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In the News: News from May 2016

CAPCOG builds resiliency into 9-1-1 infrastructure

Monday, May 23, 2016

Construction should begin by the end of the year on the installation of a secondary, or backup, 9-1-1 fiber-optic network for 23 of CAPCOG’s 27 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) locations where 9-1-1 calls are received. The additional network will allow PSAPs to continue to answer 9-1-1 calls if a network outage occurs instead of the calls being rerouted to another PSAP or call center. The calls are never in jeopardy of not being answered, according to CAPCOG’s Emergency Communications Director Gregg Obuch, but when a call is rerouted it doesn’t carry with it the address and map of the caller. “We really want the location information of that caller in case the call gets dropped before we get a responder to the site.”

In early April, the CAPCOG Executive Committee, in its capacity as the Capital Area Emergency Communications District board, approved the $7 million project to install fiber lines on different routes to the 23 PSAP locations.  While the district maintains 31 PSAPs, four are located at the Combined Transportation, Emergency & Communications Center and two at CAPCOG’s offices. The remaining four PSAPs — Lee, Fayette, and Blanco counties’ and Marble Falls’ — need an alternative solution to fiber lines to provide a secondary network, such as installing radio towers and using microwaves. CAPCOG continues to work on identifying a secondary network solution for the remaining sites.

The backup network has been a priority for the last two years; often outages occur due to construction sites cutting fiber or even network maintenance – the network is owned by AT&T and, while they try to be responsive to these events, it still means 9-1-1 calls may be disrupted, said Obuch. The first phase of the project addressing 23 PSAPs will be completed in three years.

> Read about the CAPCOG Emergency Communications Division.
> Learn about the Capital Area Emergency Communications District.

Text-to-9-1-1 coming to region

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

CAPCOG expects cellphone users will be able to text 9-1-1 in case of an emergency by this October and perhaps earlier depending on when the wireless carriers enable this feature. Regional agencies in the ten-county region are partnering to roll out a text-to-9-1-1 educational outreach campaign as telecommunicators and cellphone network providers prepare to bring the emergency communications service to the region.

Because text-to-9-1-1 is rolled out by each cellphone network provider, the companies can activate the service at different times. To limit confusion, CAPCOG only will announce text-to-9-1-1’s availability in a community when the four major cellphone network providers have activated it. The COG has planned a phased approach to test text-to-9-1-1. Hays, Travis and Williamson counties will be in the first implementation group, which could have text-to-9-1-1 by August or September. Group 2 — Bastrop, Caldwell, Fayette and Lee counties — and Group 3 — Blanco, Burnet and Llano counties — will follow. Text-to-9-1-1 should be available by either September or October and October or November respectively.

Emergency telecommunicators will begin training to respond to text messages in May. While the services will be new, telecommunicators are already familiar with communicating to people using text based systems. The interface for responding to emergency text is nearly identical to the telecommunications teletype writer interface used to communicate with the hearing impaired.

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

CAPCOG and AACOG air quality committees discuss regional issues

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Travis County Judge, Sarah Eckhardt, and San Antonio Council Member, Ron Nirenberg, lead the first ever joint-meeting between the Capital Area Clean Air Coalition and the Alamo Area Air Improvement Resources Executive Committee. The group discussed strategies to keep the two major metro areas within the EPA’s NAAQS.

CAPCOG’s Clean Air Coalition (CAC) and Alamo Area Council of Governments’ (AACOG’s) Air Improvement Resources (AIR) Executive Committee, the committees representing the two largest U.S. cities not currently burdened with an EPA air quality nonattainment designation, held their first-ever joint meeting to discuss strategies for keeping the cities and their metro areas in compliance with EPA’s new National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) on April 29. The committees consist of elected officials from city and county governments that participate in regional air quality planning efforts, and are chaired by Travis County Judge, Sarah Eckhardt, and San Antonio Council Member, Ron Nirenberg, respectively.

Eckhardt opened the meeting and recognized its significance noting, “a unified front on these issues is very powerful” and went on to lead the discussion joined by Nirenberg about the linkages between the two regions and the benefits of collaborating. San Marcos Mayor Daniel Guerrero added that his city is “squarely in between” the two regions and impacted by what happens in each of them, so the effort to work together is “monumental and historic.” Each region has proactively implemented measures to control air pollution, to create awareness of the issue, and to conduct air quality research and planning to guide future strategies that will prevent the EPA designation and the transportation and economic development challenges that accompany it. The joint committees unanimously approved a resolution directed to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and EPA seeking flexibility with implementing the 2015 Ozone NAAQS with regard to geographic area, type of classification, consideration of ozone measurement uncertainty as well as interstate and intrastate impacts.

