Author: Kristin McKinney

Weather Alerts and What They Mean

Weather Alerts and What They Mean

We all receive weather alerts, whether it be broadcasted on television, on the radio via public safety announcement, or on weather apps. So, what is the difference between a weather warning, watch, advisory, and outlook, and why is it important to know the difference? In this blog, we will explain the difference and severity level of each of these weather classifications.

A weather warning means weather conditions pose an immediate threat to life or property at a known time or date. When a weather warning is used, it means people in the path of severe weather need to take protective action immediately. An example of this would be a weather warning for a severe thunderstorm that causes flooding, hail, and possible tornadoes. A weather warning is the highest level of weather alert and should be taken seriously.

A weather watch means there is a great risk of hazardous weather, but the exact timing and location of the severe weather is unknown. A weather watch is just what it sounds like; there is expected hazardous weather but has an unknown arrival time and date, so it is recommended to watch the weather and be prepared. A weather watch is the second highest level of weather alert and is used to advise the public to have a plan of action to stay safe.

A weather advisory means hazardous weather is likely to occur soon and can cause significant inconvenience. Weather advisories are issued for less serious weather conditions but still serve as an alert that weather could pose an inconvenience. An example of a weather advisory would be for dense fog. It serves to inform the public that fog is expected and could reduce visibility over an area for an extended period of time. This type of weather alert is issued to advise the public to use caution in the coming weather events.

A weather outlook means there is a possibility of hazardous weather in the next coming week. This type of weather alert is intended to bring awareness to the potential of hazardous weather and to inform the public about the possibility of an upcoming severe weather. A weather outlook is the lowest level of weather alert.

Knowing the difference between these types of weather alerts can help keep you safe in unknown weather. A weather warning means hazardous weather is occurring now. A weather watch means the risk of hazardous weather could happen soon. A weather advisory means hazardous weather is likely to occur. A weather outlook means hazardous weather is possible in the near future. When it comes to the threat of severe weather, have an action plan in place, monitor local news channels, and always stay weather aware.

Resources and Tips to Better Your Mental Health and Wellness

Resources and Tips to Better Your Mental Health and Wellness

Since 1949, the United States has recognized May as Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health and wellness are important year round and the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District (NCT9-1-1) is helping raise awareness by sharing some impactful self-care exercises, tips, and resources. Self-care tips and exercises include meditating, reading, yoga, and resting while professional resources include the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and counseling services.

When we think about mental health and wellness, we often tend to focus on the “mental” aspect of our health and wellness. Mental health and wellness include emotional, psychosocial, and social well-being. To keep from overlooking the emotional and social aspect of mental health and wellness, some exercises that can be helpful are practicing meditation and yoga. Meditation is a great way to clear your head of thoughts and emotions when you need a break. Some days, we need to shut our brains off and reconnect with our bodies. Oftentimes, clearing your head to decompress is effective and helpful.

To further take care of our physical well-being, exercise can be a great outlet to utilize. Whether you’re looking for a low impact form of exercise like yoga, or a high impact form of exercise like running or swimming, exercise in all forms positively impacts one’s mental health. Physical exercise is a great way to take care of your physical health while also helping your mental health and wellness. Sometimes all you need is to blast your favorite band or music genre and focus on your body with a good workout.

We all know we’re supposed to get at least eight hours of rest every night to fully recover and rejuvenate, but sometimes we can underestimate just how much sleep or lack thereof affects our mental health and wellness. The National Institute of Mental Health recommends us to make sleep a priority. To fully rest and refresh our minds, it is important to rest.

Speaking of rest, a great way to wind down for the night is to read. Reading is a great way to let your eyes rest from the strenuous light of technology. We’re all crucially aware of our screen time on our personal devices. What better way to give our eyes and minds a rest than to crack open a book? Reading can be a great way to wind your mind down for the night.

For professional resources, there are counseling services available. Attending counseling services is a great way to manage and maintain your mental health and wellness. If you or a loved one are currently attending public or private school, counseling services are at your disposal. Most insurance policies cover counseling services either for free or at a fraction of the cost. To find a free or low-cost counselor, visit the Therapy Aid Coalition website. The Therapy Aid Coalition also offers free counseling services for all first responders.

Another professional resource is the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. If you or someone you know are struggling with thoughts of suicide, you can call or text the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. You can also chat online at https://988lifeline.org/chat/. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is completely free, confidential, and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you or someone you know is in a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1. To learn more about the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, visit the website here.

Mental health and wellness are different for everyone, so it is important to find the resources and or self-care practices that work for you. It may take some practice to find what works for you. We hope the resources and tips shared help you find what you need to positively impact your mental health and awareness.

A Tribute to Telecommunicators

A Tribute to Telecommunicators

Written By Christy Williams, NCT9-1-1 Director

My heart is overflowing!  I just had the honor and privilege of tagging along while NCT9-1-1 staff delivered ECC gifts for National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week.

There was a day when visits to the 9-1-1 centers were part of my everyday life.  However, jobs change, responsibilities have evolved, and I rarely get this opportunity anymore.  You see, I began my 9-1-1 career in public education and training and then moved into a broader operations role.  These responsibilities kept me in the centers on a regular basis.

