Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Growing Green Communities - Austin Rural Sustainability Conference

Learn how sustainable technologies and business practices can save money, make money and create jobs

It’s no secret that Texas has experienced not only the hottest summer on record, but one of the worst wildfire seasons in memory. Hundreds of homes were lost as friends and neighbors scrambled to simply survive the long, hot summer. Unfortunately, as we move into the fall, meteorologists predict a second year of the La Nina weather pattern which is believed to have caused our hot, dry weather. Though we can’t change the weather, on November 14-16, Texans can help mitigate next year’s heat as well as learn how to rebuild “green.” Register today for the fourth Texas Rural Sustainability Conference in Austin, conducted by Growing Green Communities.

The Growing Green Communities Rural Sustainability Conference is for anyone interested in hearing and seeing real-life examples from people who have saved money, made money and created jobs by adopting sustainable technologies and business practices.

Need more reasons to attend?
  • Learn practical, real-world examples of sustainable business practices.
  • Meet representatives and gain insights on programs from state and federal agencies.
  • Learn about funding sources, incentives and other resources available for sustainable business development.
  • Network with peers and service providers.
  • Earn Continuing Education Units.
Sustainability is not a new concept for rural communities, whose roots in agriculture have ensured a long history of interest in resource management. The very nature of rural life demands an entrepreneurial, independent spirit and close attention to the bottom line. The Growing Green conference series brings information and resources about sustainable technologies and business practices to rural areas, shortening the distance to rural communities and presenting real opportunities to diversify rural economies and create jobs.

Speakers and Green Tracks
Our keynote speakers in Austin include Texas State Sen. Steve Ogden and Texas Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith. Other speakers include representatives from business, finance, industry and government.

You can find information on our entire slate of speakers on the Austin conference speaker’s page on

While there, check out our Growing Green conference tracks:
  • Financing and Incentives for Growing Green
  • Growing Green with Renewable Energy and Sustainable Practices
  • Progressive Practices by Texas Utilities
  • Green Workforce Development
  • Building and Managing Sustainable Facilities
Please visit for a complete green conference program.

Growing Green Awards
Plan to attend the opening session on Nov. 14, from 2 – 4 p.m., where we will announce our first-ever Growing Green Awards. The Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) will honor 10 outstanding initiatives that have created economic value and opportunity through environmental stewardship, energy conservation and sustainable practices in Texas rural communities. The awards program will recognize individuals, businesses, communities and organizations in five categories:
  • School Districts, including Private Schools
  • Rural Communities
  • Electric Cooperatives and Municipal Electric Utilities
  • Businesses
  • Elected Officials
The criteria for evaluation for all categories include the degree to which the effort saved money, made money or created jobs as a result of an activity or initiative dedicated to energy efficiency, renewable energy solutions, creating sustainable communities or clean energy technologies.

For more information, please visit the Growing Green Awards page on the Growing Green Communities website.

The Growing Green conference series and website are produced by the Texas Engineering Extension Service’s Knowledge Engineering Division under a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. The grant, “Communicating, Collaborating and Innovating towards Sustainable Development,” will bring sustainable economic development opportunities to rural communities through conferences and other means of information sharing.

Texans are tough, and we’ll recover from whatever nature throws at us. Texans are also smart and know that rebuilding sustainably is a key to saving money, making money and creating jobs for the 21st century.

