Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Weathering the Storm: Aransas County Road & Bridge

Elle Moralez and her husband Caleb evacuated Rockport, Texas, at 4 a.m. in the morning on Friday, August 25, and Hurricane Harvey hit the small town at 8 p.m. that night. They had no idea what was happening to their house or their town. Elle caught an image on the news of the boat barn near their house that had been destroyed, so they knew the storm had passed over the area.

Luckily, a neighbor who’d stayed walked down the street filming the houses that weekend, so they got to see their house—still standing—on Sunday. They returned home on Monday and took stock of the damages not only to their home, but to the town. They were able to work on their home Tuesday, but on Wednesday they were both called in to work.

Aransas Co Road & Bridge
Wednesday also happened to be Elle’s first day at Aransas County Road & Bridge. The crew was so busy that for a couple of weeks, they didn’t even know Elle’s name or that she worked with them. Elle had never worked for a city or a department like this-- especially not during a catastrophic event like Hurricane Harvey--so her on-the-job training was incredibly intense.  Road & Bridge is one of the most important departments during and after a storm; they were working non-stop on recovery as well as handing out permits for rebuilding.

“They used to talk about how we did five permits a week? We do about fifty a day,” said Moralez.

Inside the R&B Building
There was no time to fill out paperwork. Their building was flooded and had no electricity. In fact, when Elle was shown her office it was done with laughter, since the ceiling had opened up over her desk and it was completely unusable. While the R&B crew were running non-stop, Elle was lucky to get office supplies and a place to sit to do her regular work, much less the extra paperwork necessary to receive FEMA reimbursement.

Luckily, Elle Moralez and the crew at Aransas County had help on the way. The Texas A&M UniversitySystem’s Rebuild Texas initiative brought volunteers from system partner Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) to help her with paperwork as well as helping her learn how to do it herself. Next on the horizon are the other departments in Aransas County.

As for Elle, she’s coping. “I’m still trying to learn my regular job on top of all of the Harvey stuff,” reported Moralez. ”Really I’m just paddling through every single day.”

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Idaho Firefighter Trains at TEEX Municipal Fire School

In July in College Station, all eyes turn to the skies over Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service's (TEEX) Brayton Fire Training Field. Firefighters of all stripes turn up for the Annual Fire Schools, and this year, Donnelly, Idaho firefighter Michael Murphy was one of them.
Murphy had heard about TEEX from others in his Idaho rural fire department, but what drew him was the specialized training. "I'm taking the Pump Maintenance class. That's kind of the reason that I came. I have never seen it available anywhere."

What sold Michael, though, was the facility. "As far as what's different about TEEX? We have a fire academy in Donnelly as well, but it's just a very, very, VERY, very shrunk down version of this. This is incredible. I love it!"

Now Michael's already planning for next year and he's already got his class picked out: Pump Operations. "Even after just taking the Pump Maintenance class, I'm thinking that the training is more accurate. Plus, they've already said some things about pump operations that we aren't doing that I'm planning on taking back."

A former submariner, Michael served in the Navy for twenty years and missed the camaraderie after getting out. When he joined the Donnelly Rural Volunteer Fire Department ten years ago, he found it again.

"When I walk into my fire department, I hear, 'Murph!' Here, I walk out of my room at the La Quinta, I hear 'Idaho'! And everybody's yelling. It's really cool." He must mean the training because it can't be for the balmy temps, right? Here's a photo Michael sent his 90 year old dad.

See you next year, Michael!

Unique course content along with hands-on training from subject matter experts are only two of the reasons our training is so highly reviewed by our students. If you're interested in learning about TEEX's training, visit our Annual Schools website

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Burglar Proof Your Home #8: Insurance Claims

One other thing that you really can do that helps law enforcement and will help you in your insurance claim, should you fall victim to burglary. You've spent a lot of time and effort putting nice televisions, stereos, personal belongings in your home. Most of those have manufactures, model numbers and serial numbers. So my recommendation is create you a chart where you can write down the items.

Write down the manufacturer, the model number, the serial number and how much you paid for it. Get yourself an established value. Inventory everything because you never know what your insurance company may ask you for when you're filing for a loss. Once you've created that spread sheet take that next step and print it out and secure it somewhere else. There's nothing more disheartening than to realize you've taken all the time to make the spreadsheet and it’s in your computer and that was the item that was stolen.

So always having a hard copy is a good thing. It will sure make your job a lot easier, it will make law enforcement's ability to recover stolen items a lot better if they have models and serial numbers and values.

