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In the News: News from October 2015

Governor’s office opens body camera grants

Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Source: Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division.

The Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division, on Oct. 26 announced a new grant program to aid municipal police departments and county sheriff’s offices in establishing or enhancing body-worn camera (BWC) programs.

The Criminal Justice Division anticipates up to $10 million may be funded through the grant program to municipal police and county sheriff’s departments. Such departments must employ officers who are engaged in traffic or highway patrol, otherwise regularly detain or stop motor vehicles, or are primary responders to calls for assistance from the public. Funds may only be used for the one-time purchase of cameras and to procure digital video storage resources (not to exceed one year).

Grantees must provide matching funds equal to 25 percent of the awarded amount. Match requirements can be met through cash or in-kind contributions. Grant applications will be accepted until 5 p.m., Dec. 7, 2015.

> Review and learn how to apply for the grant.
> Learn about the Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division.
> Discover the Capital Area Council of Governments Criminal Justice Division.

19 graduate from Capital Area peace officer academy

Monday, October 26, 2015

Walking across a stage in the Texas Capitol on Friday, 19 former Capital Area Regional Law Enforcement Academy cadets commenced their police officers careers.

“All 19 cadets worked hard to achieve the honor of graduating from the academy to pursue a career in law enforcement,” said Mike Jennings, the Capital Area Council of Governments Regional Law Enforcement Academy director. “Their dedication for learning what it takes to become a peace officer has paid off. Every graduating cadet passed their Texas Commission on Law Enforcement certification exam, seven earned a 90 or higher on the exam.”

For seven months, the graduating cadets spent nights and weekends taking the academy’s Basic Peace Officer Certification Course, which started in March. CAPCOG offers a part-time, night academy at least once a year, so prospective peace officers can maintain jobs while enrolled in the course.

State Representative Marsha Farney gave the keynote commencement speech telling the graduates they are embarking on a noble profession that will inspire their neighbors, friends, families and even themselves.

This is the 76th graduation held by the academy, four of which were held this year. The class president of the graduating cadets was Margaret Acuna. Brett Engstrom was honored as the course’s salutatorian. Ryan Staha earned the honors of being Valedictorian.

> Learn when the next Basic Peace Officer Course will be conducted.
> Discover the CAPCOG Regional Law Enforcement Academy.
> Find other courses offered by the academy.

The following cadets graduated from the course:

  • Margaret Acuna
  • Billy Brown
  • Bradley Brown
  • Richard Ciolfi
  • Ian Clark
  • Shawn Conway
  • Brett Engstrom
  • Eric Graham
  • Jesus Hernandez
  • Jarrod Jarmon
  • Bryce Johnson
  • Cameron Moore
  • David Oberg
  • Tyler Schafer
  • Carly Serna
  • Traci Smith
  • Ryan Staha
  • Kathryn Stewart
  • Raul Valdez

Nursing students educate capital area seniors about falls

Thursday, October 22, 2015

After several trips to thrift stores, a pair of Texas A&M nursing students unloaded 1/2 dozen pairs of sneakers and other shoe styles on a classroom table.

The two students were collecting tangible examples of shoes that help prevent seniors from falling. They wanted to make sure every student in their class had a pair to display while teaching “A Matter of Balance: Managing Concerns About Falls” in the communities served by the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP), said Darla Gruben, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.

Texas A&M Health Science Center, College of Nursing in Round Rock, and AAACAP partnered to teach A Matter of Balance. The partnership benefits everyone the program touches. It increases the number of older adults who learn about fall prevention; allows for AAACAP, a Capital Area Council of Governments division, to reach more seniors with the program, and the students learn valuable skills and information.

“The Texas A&M and AAACAP partnership has greatly benefited older residents living in Williamson County,” said Liz Salinas, AAACAP Health and Wellness Coordinator. “It allows for a continual pool of passionate and devoted coaches who can educate older residents in several area communities at once.”

A Matter of Balance is an evidence based program created by the Roybal Center for Enhancement of Late-Life Function at Boston University. The course teaches older adult participants to view falls as controllable, set goals for increasing activity, make changes to reduce fall risks at home, and exercises to increase strength and improve balance. The course is taught over eight, 2-hour sessions by two coaches.

AAACAP provides the course throughout the 10-county region, trains program coaches and oversees program fidelity. For the partnership with Texas A&M, it trains the nursing students to be certified program coaches.

> To volunteer as a Matter of Balance coach contact Liz Salinas.

Every year, there are 20 students at the Round Rock campus who take the course that teaches A Matter of Balance as part of its curriculum. They become certified A Matter of Balance coaches after 8 hours of training over two days conducted by Salinas, a master trainer for the program. The nursing students can then lead A Matter of Balance programs for about 48 seniors a year. Since the program began 6 years ago, about 300 older adults have received fall prevention classes.

The nursing student led A Matter of Balance classes started Sept. 28 and are being facilitated at senior living communities in Round Rock, Georgetown and Leander; and at a senior center in Round Rock.  
The dedication and enthusiasm of the nursing students tends to transfer to the older-adult participants in each A Matter of Balance program, Gruben said. Every session is full of energy from both the nursing students and the seniors.

