AMU Emergency Management Original Public Safety

EDM Wednesday Briefing: ASL Hazard Alert System for Texas County

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Emergency and disaster briefing for October 20, 2021: Police searched Rockford University buildings after a bomb threat was received; USGS indicates the recent earthquake swarm under Mt. Hood poses no threat; Northside High School was evacuated on Tuesday for a bomb threat; Travis County and the City of Austin launched a new Accessible Hazard Alert System in partnership with Deaf Link; FEMA launches new NFIP price assessment Risk Rating 2.0; Calwood Fire victims urge residents at risk of wildfire to be prepared and establish emergency evacuation plans before they are needed; a rescue attempt using drones is planned for dogs trapped near the volcano on La Palma; and the ALTRIOS software incorporates optimization of railways to reduce carbon emissions.

1. After receiving a bomb threat on Tuesday, several buildings at Rockford University in Rockford, Illinois, were evacuated. The evacuated buildings were searched, along with the IT center, which appeared to be the target of the actual bomb threat. All classes were cancelled through 5 p.m., although law enforcement indicated the threat was allegedly unfounded.

2. A fresh swarm of earthquakes rattled Oregon’s Mt. Hood on Monday. The total number of earthquakes over the last 30 days to strike the volcano was 41; however, over a 24-hour period on Monday, a total of 33 earthquakes struck near its summit. Despite the increase in seismic activity, the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Cascades Volcano Observatory (CVO) noted that normal background levels remain consistent. The volcano alert level remains at NORMAL and the Aviation Color Code at GREEN.

3. A high school in Fort Smith, Arkansas, was evacuated due to a bomb threat on Tuesday. The bomb threat was communicated via social media for Northside High School, which prompted the evacuation. A search by the Fort Smith Police Department did not discover any threat, leading to an all-clear being given and students and faculty returning to their classrooms.

4. A new service was launched in Travis County, Texas, home to the City of Austin, that addresses more than 100,000 residents with hearing disabilities. Together, the city and county’s emergency management offices, in partnership with Deaf Link, launched the Accessible Hazard Alert System, which provides emergency alerts in American Sign Language (ASL). The area is home to one of the highest concentrations of hearing-impaired individuals in the country, and recent events reinforced the need to make emergency alerts readily accessible to those residents. The new system is subscription-based and requires individuals to sign up to receive the ASL alerts.

5. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), remains more than $20 million in debt. The rates for the NFIP are subsidized by taxpayers; however, FEMA is adjusting rates through new premium calculations to better reflect the true risk of flood-prone homes. The new Risk Rating 2.0 changes how flood insurance price assessments are conducted, looking beyond flood zones to include rebuilding costs. and the unique flood risk for each property. In future, that will make flood insurance pricing more equitable.

6. The Calwood Fire, which began on October 17, 2020 and was contained less than 30 days later, became the largest wildfire in the history of Boulder County, Colorado. The rapidly advancing fire quickly consumed 20 homes and damaged another 27 properties, causing some homeowners to lose everything. A year later, many residents who lost their homes are encouraging residents at risk of wildfire impacts to be prepared. Those residents should take evacuation orders seriously, make an emergency evacuation plan ahead of time that includes a list of what items to take, and make the time to check home and property insurance policies for coverage and adjust them as necessary.

7. The Cumbre Vieja volcano continues to erupt on La Palma in the Canary Islands. Currently, efforts are underway to rescue four stranded dogs in the area most devastated by the volcano. Rescuers have developed a plan to use drones to rescue the stranded dogs, and are hoping the rescue mission will prove successful and demonstrate the indispensable value of drones to first responders during emergency events and disasters. Currently, the drones are being used to take food and water to the dogs. Growing support for the rescue operation, led by Aerocamaras, includes private companies such as Iberia Airlines, and marine fuel provider Peninsula to help with technicians and logistics materials.

8. Trains are one of the most energy-efficient and practical ways to move goods across the nation. Improving their operational efficiency is likely to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Increased interoperability between railway operators, their locomotive types and their propulsion power requirements is key to improving efficiency. A reduction in these emissions will also require the understanding and inclusion of geographic fuel distribution, the energy supply distribution, long lifespans of locomotives, and high capital costs. New software is currently being tested that incorporates the optimization of locomotive deployment, railway energy supply infrastructure and train operating practices. A specialized software, Advanced Locomotive Technology and Rail Infrastructure Optimization System (ALTRIOS), was developed to meet this need and its development team expects its initial release in 2022..

Kimberly Arsenault serves as an intern at the Cleveland/Bradley County Emergency Management Agency where she works on plan revisions and special projects. Previously, Kimberly spent 15 years in commercial and business aviation. Her positions included station manager at the former Midwest Express Airlines, as well as corporate flight attendant, inflight manager, and charter flight coordinator. Kimberly currently holds a master's degree in emergency and disaster management from American Public University.

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