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In the News: News from May 2017

Retiring silver-haired legislator championed for older Texans

Friday, May 26, 2017

More than a decade and a half ago, Carlos Higgins, a retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and attorney, volunteered to be a Texas Silver-Haired Legislature (TSHL) Representative, and now at 82, the Round Rock resident feels proud to have participated in the Texas legislative process.

Higgins, who is serving his final TSHL term, said the role expanded his passion for influencing change to older Texans and all Texas residents. “We (TSHL representatives) do it for everybody who is a senior citizen,” he said. “At our age, 60 and older, we are parents and grandparents who have an interest in the future of the community.”

Higgins has embraced community engagement most of his life, which included being a Round Rock Independent School District Board President and serving on the Williamson County Literacy Council and the CAPCOG Aging Advisory Council. But as a TSHL representative, he is one of 106 senior citizens who volunteer to recommend legislative changes affecting older Texans before each state legislature. It is a job that works on broader community issues, and requires its members to share ideas, learn from example and be persistent about promoting beneficial change.

“There are many, many laws on the books that were proposed by the Silver-Haired Legislature,” Higgins said. “I gave it a go, and it was rewarding. We made a difference, I have no doubt about that.” In his role, Higgins’ personal triumphs included helping freeze property taxes for seniors on fixed incomes, making it easier for grandparents to serve as their grandchildren’s legal guardians, and supporting Meals on Wheels. These programs benefit a large cross-section of older Texans.

Higgins wants someone else to fill his TSHL seat, because he no longer has the endurance to regularly participate in the lengthy legislative committee process, but that doesn’t mean he will stop championing for older Texans. “There is no doubt in my mind that I will continue,” he said. “If I see something that needs to be changed, I will know who to talk to and where to go.”

> Read more about TSHL.
> Learm more about the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area.

CAPCOG adopts regional emergency communications strategic plan

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

In the 2013 Texas Legislative Session, CAPCOG working with Senator Kirk Watson and Representative Paul Workman, passed legislation to designate the agency as the Capital Area Emergency Communications District (CAECD). As of April, the CAECD board approved the first strategic plan for the district that will provide guiding principles for its core functions: 9-1-1, voice and data interoperability, and training and education. Another category includes support systems or tools that enhance emergency communications for the region such as the regional notification system.

Getting the strategic plan approved was a final step in a process that began in 2014. The CAECD Strategic Advisory Committee, the group designated to provide technical guidance to the managing board, conducted three strategic planning sessions during which several key projects were identified and since completed. Gregg Obuch, CAPCOG’s director of emergency communications which manages the CAECD, noted that funding had not been available prior to 2013’s bill to support several significant projects such as construction of a region wide back-up network to ensure redundancy of the entire 9-1-1 system.

“The Capital Area Emergency Communications Strategic Plan lets the district better anticipate and prepare for larger projects that need to occur on a regional level,” said Peter Behnke, CAPCOG Emergency Communications assistant director. “The five-year plan allows the district to organize projects by category and by priority letting the district take a strategic look forward.”

By setting a framework for potential projects and allowing for a technical and representative vetting process, the plan further ensures projects are regionally focused and align with the district’s vision, mission and guiding principles. It establishes that subject matter experts will develop workgroups to recommend projects at various priority levels and in accordance with short- and long-term components that expand at least five years. Such recommended projects will then be reviewed by the CAPCOG Executive Committee before approval. The plan also provides a system for monitoring projects’ progress and their continued alignment to the district’s guiding principles.

> Learn more about the CAPCOG Emergency Communications Division.

National Weather Service, CAPCOG, others discuss emergencies with deaf community

Monday, May 22, 2017

CAPCOG joined the National Weather Service at a forum about tools used to inform the deaf community of emergencies and to receive feedback from those community members. Having an open discussion with those who have particular communication access needs helps foster greater communication during emergencies said a National Weather Service representative during the forum.

While the Weather Service discussed many advancements to weather radios that allow for visual alerts, it also brought attention to weather warnings sent to people’s cellphones. CAPCOG’s Homeland Security Division and Travis County Office of Emergency Management, another Weather Service guest, also touted cellphone warnings. Registering to receive alerts at WarnCentralTexas.org allows local emergency managers and coordinators to directly inform the public about disasters and how to respond to them by sending emails and text messages to cellphones, said representatives from the organizations. Travis County assisted people in registering at WarnCentralTexas.org to receive the alerts.

> Register for WarnCentralTexas.org

CAPCOG’s Emergency Communications Division spoke about Text to 9-1-1 coming to the region. Those in attendance explained texting 9-1-1 would greatly improve their ability to communicate to emergency telecommunicators instead of using relay calling or teletypewriters, which are transmitted slower and have become increasingly rare. The division also explained emergency telecommunicators are routinely trained for responding to text based communications.

> Learn more about Text to 9-1-1.

The Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area, a CAPCOG division, also presented information on workshops to help older members of the deaf community live as independently as possible while they age, to include courses such as A Matter of Balance, Fall Prevention.

> Read about the Area Agency on Aging of the Capital Area.

CAPCOG taps legal experts for local elected officials training

Thursday, May 18, 2017

CAPCOG will host municipal legal experts for a four-and-a-half-hour workshop on being a local representative and best practices elected officials should follow while conducting city and township business. The workshop will be from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 8 at CAPCOG, 6800 Burleson Road, Building 310, Suite 165. It will be geared towards newly elected officials, but may also serve as a refresher that can provide a new perspective for tenured city council members and aldermen.

Topics covered during the workshop include:

  • Types of governments and how they work
  • Open meetings and public information basics
  • Agendas, legislative finds, ordinances, and resolutions
  • Ethical issues and traps for the unwary

The Texas Attorney General’s Office approved this workshop’s Texas Open Meetings Act and Public Information Act presentations, so they meet the state’s requirements for training on the acts. Workshop attendees may also qualify for credit hours towards their Texas Municipal League Institute (TMLI) education.

> Register for the training workshop.

Elected officials representing CAPCOG members can attend the workshop at no cost.

> Contact Mason Canales to receive a discount code.

Planning workshop set for special needs population

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

CAPCOG will conduct a homeland security workshop May 24 at St. Edwards University to increase emergency response teams’ understanding about the needs of special populations — such as children and people with functional and access needs — before, during, and after disasters. Researchers and practitioners from Texas and Louisiana will lead the six hour-workshop, “Working with Special Populations in Disaster: Issues and Challenges,” as they share lessons learned from national and international incidents that can help shape more effective local planning for providing aid to these communities.

The workshop will cover the following topics:

  • Addressing the Needs of Youth after Disasters and Critical Incidents
  • Why, When and How to Communicate Effectively with Your Populations with Access and Functional Needs
  • Working with the Elderly
  • Working with Culturally Isolated Groups

The workshop will start at 9 a.m.

> Register to attend the workshop.
> Read the full agenda.
> Learn more about the CAPCOG Homeland Security Division.

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