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In the News: News from September 2018

CAPCOG upgrades Warn Central Texas notification system

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

(CAPCOG is upgrading the regional notification system that powers WarnCentralTexas.org to bring residents emergency and public safety warnings they need to protect their families, properties and selves. As part of the upgrade, CAPCOG recommends that previously self-registered participants update their notification information by using the link inside an email sent through the new Everbridge system.

Current self-registered participants should have received an email from Warn Central Texas using either a noreply@everbridge.net, noreply@everbridge.com or noreply@everbridgemail.com email address. Following the link inside the email will give them access to a user account portal that lets them update multiple voice and text phone numbers as well as email addresses and physical addresses. They can also opt-in to receive particular national weather alerts, such as severe thunderstorm warnings, tornado warnings, and flashflood warnings. After updating their notification information, the portal grants them access to make future updates and read active notifications in their area sent by their local governments.

WarnCentralTexas.org is a free public service provided by CAPCOG in conjunction with the region’s cities and counties for individuals living, working or visiting Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis, and Williamson counties. Using this system, emergency responders can send hyper-local, targeted messages to people in specific neighborhoods or streets. Local governments communicate primarily in English, and make every effort where possible to also send critical alerts in Spanish. The notification information is strictly used by local governments to send emergency warnings and opted-in messages.

If a resident receives multiple emails from the system requesting they update their information, it is extremely important they do so using the link in the email. Updating their information will ensure its accuracy letting them continue to receive emergency warnings for their current address and preventing them from receiving the same notification multiple times.

Residents who haven’t registered to receive emergency warnings at WarnCentralTexas.org should do so. It is important to note newer cellphone models receive federal notifications, such as Amber Alerts. WarnCentralTexas.org is a separate system and a critical tool for local first responders to reach the affected public during an emergency. All jurisdictions in the ten-county region can use the system to share critical emergency information events, such as:

  • Evacuations from floods and wildfires 
  • Shelter-in-place information during law enforcement incidents 
  • Public health and medical emergency messages

> Go to WarnCentralTexas.org.
> Read more about the RNS.
> Learn about the CAPCOG Homeland Security Division.

County road inventory leads to more maintenance funding

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The CAPCOG Planning and Economic Development Division helped Blanco, Caldwell, Lee and Llano counties inventory every county-maintained road in effort to not only produce accurate information for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) but also to assist the counties in securing additional road maintenance funding.

Using the region’s 9-1-1 database, which is updated on a monthly basis, CAPCOG identified every county-maintained road and checked it against TxDOT’s current information. “In every county, CAPCOG identified road segments that needed to be added to the TxDOT database,” said Chris Schreck, CAPCOG Planning and Economic director. “With as much growth and development as is happening in our region, there’s a lot to be done to keep databases of roadways current.”

Besides planning purposes, TxDOT uses the county road inventory to distribute funding to the counties for roadway maintenance. The funding is distributed in proportion to the number of lane-miles maintained by each county, so the more county-maintained roadway miles there are in TxDOT’s County Road Inventory database, the more funding a county receives from the state.

> Read more about the CAPCOG Planning and Economic Development Division.

Warn Central Texas self-registrations postponed during system transfer

Friday, September 21, 2018

CAPCOG and its local government partners selected a new regional notification system vendor — Everbridge — and is moving to the new platform. To manage the data transfer, CAPCOG is temporarily shutting down self-registrations at WarnCentralTexas.org from Friday, Sept. 21 to Wednesday, Sept. 26.

Local governments in Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis, and Williamson counties will still be able to send emergency warnings to residents during this time, and information at WarnCentralTexas.org will remain on the website. When the self-registration portal is turned back on starting Sept. 26, CAPCOG and Everbridge will send an email to all current self-registered participants asking them to update their information. Updating their information will ensure their info is accurate and may prevent them from receiving the same emergency alert multiple times.

> Read more about the regional notification system.
> Go to WarnCentralTexas.org.
> Learn about the CAPCOG Homeland Security Division.

Fayette County Narcotics K-9 Unit receives Interdiction Awards at annual conference

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Sgt. Randy Thumann, of the Fayette County Sheriff's Office, was named 2017-18 Criminal Interdiction Officer of the Year for his work stopping drug trafficking through Fayette County. Thumann has worked with CAPCOG’s Criminal Justice Program to secure Office of the Governor grants to buy equipment that improves Fayette County’s Interdiction Officer’s law enforcement capabilities. As part of the county’s most recent grant awards, the Sheriff’s Office purchased an x-ray scanner that lets Thumann search vehicles for hidden compartments containing drugs. “This just shows what a great partnership between the county and CAPCOG can achieve,” said Janet Carrigan, Fayette County homeland security chief and emergency management coordinator.

Thumann was given the award during the annual Motor Vehicle Criminal Interdiction Conference in late August in San Diego. Being named the Criminal Interdiction Officer of the Year is the highest achievement attainable for an interdiction officer in the country. He also received an award for the largest cold-stop heroin seizure in the country.  The record heroin seizure occurred on March 2, 2017 when he discovered 35 kilos, or about 77 pounds, of heroin. He has made 12 seizures in 2018. Thumann was joined in San Diego by his family and Fayette County Sheriff Keith Korenek and Sgt. Ron Naumann.

