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Preparing for Inclement Weather in Texas

Preparing for Inclement Weather in Texas

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

As the weather continues to change here in Texas, here are some inclement weather preparedness tips to help keep you safe. We all know this crazy Texas weather cannot seem to make its mind up. One week we are enjoying pleasant 70-degree temperatures and the next week we are dropping down to the cold 30’s. In any case, here are some tips to help prepare you for the inclement weather to come. Everyone should consider winterizing your homes, keep flashlights and fresh batteries, updating first aid kits, keeping your animals safe, and driving safely in the ice and snow.

It is important to ensure your home is ready for inclement weather. Some proactive steps you can take include insulating exposed pipes, insulating the attic (if you have one), caulk and weather strip all doors and windows, and gather supplies. Insulating your attic and caulking or placing weather strips to doors and windows will keep the heat inside your house. Insulating exposed pipes and keeping faucets dripping will ensure your pipes do not freeze and or bust.

Inclement Weather Preparedness Blog

Infographic 1: Winterize Your Home (weather.gov 2022)

 

For supplies, it is important to have flashlights, batteries, and at least one first aid kit in case of an emergencies. Keeping these items on hand is crucial in the event of an emergency and is recommended by the National Weather Service. In the event of a power outage, you will want to have flashlights and batteries. Now, let’s talk about pets!

 

People often forget that inclement weather can be harmful to pets. Please remember to keep your animals safe and warm during inclement weather by bringing them into a safe and warm space. Prepare your pets for inclement weather by storing 3-5 days’ worth of food, ensuring you have leashes and collars on hand, and a first aid kit for them.

Infographic 2: Winter Pets (weather.gov 2022)

 

No one likes driving in inclement weather, however, sometimes we need to get essential items. Here are some tips to drive in ice and snow. To ensure you have the best view from inside the vehicle, clean off your car before you take off to ensure you have the best view from inside your vehicle. Warm up your vehicle before leaving to help defrost the inside and outside of your windshield. When driving in snow or ice, it is important to keep a safe distance between you and other vehicles on the road. Keep in mind that it is harder to come to a complete stop on ice or snow. Lastly, drive at a slower mile per hour than usual and do not use the cruise control. When it comes to driving in snowy or icy conditions, you want to do everything you can to stay in control of your vehicle.

Infographic 3: Ice-n-Snow (weather.gov)

Remember to winterize your homes, keep flashlights and batteries, keep an updated first aid kit, do not forget about your pets, and drive safely in the ice and snow. Please take these inclement weather tips into consideration should we experience any more unexpected weather in the great state of Texas.

 

 

 

 

Know Your Location: How to Successfully Call 9-1-1

Know Your Location: How to Successfully Call 9-1-1

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

Know your Location: How to Successfully Call 9-1-1

Calling 9-1-1 can be stressful and overwhelming at times. When there is an emergency and every second counts, it is important that the 9-1-1 caller knows their location. It’s important that you help 9-1-1 help you. In an emergency, every second matters, so knowing your location and being prepared to answer questions can make all the difference. Here is what you can do:

  1. Know your location
  2. Phone number
  3. Type of emergency
  4. Name of those involved

When 9-1-1 telecommunicators receive an incoming call, the first thing they need to know is your location. Emergency Communication Centers (ECCs) may not know your exact location. When you call 9-1-1 on a cell phone, the 9-1-1 telecommunicator does not have your exact location. They have your approximate location, which is usually within 100-150 meters of where you are. When 9-1-1 callers tell 9-1-1 telecommunicators their location, they can then send the appropriate first responders needed to the scene. By knowing your location when calling 9-1-1, you are saving time.

If you do not know your exact location, try to identify a mile marker, landmark, or nearby business to describe your location. Remember to stay calm when calling 9-1-1 and know your location as it helps 9-1-1 telecommunicators get help to you sooner. Here is what you can do to be successful in calling 9-1-1:

  1. Stay calm
  2. Wait for the 9-1-1 telecommunicator to ask questions, then answer clearly and calmly
  3. Follow all directions
  4. Do not hang up the call

It’s important to stay calm while talking to the 9-1-1 telecommunicator and try not to let your nerves get the best of you. When you are calling 9-1-1 for help, you are experiencing an emergency. In some cases, the 9-1-1 telecommunicator will give you direction. Listen carefully, follow each step exactly, and ask for clarification if you don’t understand. Always remember, do not hang up the call until directed to do so by the 9-1-1 telecommunicator.