In my first days on the job, I was “schooled” by an amazing 9-1-1 dispatch manager.  Upon meeting me on my first visit to Johnson County SO, Beth Gilreath immediately called my boss and asked him if I could spend the week with her, learning what working in a 9-1-1 center meant.  That week set the stage for my entire career as I learned about the caring, resourceful, problem solving 9-1-1 telecommunicators in Johnson County.  I laughed until my side hurt, wiped tears from my eyes as emotions overcame me and gained a respect for these amazing people who called themselves 9-1-1 telecommunicators.  They were a true family, and they took care of their deputies, field responders and their community.  They worked as a team and got the job done, regardless of the circumstances.  I previously had no idea what went on behind the scenes.  Although I didn’t understand it all at the time, I knew these were special people with a calling and a purpose and I wanted to help them.  My first contribution was small.  They needed a large wall map (no there were no 9-1-1 computers for GIS maps in 1991).  I went back to my office and asked a database coordinator to print a large map of the county and I spent several days coloring that map with colored pencils to differentiate the cities, fire districts and ETJs.  It warmed my heart each time I went back to that center and saw how they used that map on the wall regularly.  I was hooked.  I knew I needed to find tools and train these wonderful people to try to make their job a little easier and their day a little brighter.

I was rarely in my office as my time was better spent in the communities we serve and in the 9-1-1 centers.  I got to know the supervisors and 9-1-1 telecommunicators and spent time with them training, talking about their problems and challenges as well as potential resources and tools.  If I was lucky, they would share about a victorious call, although I usually had to pry those stories out of them as they were “just doing their job” and didn’t feel those success stories were any big deal.  But I wanted the world to know about these great people and what they did so I began nominating them for awards and pitching positive stories to the media about these 9-1-1 heroes.  I invited 9-1-1 telecommunicators to attend community education events and school presentations with me to educate about 9-1-1.  They became my TAG (Together Accomplishing Goals) team and allowed us to scale our educational efforts over 14 counties. Above and beyond all that, they became my friends.

While I knew there were frustrations about the job from our conversations and training, and I understood it was a challenge to keep out the negativity of being underpaid, underappreciated and working shiftwork, all I could see when I was in a 9-1-1 center was their hearts. They were “my people” and they drove me to share their mission of saving lives and making a difference.  While I knew I could never do what they did, I had to do what I could to facilitate positive change and improvements for 9-1-1.   This is why NCT9-1-1 became early adopters.

Years later after I had been promoted and didn’t get to spend as much time in the centers, I went to an ECC.  When I walked up to the window, instead of being met with hugs, “Christy is here” or even “the 9-1-1 lady is here”, I was asked for my ID.  I conducted my business with strangers that day as there had been turn over and too much time had passed since I visited regularly.  When I returned to my car I cried.

I heard a podcast recently where they were talking about finding your people and your purpose.  I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually had to think about that for a moment.  But today, after spending a short time with wonderful 9-1-1 telecommunicators and supervisors, it hit me like a brick.  These are still my people and serving them is my purpose.  As I listened about their staffing challenges and what they were doing to improve things, I was so proud of them.  They discussed mental health openly and my appreciation for them swelled.  I am so thankful for the selfless service they provide!

9-1-1 telecommunicators in the North Central Texas Region and around the country – you remind me of why I am here.  You encourage me that dealing with politics and red tape is worth it, you motivate me to continue to strive for positive change.  Most of all you inspire me.  I am in awe of your sacrifices, your service and your heart.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.  Happy Telecommunicator’s Week!

Celebrating 9-1-1 telecommunicators during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

Celebrating 9-1-1 telecommunicators during National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week

Written By Destanie Ontiveros, NCT9-1-1 Communications Coordinator

Every year, the second week of April is recognized as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (NPSTW). This week is designated to celebrate and honor those who dedicate their lives to serving the public in 9-1-1. 9-1-1 telecommunicators act as the first line of communication between citizens and the officers, fire personnel, or paramedics who respond. To show your appreciation this week, you can write thank you cards to 9-1-1, donate food and goods if you have a business, or give a shout out to local 9-1-1 telecommunicators on your social media platforms.

A great way to show your appreciation is by writing a thank you note! A handwritten note thanking your local 9-1-1 telecommunicators is a great gesture of appreciation and celebration. If you have kids at home or in school, this idea will definitely spark their creative side! A handwritten thank you note can be a creative and fun way to express your appreciation during NPSTW! Emergency Communication Centers (ECCs) operate as a family, and every family loves a handmade token of appreciation.

Another way to celebrate your local 9-1-1 ECC is to donate food or goods, if you can! Donating baked goods is a great way to show your appreciation to anyone. Considering 9-1-1 telecommunicators work long shifts, they are more than happy to receive gifts that provide them energy to keep going. At the end of the day, everyone loves something a little sweet!

The easiest way to highlight or honor 9-1-1 telecommunicators is to post about them on your social media. This is a free way to honor and celebrate the hard work 9-1-1 telecommunicators do every day. Using your social media accounts to highlight your local 9-1-1 ECC is a great way to spread appreciation and awareness of the work 9-1-1 telecommunicators do. If you decide to shout out your local 9-1-1 ECC, remember to tag them! Everyone loves receiving a job well done post, especially if it’s coming from the community they serve.

Recognizing the heroes behind the headset is something NCT9-1-1 does regularly. It is important we recognize, honor, and celebrate these amazing first responders. We hope these tips give you some ideas on how to celebrate your 9-1-1 ECC and all the hard work your local 9-1-1 telecommunicators do.