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Texas Emergency Management ONLINE 2019 Vol. 66 No. 3

Texas Emergency Management Briefs, Tips and Links

TEXT TO 911 OPTION NOW AVAILABLE IN SEVERAL DEEP EAST TEXAS COUNTIES
By Ryan Ordmandy and Jeff Wright, Feb 6, 2019, KTR9

(KTRE) - People living in Deep East Texas now have another option when it comes to communicating their emergencies to first responders: by text.

Text to 911 is now live in several Deep East Texas counties, which allows anyone with a cell phone the option to send 911 dispatchers a text instead of placing a voice call.

"You know, nowadays, we've come so far with electronics and technology has really improved, and so I think this is just a good safeguard for everybody," said Greg Sanches, sheriff of Angelina County. "It's a good tool you can have to text 911 instead of making a call."

Testing is currently underway with all four national carriers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, but officials say texting shouldn't be the primary source for communication if you need assistance.

"Our motto is 'call if you can, text if you can't'," said Jeff Adams, special projects coordinator with the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG). "We want to make sure everyone understands it's always going to be better, faster, if you can actually make a voice call."

911 Dispatcher

Photo courtesy of WFAA TV

"Texting should be used in certain situations where a person could alarm someone that they're texting 911," Sanches added. "Maybe they've been assaulted, maybe they're hurt real bad and that's the only way they can do it. Maybe somebody is handicapped and they're deaf, and someone that can't speak or something, so that way they could just text the emergency and get an emergency personnel to show up."

Sanches said he does not anticipate the texting option would require more dispatchers, nor would it effect their operations too much. Adams shared the sheriff's sentiment, adding that the text system was based on the same system that voice calls are received. In terms of preparing for the text option to go live, Adams said not much needed to be changed.

"There wasn't, as far as a whole lot of things that needed to be changed as far as the network, we kind of just maintained that the calls are coming in, The major phone companies take care of the network side of it," Adams explained.

As technology advances, though, Adams said changes could be added to the system to include video components. For now, the system is as ready as it should be.

"It's as if you're doing regular text messaging," Adams added. "It is basically responding as if you were responding to your neighbor or your friend on your cell phone. So, the text comes up on the screen as if it's coming up on a regular phone screen, and the dispatcher is able to respond to those text messages."

If you'd like more information about the Text to 911 service, or if you'd like to see a complete list of Texas counties where the service is able, you can do so by visiting the Federal Communications Commissions website.

(Source: KTRE )

TEXAS CITY'S FLOOD SENSORS AIM TO PROTECT LIFE AND AUTO
By Jim McKay, Feb 15, 2019, Emergency Management

McKinney, Texas, is hoping the five new flood sensors being deployed in several key areas of the city will put an end to the swift water rescues it's had to undertake recently. All the while, the sensors could provide some valuable data to the North Central Texas Council of Governments as well.

McKinney emergency manager Karen Adkins says there are three or four spots in the city that have flooded regularly and that motorists have a bad habit of trying to navigate through these areas with their vehicles, prompting several swift-water rescues since 2015.

The city hopes the new sensors can add more layers to efforts to protect life and automobile from flooded waters and poor judgment from motorists. The sensors were installed inside a creek that has been increasingly exceeding its banks and flooding the local roadway. When the water level gets to the top of the roadway, the sensors trigger five flashing lights that signal to motorists that it's dangerous to cross the road.

The sensors also trigger messages to public works department personnel, who then construct the physical barriers to deter motorists from risking life and property. Prior to the sensors, personnel would, upon a rainstorm, drive around and find flooded areas and then erect the barriers.

"This system is going to add a layer of warning for us, so our citizens won't just drive up and see this barricade, they'll see these flashing lights from a distance," Adkins said.

"The sensor talks to each of the lights, reminding each one, 'Make sure your lights are flashing,'" said Frank Gutierrez, sales manager for High Sierra Electronics, which distributes the sensors. "The same data goes back to the North Central Texas Council of Governments' bay station where it digitizes."

The data will go into a "citizen dashboard" that residents can call up to find flooded areas. It also gives 911 call-takers a visual map of where the trouble spots are so when people call 911, as they do, the call-takers can explain exactly where flooding has occurred.

"A lot of people call 911 during flooding to find routes and so the call takers have a hard time knowing where these crossings are," said Rodger Mann, 911 GIS manager for the North Central Texas Council of Governments. "Now we have the live data that gives them the understanding of where the problems are." Another goal is that the program will develop into a regional one that localities can access for helpful data.

"That data will also feed into a regional website and the hope is that all of the communities that have these systems will eventually pour into this regional platform so we can gather and analyze data regionally and then the National Weather Service may use the data for forecasting flooding and studying different patterns during flood events," Adkins said.

The U.S. Geological Survey and the National Weather Service will also receive the data from the sensors for various uses.

"Our first goal is to protect lives and property," said Adkins, who added that cars are lost every time there is significant flooding. The hope is that the flashing lights and the quick response from public works will be enough to deter motorists from taking the plunge.

"We are hopeful that this is going to help deter them, but they'll still be at the mercy of their decision."

Source: Emergency Management

EFFORT LAUNCHED TO BRING ELECTRONIC MEDICAL INFORMATION SYSTEM FOR DISASTER RESPONSE TO TEXAS
By Joseph Ronson, Feb 26, 2019, LifePulseHealth

Texas Health Services Authority (THSA) has launched efforts to explore the expansion in Texas of a national initiative that enables the secure, electronic exchange of health information during natural disasters and other emergencies. Known as PULSE (Patient Unified Lookup System for Emergencies), this health information technology solution better enables first responders and medical providers to provide quality care during natural disasters. As part of THSA's efforts, CEO George Gooch testified this week before the Texas House Public Health Committee on the agency's ongoing health information exchange initiatives with a special focus on PULSE. Gooch was invited to appear before the committee to update the panel on THSA's development and expansion of PULSE in Texas. "PULSE is on the cutting edge of technology and is a forward-looking system for addressing the critical needs of patients and the delivery of quality healthcare to all Texans during an emergency," said Gooch. "We are confident that PULSE is the right program for Texas to fulfill its commitment to take decisive action following the horrible and historic flooding from Hurricane Harvey in 2017." During Hurricane Harvey, more than 42,000 Gulf Coast residents were displaced from their homes. Approximately, one in seven of them sought medical care during their displacement. With a simple search, authenticated disaster response volunteers can securely access medications, allergies, diagnoses and lab results for those displaced outside their typical healthcare environment during a national disaster or other emergency. Authorized networks connected to PULSE will have already taken all necessary precautions to protect patient data under state and federal law. "We are working to have PULSE in place before the 2019 hurricane season begins," added Gooch. "We look forward to continuing this dialogue with our state leaders and educating the public on the many benefits of having this system available during emergencies while keeping Texas in the forefront of health information exchange (HIE)." In late 2014, ONC and Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response received a joint Health and Human Services (HHS) Ventures award, through HHS' innovative IDEA Lab, to lay the foundation for PULSE. About THSA The Texas legislature established Texas Health Services Authority (THSA) in 2007 for the purpose of promoting, implementing, and facilitating the secure electronic exchange of health information. The THSA accomplishes this purpose through its health information exchange (HIE) and privacy and security certification and supporting programs.

Source: LifePulseHealth

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