 

NCT9-1-1 TAG Team

NCT9-1-1 TAG Team

What is a TAG Team and what purpose does it serve? The TAG Team stands for Together Accomplishing Goals Team. Part of the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District’s (NCT9-1-1) mission is to educate the public on 9-1-1 awareness. This initiative led to the creation of the TAG Team. The TAG Team is a public group dedicated to the development and sharing of 9-1-1 educational programs and resources. By collectively meeting TAG Team members are able to share ideas, goals, educational resources, and training that will help better serve the public. Speaking of the importance of the TAG Team, let’s talk about what is covered in quarterly meetings.

 

The TAG Team meets every three months to discuss current news pertaining to 9-1-1 public education, resources, goals, and ideas. More specifically, the TAG Team meets to discuss public education items, Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) success stories, and any new and existing public education resources like free teaching materials to help educate the community. The TAG Team works well because we collaborate and share ideas and projects. We also are able to discuss projects and ideas that did and did not work. It is important to remember that every TAG Team can look different and have different goals in mind.

 

Keep in mind, there are different kinds of public educators. Public educators can represent law enforcement, fire and rescue, emergency medical services, and 9-1-1. The TAG Team strives to have a diverse group of public educators that can share different types of public education resources, viewpoints, materials, and training amongst each other.

The TAG Team continues to be successful in bringing together public educators within North Central Texas. Through collaboration, commitment, and innovation, the TAG Team has proven to be instrumental in successful public education and service. With  collaboration,  public educators can successfully plan, create, and execute 9-1-1 public education across the service area.  To learn more about the TAG Team, please visit the NCT9-1-1 website here.

Reflections on 2022

Reflections on 2022

Written by Christy Williams, Director of 9-1-1

 

I was a little sad as I reflected on 2022.  I can’t help feeling there is still a great deal of negativity, pain, and suffering in the world since the pandemic.  It seems many people remain unsettled.  The new normal isn’t normal for any of us yet, but we can all agree things have changed since 2020 and likely will never be the same.

 

As early adopters at NCT9-1-1, we embrace change.  However, some of the changes we have seen are not positive and have become challenges for us to overcome.  We are facing a staffing crisis in the Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs), in 9-1-1 administrative entities, and in local government in general.  We are also dealing with a lot more mental health issues than ever before.  The last two plus years have shown increased cases of anxiety, stress, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in our industry.  Of course, NCT9-1-1 and other 9-1-1 entities are working on strategies to mitigate these challenges.

 

With this in mind, my thoughts go to our word of the year for 2022 – connections.  This has been so applicable as we talk about dealing with the challenges of our times.  Many of the mental health issues are made better through talking to others, contact with friends and family, and building relationships.  These connections have been vital this year.  I found myself making lists of people I needed to check in on and being more aware of the needs of others around me.   As an organization, we have refocused our energies to put the care of people first and to utilize technology to solve some of our people problems in addition to technical ones.  In talking to our employees about the connections they have made and deepened this year, they report positive professional benefits to building a network and continued contact with these new connections.  In our personal lives, I think it is important to build a support network to help aid in our resiliency.  In addition to family and friends that stand by us and allow us to vent, we need cheerleaders, brainstorming buddies, accountability partners, and those that are free to be brutally honest with us.  With a strong support network, we can get through the tough times knowing we have a group of people lifting us up when we need it and encouraging us in the good times.

 

I hope that our word for 2022 – connections – will not be forgotten in the new year, but instead will be a lifelong habit!

 

Of course, I want to highlight the positive changes and accomplishments this year at NCT9-1-1.

 

The primary focus for the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District (NCT9-1-1 or the District) during 2022 was the continuation of maintaining a consistent and reliable level of service for the region. While working within a limited projects budget due to building of reserves and the increasing costs for 9-1-1 services, NCT9-1-1 undertook several initiatives during the year to improve services for the population we serve.  While the state did not pass a fee increase last session, it is becoming harder statewide to implement and sustain Next Generation 9-1-1 services on a fee that was set over 25 years ago when technology was very basic.

