in-service course or a BPOC.
> Discover more about RLEA.

Seniors “Get into the Act” during Older Americans Month

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Older Americans Month has been celebrated since 1963, and the CAPCOG Executive Committee urges area residents to honor older individuals throughout May.

This year’s Older American Month’s theme, “Get into the Act”, focuses on taking charge of your health, investing in communities, and making an impact in the lives of others. The theme highlights the 50th Anniversary of the Older Americans Act signed into law by President Johnson in 1965. Through Area Agencies on Aging, the Act provides for services to support individuals wishing to remain in their homes.

Services such as home-delivered and congregate meals, caregiver support, respite, and health and wellness activities promote independence. Central Texans can “Get into the Act” because the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP) provides these services year-round.

Although, Older Americans Month emphasizes access to in-home and community-based services, the month also is an opportunity to celebrate how older Americans make a difference in the region. More than 304,000 individuals over the age of 60 live in the CAPCOG 10-county region.

Contact AAACAP at 888-622-9111 ext. 6062 for information, to volunteer, or to report how older adults are making a difference in your community.

> Discover more on Older Americans Month.
> Read the CAPCOG Proclamation for Older Americans Month.
> Find out more about AAACAP.

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