Watch all the home safety videos by TEEX Law Enforcement's Kyle McNew:

6.) Burglar Proof Your Home #6: Garage Doors
7.) Burglar Proof Your Home #7: Alarm Systems
8.) Burglar Proof Your Home #8: Insurance Claims

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Burglar Proof Your Home #7: Alarm Systems

One of the other things we want to talk about when it comes to hardening the target is the use of alarm systems. There's a lot of different alarm dealers out there that are installing systems. My recommendation is that you do your homework.

Find out who is licensed and who is bonded before you just call anybody to come and install an alarm system in your home. A couple of things you want to think about, most alarm companies are going to offer you a basic package, which is going to probably take care of putting contacts at all your external doors and it’s probably going to offer you a motion sensor.

I would say that as a bare minimum, you want all your external doors contacted so that you know when one is opened. And you want to put at least a motion sensor in the house itself. The other thing to think about, most alarm companies are going to offer you some sort of monitoring service so if the alarm goes off, it sends a signal to a central monitoring area and then notify law enforcement to respond.

Most alarm systems are going to have some sort of siren unit in the home itself, so if that alarm goes off it creates an awful lot of noise which will obviously number one, alert the burglar and hopefully make them run out.

One of the things that you may want to think about if you're not going to be home, is putting that alarm in the silent mode so that if it does go off, it doesn't alert the burglar by sounding the alarm in the house but the central monitoring system does get the phone call and they alert law enforcement.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Burglar Proof Your Home #6: Garage Doors

Garage door openers have come a long way. This particular garage door opener is one of the unique ones because it has a randomly generated code. Which means every time it’s used, it will change the code itself. 

If you've got a much older home, you may find that you don't have the newer garage door opener. So what you may find is that the garage door opener code is actual set up by a series of what we call dip switches. So, it’s a matter of moving certain switches up and establishing some sort of pattern so the transmitter and receiver talk to each other.

The problem with those particular type of garage openers is, when the home builder puts them in, he goes and buys a bunch of them at one time. They're all come programmed the same way so what you will find is if you don't take the time and go to change and make your own unique code by setting those dip switches. A lot of garage door opener will open your own garage door.

That's the beauty of having the random code garage door opener that regenerates a code every time it's used for that transceiver. 

Watch all the home safety videos by TEEX Law Enforcement's Kyle McNew:

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Burglar Proof Your Home #5: Patio Doors

This back patio door poses a unique curve. Number one is that it's got glass in it. So there's a vulnerable space for us. The other thing you'll notice are the hinges for the door are outside.
There are two ways for me to enter the house, I can either break the glass and go in, or with a hammer and a small screw driver I can actually knock the hinge pins out and have this door fall out.
We talked earlier about the hinges that had the pin and the receptacle on the other side. These hinges would be a great candidate for upgrading to the pin hinges. 

Interestingly enough, there is a deadbolt here which is great. This is what we call a single cylinder deadbolt. On the inside, what you're going to find is what we normally find, and that's a way to activate it with just a throw. It opens with by simply twisting with our fingers.

However, we would want to take a different approach with this door. We’d recommend using a double cylinder deadbolt instead. What that means is that the deadbolt on the outside would be mimicked on the inside. It would be a keyed dead bolt that would actually physically require a key to lock and unlock it. So if this glass was broken out, the intruder would still need a key to get this door out of the frame or to get it opened.

Safety laws in the United States mandate that these locks be designed so that if you lock it from the inside, it will not let you remove the key. Therefore, if you get into a situation where the house is on fire while you're in the home, you've got a way to get out of the door.

So we’d definitely recommend putting a double cylinder deadbolt on this door just to make it a more difficult target.

Watch all the home safety videos by TEEX Law Enforcement's Kyle McNew:

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Burglar Proof Your Home #4: Windows

Manufacturers do a really good job of producing pretty good windows nowadays. However, there's always more that we can do.

These particular windows are aluminum framed windows. The manufacturer has gone as far as putting two locking mechanisms on them. 

Remember, though, that this window and these mechanisms are only as good as the person who uses them. You leave them open, they leave an entryway for a burglar, so you want to make sure that you do lock your windows.

You can also get what we call a secondary locking device. It's a very simple device. Basically it will fit in the track itself, right here. It will tighten down and basically what happens is if I'm able to defeat these two, it provides another place for this window to bump up to without getting it over.

Another thing that we can do that is real simple, is we can cut a wooden dowel that fits between here. The sliding part of the window and the top of the frame. And by wedging that in over on the side, it again will keep this window from opening. 

Watch all the home safety videos by TEEX Law Enforcement's Kyle McNew:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Burglar Proof Your Home #3: Doors

One thing that we can always do, and I highly recommend it, is investing in good quality locks and doors. There are certain things we need to check around the doorway itself.