Sam White is a communications specialist for the Texas Engineering Extension Service and Internet marketing manager for the Growing Green Communities conference series. We welcome your comments on our blog, or you may write to me at

NOTE: A variety of exhibitor and sponsorship opportunities are available to help you find the most effective way to promote your business to our attendees. For further information on exhibiting or sponsoring our Rural Sustainability Conference in Austin or our upcoming April conference in Rockwall, Texas, please visit the sponsor and exhibitor page on, or contact Ann Lauter at 979-458-8723.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Texas Helicopter Search and Rescue Team: A Partnership That Saves Lives

Thanks to Rescue 911 and other emergency reality shows on TV, helicopters are one of those things that people anticipate coming to their call for help. And in a lot of cases they are the best tool to solve many of the problems. They can move quickly, and they can reduce the hazardous exposure to the rescuers. Flying in a helicopter may seem dangerous, but sometimes it’s more dangerous putting a boat in the water than it is putting a helicopter in the sky. If you’ve got a boat and you’re doing a rescue and right below you is Killer Fang Falls, there’s a chance that everybody is going to go over those falls if the motor quits. It can be a whole lot safer doing everything from the sky.

With search and rescue, we have three different avenues of approach. We can approach from the ground, the water, or the air. Invariably, something is going to happen that makes it impossible for us to approach from the ground or the water. Flooding, for example, can make the ground approach difficult or impossible. Obstructions in the water can cause life threatening and unsafe conditions for boat squads attempting a rescue. That’s when air rescue is a very complementary modality – a perfect tool in the response toolbox.

One of our mottos is “Do the most good for the most people in the least amount of the time.” The tool that works is the best one – it may be as complex as sending in an entire task force or it may be as simple as sending in one Blackhawk helicopter to retrieve someone trapped on the roof of their vehicle, on the top of their house, or out of a tree.

The Texas Helicopter Search and Rescue Team (HSART) program was started in 2001 after Tropical Storm Allison. Initially, it was a joint partnership between STAR Flight, an EMS/Rescue helicopter program; Texas Military Forces (TxMF), a part of the Texas National Guard; and TEEX and its Texas Task Force 1. The program now has standard operating guidelines, standard equipment and standard load configurations.

Every person that goes on the hook goes on the hook the exact same way; every person that sits in the helicopter sits on the exact same spot. That coordination, that crew management piece is really being honed, and that’s one of the advantages of having the monthly trainings we hold.

We’ve got 15 members of the Texas Task Force 1 now who are dedicated to helicopter rescue. We bought each one of the rescuers all of the gear that they needed so that they’re outfitted exactly like the pilots and crew chiefs: same exact helmets, same exact flight suits, same exact equipment. We also provided them with the additional personal protective equipment to do all of the lifesaving missions. That’s above and beyond what the flight crew and pilots are taking with them on the helicopter. And we bought all of the appliances to provide the lifesaving equipment—the helicopter litter, the rescue baskets, etc. That just seemed like the right thing to do-- that’s part of the partnership. And it gives all of our rescuers ownership because it’s their safety that depends on that equipment working, so they will take better care of it if it’s their stuff.

We’re just starting to work on TxMF’s new helicopter airframe, which is called a Lakota (LUH72), in addition to the Blackhawk helicopter. While it doesn’t have the same capacity as the Blackhawk, the Lakotas can still be used for search and rescue, rapid needs assessments and for surveys, as well as doing a 911 response single dispatch to an area. If the situation is bigger than they can solve, if they need more resources, then they would probably call in one of the Blackhawk crews to assist in dealing with it. Plus, the Lakota is the same helicopter as the EC145, which is what the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and STAR Flight have. So these three organizations will have the same asset. That gives us interoperability, which is always a good thing. The cross-training pieces of it will apply, and lessons learned working with one organization transfer to the other organization, and that’s what we’re hoping for.

The Texas HSART is important for our citizens because sometimes air rescue is the only tool that will work. Sometimes without that tool, the problem is unsolvable. There is nothing in the policy and procedures that allows for a national guardsman to be a rescuer, and there’s nothing in the Texas Task Force 1’s guidelines that allows any of our people to fly helicopters. So by providing Task Force rescuers to the TxMF helicopters, we provide the complementary piece that gives the state and the TxMF the full benefit of that aviation asset. It’s a perfect partnership that saves lives.

Jeff Saunders is TEEX's Associate Director of Disaster Preparedness & Response as well as Texas Task Force 1 (TX-TF1) Operations Chief.