Sgt. Randy Thumann, of the Fayette County Sheriff's Office, receives the Criminal Interdiction Officer of the Year award at the annual Motor Vehicle Criminal Interdiction Conference. He stands long with his wife and Fayette County Sheriff Keith Korenek.

> Read more about the CAPCOG Criminal Justice Program.

9-1-1 network project finishes early, brings added resiliency

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

CAPCOG completed the construction of a secondary, independent fiber-optic line, or a backup network, into every public safety answering point location within the ten-county region. The project was started in mid-2016 and finished a year early. The exception is Hays County since it’s currently constructing a new combined emergency communications center; the backup line to be installed in that facility will be done during its construction.

Installing the additional fiber network creates redundancy for the region’s emergency communications system. Before its installation, a network outage could cause 9-1-1 calls to automatically be rerouted to neighboring PSAPs. This reroute process would lose a caller’s location information, which is beneficial in dispatching emergency responders if a call is dropped. Outages are often due to construction sites cutting a fiber-optic line. The back-up network established two routes for the fiber lines to enter the PSAPs. The backup network also allows for shorter downtimes for network maintenance.

The $6.4 million project had been a major priority for the Strategic Advisory Committee and was recommended for funding to CAPCOG’s Executive Committee, acting in its role as the Capital Area Emergency Communications District Board in 2016.

> Learn more about the CAPCOG Emergency Communications Division.

Ritchey leads CAPCOG Homeland Security Division with public safety pride

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Former Caldwell County Emergency Management Chief (EMC), Martin Ritchey joined CAPCOG in August to lead its Homeland Security Division; he brings with him a vast amount of emergency preparedness and response experience, an understanding of regional needs and cooperation, and a desire to further regional efforts enhancing emergency management planning.

CAPCOG's Homeland Security Director, Martin Ritchey, received a plaque from emergency management peers for serving as the Homeland Security Task Force chair while working as Caldwell County Emergency Management Chief. Ritchey became the CAPCOG Homeland Security director in August after 6 years of service in Caldwell County. Also pictured are Emergency Management Coordinator, Dorothy L. Miller (left); and Hays County Office of Emergency Management Director and Emergency Management Coordiantor, Kharley Bagley Smith (right).

“Public service is a privilege, and I thought I could have a bigger impact by serving not just my community but the region here,” Ritchey said. He started his emergency management career for the City of Hometown, Illinois Emergency Disaster Agency and as a volunteer chief for the Salvation Army’s Emergency Canteen Service for three Chicago area counties. While living in Caldwell County, the 2011 fires, which spread across Bastrop, Caldwell and Travis counties, called him back to the emergency management field. “The fire struck a chord with me,” he said. “It could have been my house on fire, and they were my neighbors’ homes. I thought I could help in future disasters.”

During 2012 and 2013, Ritchey served as the volunteer coordinator for Caldwell County before becoming the county’s EMC. He also was instrumental in creating Caldwell County’s Emergency Services District No. 4, of which he still serves as a volunteer firefighter and a commissioner. In his Caldwell County role, Ritchey has overseen the response, recovery and mitigation for five federally declared disasters in five years including hurricanes, floods and fires, and a hot air balloon crash that killed 16 which is classified as a Type I Incident Management Team event. Ritchey has served on CAPCOG’s Homeland Security Task Force for five years and has been the advisory committee’s chair and vice-chair. “I have worked with many of the people throughout the region for several years, and working with my colleagues in the cities and the counties at this capacity is an honor,” he said.

> Learn about CAPCOG's Homeland Security Division.

Criminal Justice Program seeks stakeholder input

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The CAPCOG Criminal Justice Program launched a digital survey and set two meetings to seek stakeholder input for developing the 2020 Criminal Justice Comprehensive Plan and determining the funding priorities for the ten-county region. The plan provides direction to CAPCOG’s Criminal Justice Advisory Committee that recommends projects to the Office of the Governor for the General Victim Assistance Program, Violence Against Women Justice and Training Program, Juvenile Justice Grant Program, and Justice Assistance Grant Program.

“Input from organizations working in these areas of expertise is invaluable and can help the region better allocate funding to programs that address regional needs while also maximizing the region’s funding opportunities,” said Chris Schreck, CAPCOG Planning and Economic Development director.

The survey available at surveymonkey.com/r/FGN6NFF will close Sept. 16, while the meetings will take place on Oct. 1 and 3 at CAPCOG’s office, 6800 Burleson Road, Building 310, Suite 165 in Austin.

> Take the survey.
> Register to attend the Oct. 1 stakeholder meeting.
> Register to attend the Oct. 3 stakeholder meeting.

The 2020 Criminal Justice Plan Year process started in July this year with a series of three applicant roundtable discussions about the process and what applicants want to make applying easier. As a result, CAPCOG will equip grant applicants with more information about the grants and the regions’ priorities. It also will provide information about similar funding opportunities as well as access to examples of previous applications that successfully received state funding. Grant workshops will take place in January.

> Learn more about the CAPCOG Criminal Justice Program.

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