The CAC and AIR Executive Committee each represent years of leadership in innovative regional air quality planning efforts. The CAC started in 2002 and has implemented four voluntary regional air quality plans, including the 1-Hour Ozone Flex Program in 2002, a Clean Air Action Plan and Early Action Compact State Implementation Plan (SIP) in 2004, the 8-Hour Ozone Flex Plan in 2008, and, most recently, an Ozone Advance Program Action Plan in 2013. The AIR Executive Committee was formed even earlier, in 1997, shortly after the state established the Near-Nonattainment Area grant program to support regional air quality planning efforts in areas that had ozone problems but had not yet been designated nonattainment. The AIR Executive Committee also adopted a Clean Air Action Plan and participated in an Early Action Compact SIP in 2004, and is also participating in EPA’s Ozone Advance Program. Both committees have had success in helping their respective metro areas narrowly avoid nonattainment designations for the 1997 and 2008 Ozone NAAQS, the 2015 Ozone NAAQS poses new challenges for the regions.

The committees agreed to start meeting twice a year in order to facilitate future collaboration and cooperation. The next meeting was set tentatively for November which will afford an opportunity to discuss legislative issues, including state funding for the Near Nonattainment planning work carried out by AACOG and CAPCOG.

> Find more information on CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.
> Learn about the AACOG's Natural Resources Department.

Austin, Don’t Rush day encourages drivers to carpool, use a flex schedule or telecommute

Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Source: City of Austin

Mayor Steve Adler has declared Wednesday, May 11, Austin, Don’t Rush, and is asking that, during rush hours Wednesday, Austinites choose any transportation option other than driving alone to participate in a one-day challenge to reduce traffic and air pollution. 

The long-term goal of Austin, Don’t Rush, day is to show people that it isn’t difficult to occasionally choose not to drive alone at peak hours so they might begin to make that choice one or two days a week.

The one-day challenge is an effort to reduce traffic in the Austin area and reduce exhaust in the air. It suggests that people carpool, bus, walk or bike to work in an effort to keep single-occupancy vehicles off the road.

> Learn more about Austin, Don’t Rush.
> Discover tips on how to participate in Austin, Don’t Rush.
> Read about CAPCOG’s Air Quality Program.

CAPCOG celebrates Older Americans Month

Monday, May 09, 2016

Older individuals in the CAPCOG region are blazing the way for the future by advocating for themselves, their peers and communities; making our region a better place to live.

CAPCOG proclaimed participation in Older Americans Month by adopting May as a month to honor and celebrate the efforts of the more than 322,000 residents who are 60 or older and live in the region. CAPCOG recognizes the value of inclusion and support in assisting older adults to successfully contribute to our communities.

The national observance of Older Americans Month is led by the Administration for Community Living. This year’s theme, “Blaze a Trail,” emphasizes the ways older adults are reinventing themselves by taking charge of their health, engaging their communities, and blazing a trail for positive impact on the lives of others.

CAPCOG encourages communities throughout the region to participate in Older Americans Month by:

  • Promoting and engaging in activities, wellness and social involvement,
  • Emphasizing in-home and community-based services that support independent living, and
  • Ensuring communities can benefit from the contribution and experience of older adults.

The Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area (AAACAP) supports older individuals by assisting them in accessing in-home and community-based services. AAACAP will participate in area events including health fairs, caregiver events and the local May Fest. Contact AAACAP for more information, to volunteer, or to report on the ways older individuals are blazing trails and making a difference in your community at (888) 622-9111 ext. 6062.

> Learn more about AAACAP.
> Discover ways to participate in Older Americans Month.

Experts address caregiving at annual conference

Friday, May 06, 2016

Family caregivers engage in a wide-range of activities every day to support their family members who need assistance. According to Pew Research Center, 33 percent of adult caregivers are now turning to technology to help support their caregiving tasks.

A Caregivers Hope, a third annual conference taking place May 21, will connect family caregivers with area resources and four healthcare experts who will share the benefits of using technology to assist in providing care. The event also will focus on how to recognize, avoid and lessen caregiver stress.

Dr. Mark Carlson will give the conference’s keynote speech addressing effective communication with doctors to ensure a better understanding of medical issues. He will be followed by Dr. Norma Perez, Dr. Natasha Dewald, and Dr. Bruce Wayne Meleski, who will discuss caregiver stress, signs to look for and how to avoid it; in-home technology; technology for untreated hearing loss; and technology to aid in sleeping.

A Caregiver’s Hope is a special opportunity to learn about new tools to support family caregivers. The event will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., May 21 at 1921 Lohmans Crossing, Suite 100 in Lakeway.

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

Elected officials can learn emergency management roles

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Newly elected county judges and mayors may be surprised to learn they are the leading authority for emergency management at the local level when a disaster occurs, according to Texas law. CAPCOG will conduct a Texas Division of Emergency Management workshop from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 26, so elected and appointed officials can be better prepared when a disaster strikes their cities and counties.

This workshop will provide an overview to the officials about their roles and how they can contribute to the process of planning, mitigation and recovery. “The first action during a disaster might be calling in aid from the State which the county judge would need to do if it’s not a delegated action to the emergency management coordinator,” said Eric Carter, CAPCOG’s Homeland Security director.

The course also highlights: the local, state, and federal organization for emergency management; the local emergency management functions; and more.

Elected officials who attend the workshop at CAPCOG’s offices can qualify for continuing education credits to meet state education requirements or the Texas Municipal League’s Leadership Program.

> Register for the workshop.
> Learn about the CAPCOG Homeland Security Division.
 

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