While seniors benefit from learning about fall prevention, the students are learning from teaching the classes.

“At first they are fearful, because they have been in a hospital setting and not educating groups of people, but after that first class, they are so excited and realize the A Matter of Balance materials give them a lot in their tool kit, and it allows them to give back to their community,” Gruben said. “They realize they are really fulfilling a need in the community.”

A large part of nursing is patient education. This partnership teaches the students how to handle that education at a different level and bring it back to a one-on-one patient setting. It also shows the nursing students there is a variety for job opportunities in the community for nurses because these programs are held in a non-hospital setting.

Just learning about fall prevention is another great aspect of the partnership for the nursing students, Gruben said.

Injuries resulting from falls make up about 88 percent of emergency room visits nationwide.

“Everyone is given a fall risk assessment in the hospital,” she said. “The students can use what they have learned during their A Matter of Balance training to better assess a patient, prevent a patient from falling at the hospital, and educate the patient about fall prevention once they return home.”

A Matter of Balance is a very important program that educates everyone from the programs participants to the student coaches about the risk of falling, Gruben said. It is a wonderful cause for Texas A&M nursing students to be passionate about and doing the “selfless service that we promote as an Aggie Core Value here at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.” That passion drives some students to not only talk about what types of shoes help prevent falls, but also to voluntarily rush out and buy appropriate examples of shoes.

> Discover more about A Matter of Balance.
> Learn about the Area Agency on Aging. 

CAPCOG telecommunicator licensing training passes 100%

Monday, October 19, 2015

CAPCOG has always trained telecommunicators, and its year-old, 40-hour basic telecommunicator course demonstrates another outstanding addition to educational opportunities in which call-takers can partake.

The state began requiring telecommunicators to be licensed by Texas Commission on Law Enforcement in 2014. Since then, CAPCOG has offered four Basic Telecommunicator classes. Students of the classes achieved a 100 percent pass rate. Students are required to score an 85 percent or greater to pass the class. All students who took the licensing exam also excelled with a 100 percent pass rate, passing the exam on their first try.

CAPCOG has taught about 30 students with an average exam score of 82 percent. CAPCOG offers the Basic Telecommunicator course four times a year free of charge to telecommunicators working within the 10-county region. Outside agencies are welcome to send students to our class for a fee.

CAPCOG’s Emergency Communications Division offers a variety of other training courses.

> For more information contact Kelsey Dean, CAPCOG PSAP specialist.

The next Basic Telecommunicator class is from Dec. 7 through 11. The exam will be Dec. 14.

> Discover more emergency communicaitons courses.

Area residents can register to receive emergency warnings in 2 minutes

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Capital Area Council of Governments wants to remind area residents registering for the regional notification system (RNS), a messaging service that alerts residents of emergency and non-emergency situations, can take as little time as two minutes.

RNS messages sent by local officials may include content such as incident-specific information, recommended protective actions or response directives. They can be delivered to various devices that accept voice, email or text messaging content and to alpha or numeric pagers. The message sender identifies recipients, develops the message and determines which types of devices receive the message.

> Register to receive emergency messages from RNS.

All you need to register is your phone or cellphone number and an address.

Once registered for CAPCOG’s RNS provider, CodeRed, residents will recognize the RNS call when their caller ID displays the following numbers. Please be sure to add these telephone numbers into your telephone's contacts, when applicable:

  • 866-419-5000 or Emergency Comm for Emergency Notifications
  • 855-969-4636 or ECN Community for General Notifications 
  • 800-566-9780 or Emergency Comm for CodeRED Weather Warning Alerts

To hear the last message delivered to a phone, simply dial the number back.

> Want to more about RNS, discover more on how it is used.

CAPCOG General Assembly adopts FY 2016 budget

Thursday, October 15, 2015

CAPCOG’s approved 2016 budget estimates expenditures of $24.4 million and revenues of $24.42 million.

The Area Agency on Aging, including the Aging and Disability Resource Center, and the Capital Area Emergency Communications District consist of the largest budget expenditures — $8.4 million and $13.2 million respectively.

New programs and projects planned for the budget year include: text to 9-1-1, a regional radio communications interoperability plan, an in-home caregiver respite program, scenario place-making, the Capital Area Addressing and Referencing Map (CAAR Map) GIS program, and more.

The 2016 fiscal year budget is almost a 2 percent increase from the 2015 fiscal year budget. The General Assembly approved the budget in September, and a complete budget book was posted in October.

> Review CAPCOG's Fiscal Year 2016 budget.
> Read other CAPCOG financial documents.
> Discover more about CAPCOG.

Capital Area Mutual Aid Plan coordinates region

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Capital Area Mutual Aid Plan’s goal is to make available the appropriate resources at the appropriate time in response to large-scale, emergency management incidents as they develop.

Covering all 10-counties in CAPCOG and the Capital Area Trauma Regional Advisory Council 11-county region, the plan provides guidance for the coordination of many different types of available local, public resources needed for regional response in the event of catastrophic incidents. It addresses the system of requesting, locating, and mobilizing those resources and the coordination of their deployment before and after substantial state, federal or distant local resources can arrive.