First of all, we want to make sure that any door we have on the outside is a solid-core door versus a hollow door. Most reputable builders are going to put a solid core door on the house itself. Unfortunately, we don't always invest in the best locks and hardware.

There are some specific things that we want to think about when placing outside doors. First is where the door closes. This door has both a normal door catch and it also has a single cylinder deadbolt. So when the door's closed, we're actually making contact with the door frame in two places.

This is the normal part, the regular doorknob, and this would be where the deadbolt is. There are a couple of important things to think about. Generally the screws that hold these strip plates into the door frame come with the plate itself. They're only about an inch long. If you use these screws, then it's very easy for an intruder to kick in the door with enough force to break out part of the frame.

These screws actually need to be four inches or greater so that they go not just through the 1x4 frame of the door itself, but all the way into the 2x4 structure. Now you've attached it to much stronger place to secure the door.

Another thing to look at are the screws in the main hinges that hold the door. Let's go back to the idea of using screws that are 4 to 6 to 8 inches in length. In this case, there are four hinges in this door frame, so we would want to put at least half of those screws at that 4 to 6 to 8 inch length versus that short 1 1/2, 2 inch screw. We want to get past the door frame itself and into the heavy construction framework of the doorway itself.

Another thing you can look for on your door frame is your door hinge itself. When looking at the hinge, reach in the side and see if the plate is flat. If that plate in the center of the hinge is flat, it doesn't offer as much protection as some other hinges that will actually have a small pin and a hole on the opposite side so that when the door is closed that pin actually goes into the hole. It makes that hinge itself more stable and it also makes it harder to get the door out of the framework itself.

Another thing that we want to talk about is your deadbolt. We want to make sure that the home builder has put a deep enough hole in the side of the door frame to accommodate the throw of the deadbolt. We also want to make sure that the deadbolt will go all the way into the door frame without hitting the bottom or bottoming out in the door frame hole.

So a good way to do it is extend the deadbolt, find something, measure it. So, this is how far that deadbolt is going to go, I should be able to get all the way into the stripe plate with no problem without hitting the back. If you actually notice, the depth of the striped plate hole is actually greater than than the throw of the deadbolt by at least about an 1/8th or 1/4 inch. So this is really a well set up deadbolt.

Watch all the home safety videos by TEEX Law Enforcement's Kyle McNew: 

1.) Burglar Proof Your Home #1 
2.) Burglar Proof Your Home #2: Landscaping 
3.) Burglar Proof Your Home #3: Doors

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Burglar Proof Your Home #2: Landscaping

There's no way for me to totally exclude a burglar from hitting my home or from trying to break into my house. If I can harden the target and make it much more difficult to get in, then thieves are more likely to look for an easier target.

Everybody likes to landscape around their house; I appreciate a nicely landscaped house as well as anyone else. However, we have to be aware of what's going on with our landscaping. Around our windows and doors, we want to have landscaping that doesn’t cover them up and create a potential hiding place for burglars.

You notice that there is shrubbery out by the windows but yet it doesn't totally cover the windows and that in fact it doesn't offer me as a potential burglar a hiding place.
You might think about those types of landscaping plants that offer some sort of thorny type protection for yourself.

Basically what we are doing is not offering a comfortable place for the criminal element to work from. So if I've got to climb up in a thorny rose bush, I'm probably going to look for somewhere else to go.

Take a look at what your landscaping looks like, trim your hedges back as necessary so that you do allow that clean view of those windows themselves.

That way when you do have law enforcement officials riding through doing checks at night they can very simply, with a spot light, see the windows and see those things and we don't offer those hiding places.

Watch all the home safety videos by TEEX Law Enforcement's Kyle McNew:

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Director’s Message: Safety is First and Foremost

About five years ago, we asked a team of TEEXans to evaluate our mission, vision and core values. This team embraced the charge and diligently worked on defining what is our purpose, where are we going, and what is most important to us. Highest on the list of our core values was Safety.  It was very reassuring that this team felt that everything paramount to TEEX revolved around safety.

When you lay the cards on the table, it makes a lot of sense. Virtually all of our training and courses have safety as a significant component. We are considered among the best in emergency response training and technical assistance. Our students and customers rely on us to transfer our knowledge to them so that they can ensure their personal safety and the safety of their employees and organizations. 

To put it simply, Safety is in our DNA. So the question we need to ask ourselves is: “Are we taking care of each other as well as we are taking care of our students?” Every task we perform, every idea we want to try out, every step we take, should be put in the context of safety first. Safety is not just a slogan on a sign. Safety is a commitment that we make to each other. I care about your well-being, and being safe is first and foremost.  

~ Gary Sera is CEO of the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, which conducts extension training and technical assistance for nearly 170,000 people each year.