 

In May 2021, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 2911 (HB 2911) amending Health and Safety Code Chapter 771 which established September 1, 2025, as the target date for “all parts of the state [to] be covered by next generation 9-1-1 service.”   To assist with this goal, the NG9-1-1 Fund was established which includes $150,000,000 allocated to Texas.   Staff successfully applied to the Commission on State Emergency Communications (CSEC), which serves as the administrative agency for the grant, and received an initial allocation of $8,989,701.  NCT9-1-1 has been funded solely through the 9-1-1 service fee in the past and the grant world is largely new to our program. These funds are in a state NG911 account and must be fully dispersed to the districts, municipalities and regional planning commissions by December 2022 and spent by December 2024.

 

The Data Team worked with the Technology Team to implement the first Real Time Text (RTT) to RTT 9-1-1 call in the nation at the Hood County Sheriff’s Office, where this service has been implemented with T-Mobile.  Following the successful transition to our new Next Generation Core Services next year, the rest of the region will implement RTT to RTT on the new core system.  It is anticipated that Verizon and AT&T will also be implemented in the same time frame or shortly thereafter.  This is a great accomplishment following a five-year effort.

 

Staff coordinated another successful annual 9-1-1 Early Adopter Summit which invites 9-1-1 visionaries around the country to collaborate, share ideas, and hear the latest innovations in the industry.  After having to host a virtual event in 2021, the planning committee and attendees enjoyed being able to once again meet in person, this year in Arlington.

 

NCT9-1-1 remains focused on the mental health of our telecommunicators, and the Operations Team developed a Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Team for the region.  Telecommunicators from around the region and some NCT9-1-1 staff members were trained to provide peer support.  The team had its first activation at the end of the year with an ECC in the region who dealt with the murder of a child in her small town following an Amber Alert and community search efforts.

 

NCT9-1-1 continues to operate the only telecommunicator academy in the state of Texas and graduated 37 new telecommunicators in Regional Telecommunicator Academies (RTAs) # 12 and  #13. The Operations Team also started providing video training segments through social media this year with a new video series, “Recharge with Bret”.  The series has been very popular and has covered many important topics to the 9-1-1 industry.

 

The GIS Team remains on track researching and exploring 3D mapping and Z-axis that will show elevation on 9-1-1 maps in the future.  They also began working with the Strategic Services Team on an ISD mapping project that will help NCT9-1-1 gather floorplan and supplemental information for schools throughout our region in the future to help improve school and responder safety. The GIS Team worked with others in NCTCOG to upgrade our ESRI account to an Enterprise Agreement which will provide the district and the COG enhanced GIS services at a lower cost per year.

 

In 2022, the Technology Team’s main focus was on procuring a new Next Generation Core Services and call aggregation provider.  The procurement was completed in Spring 2022 and a contract executed in September.  Implementation has begun and is expected to be completed in 2023.

 

The District evolves by making enhancements to our planning processes which allows us to better project financial needs over the next several years.  We refine and improve our strategic plan and this year there was a planning focus on gaining more telecommunicator feedback and engagement throughout planning and implementation of new projects.  As more and more data is available, NCT9-1-1 is giving ECCs the option on what they want to receive.

 

In addition to technology and planning, NCT9-1-1 also focused on our people this year by creating a Culture Crew to drive the positive culture of our staff through event and engagement planning.  We have also piloted a program for staff called PRINT that teaches the why of you.  PRINT assessments reveal our unconscious motivators and triggers so that we can be more fulfilled, achieve full potential, and function at our best, as well as learning how to better understand and communicate with our co-workers.  As an organization, we have committed to working on improvements in the areas of recruitment and retention as well as succession planning.  Many new initiatives have been planned and are in various stages of implementation.  We recognize the care of our people (who are our greatest assets) must be a priority for us to be able to continue our mission of saving lives and making a difference!

 

As we move away from reflection on 2022 to anticipation of a new year, the word of the year for 2023 is “encouragement” because we all need more of it.  We have learned to have grace for others throughout the pandemic and now I challenge each of you to take action by encouraging those around you.  An authentic and sincere kind word can make such a difference.  Most of us are appreciative of the work others do, especially in the 9-1-1 industry.  However, we don’t always verbalize that appreciation when we should.  Encouragement is also important to help others try new things and grow.  Perhaps the most important value of encouragement is when someone is facing difficult times.  We need to check on the welfare of those we love and work with on a regular basis.  We all need encouragement and we should all give encouragement to others.  With encouragement, we build a support network and increase our resiliency.  Give it a try. . . Encourage someone today!