CAPCOG’s Executive Committee approved the plan in September, which is different than the Capital Area Mutual Aid Agreement approved in 2006. The agreement pertains to counties and municipalities and what resources — police, fire, and emergency medical units — they may make available, while the plan is directed at those local governments and other organizations not eligible through agreement, such as the American Red Cross.

If a local government adopts the agreement, then it automatically becomes a participant of the plan. Other political subdivisions, nonprofits, and private sector organizations can partake in the plan and not the agreement.

> Read the full plan.
> Review the mutual aid agreement.
> Discover the CAPCOG Homeland Security Division.

EPA announces $7 million to reduce diesel emissions from school buses

Wednesday, October 07, 2015
Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the availability of about $7 million for rebates to public and private school bus fleet owners for the replacement and retrofit of older school buses. Replacing buses with older engines will reduce diesel emissions and improve air quality.

New to this year’s program is the option of implementing retrofit technologies. Fleet owners can install diesel oxidation catalysts (DOC) plus closed crankcase ventilation (CCV) systems to reduce emissions up to 25 percent, and they can replace older buses with newer ones that meet the latest on-highway emission standards as in previous EPA rebate programs. EPA will pay up to $3,000 for each DOC plus CCV, and between $15,000 and $25,000 per replacement bus, depending on the size.

EPA will accept applications from September 28 to October 30, 2015. Applicants may request up to 10 buses for replacement and up to 10 buses for the retrofit option on each application. Fleets with more than 101 buses in operation may submit two applications.

Public school bus fleets and those owned privately but contracted with a public school system are eligible to apply for rebates to replace school buses with engine model years of 2006 or older.  They may also apply to install DOC plus CCV technology on school buses with engine model years 1994-2006.

Many of the nation’s school buses are powered by diesel engines. EPA standards for new diesel engines make them more than 90 percent cleaner than older ones, but many older diesel engines remain in operation and predate these standards. Older diesel engines emit large quantities of pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). These pollutants are linked to health problems, including aggravated asthma, lung damage and other serious health issues.

This is the third rebate program offered under the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) reauthorization to fund cleaner school buses. Nearly 25,000 buses have been made cleaner because of the funding.

> Learn more about the rebate program, applicant eligibility and selection process, and informational webinar dates.
> Email the EPA questions about the program.
> Discover CAPCOG's Air Quality Program.

Central Texas likely to remain designated in ozone “attainment”

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new ozone standard of 70 parts per billion (ppb) may not have a significant impact on Central Texas since the region’s air pollution levels will likely remain low enough to avoid a “nonattainment” designation. The new, more stringent health-based ozone standard, announced Oct. 1, 2015, tightens the National Ambient Air Quality Standard from 75 ppb to increase protections for human health and the environment. Peak ozone levels in Central Texas have averaged 68 ppb between 2013 and 2015. If the region’s ozone levels were above 70 ppb, it would be at risk for being designated nonattainment, which could cost $24 to $42 billion in economic losses for the region, according to a report by the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG).

“Central Texas has been a national leader in voluntarily reducing ozone-forming emissions, and every resident of Central Texas can be proud of the success of the region’s efforts to keep the air clean and avoid the burdens of an ozone nonattainment designation,” Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt, who serves as the chair of the Central Texas Clean Air Coalition (CAC) said. “I encourage residents to continue these efforts in 2016 to help ensure that the region can remain designated attainment for this new ozone standard.”

Since 2002, the CAC has led local efforts to remain in attainment of ground-level ozone standards. Through these efforts, local governments, businesses, and other organizations in Bastrop, Caldwell, Hays, Travis, and Williamson counties have worked with the EPA and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to voluntarily reduce local ozone-forming emissions. As part of the region’s current air quality plan, 30 organizations have voluntarily implemented more than 500 emission reduction measures, and another 24 organizations participate through CLEAN AIR Force’s Clean Air Partners Program. These emission reductions were critical in keeping the region designated attainment for the two previous ozone standards, and will be important to remain designated attainment for the EPA’s new ozone standard. The EPA has recognized these local efforts by awarding Clean Air Excellence awards for Community Engagement to the Clean Air Coalition in 2014 and the CLEAN AIR Force of Central Texas in 2015.

Although the region’s current ozone levels are in compliance with the new standard, pollution levels can vary substantially year-to-year. Keeping ozone levels low in 2016 will be important to ensuring the region can avoid a nonattainment designation under the new standard.

Residents of Central Texas can help the region remain in compliance with the new air quality standard and improve public health protections by purchasing newer, cleaner vehicles; avoiding driving alone to work; and conserving energy. On “Ozone Action Days,” when meteorologists expect ozone levels to be particularly high, children, seniors, and people with respiratory problems should avoid prolonged exposure outdoors, and motorists should avoid idling and taking unnecessary trips.

> Discover more information on regional air quality in Central Texas.
> Read CAPCOG's fact sheet about EPA’s new ozone standard, and how it affects Central Texas.

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