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2012 Monthly Meeting Reports

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March 2012
The March 15 P.I.P. speaker was Misty Gunn with the Harris County Homeland Security speaking about emergency management and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). We learned that Harris County’s 1777 square miles have set a national record by receiving 35 presidential Declarations of Disaster. Between our weather, and the vulnerability of our Port and petrochemical industries as targets, we are subject to just about every possible disaster except earthquake and volcano.

Ms. Gunn was experienced in running evacuation shelters, and warned that we should expect nothing more than a cot and a blanket if we go to one. Noting that wildfires can spread at 60 miles an hour, she advised that we could be ordered to evacuate with only five minutes of notice and stressed the importance of preparation with four steps:

1) HAVE A KIT. Include a 3-5 day supply of essentials, such as water, nonperishable food, change of clothing, medicines, toiletries, and copies of important papers. Don’t forget nonelectronic entertainment for kids, and crates or leashes and food and water for pets. Have your kit portable, like a wheeled bin, and distinctly marked.

2) HAVE A PLAN. All family members should know and understand evacuation and communication routes. Agree on out-of-town and out-of state contacts, should local phone connections be jammed, so that family members can communicate. People who will need assistance evacuating need to notify the United Way by calling 211 and registering (and re-registering each year) well in advance of any emergency. While your cell phone charger can save your life, your generator can kill you. A generator that hasn’t been used for a while need to be serviced well before it is needed - folks need to understand the safety rules about its use. If you are in evacuation zones, use main routes, where gas, water and food are available; if you are not, hunker down instead of jamming the roads.

3) STAY INFORMED. While 740AM, KTRH, is the official radio station for news and weather, all TV and radio stations are kept informed. Additional sources of information are readily available NOAA weather radios, and www.readyharris.org, www.stormpulse.com andwww.wunderground.com.

4) BE INVOLVED. As only 1% of Harris County citizens are emergency responders, the other 99% of the public could be in need of help. A rewarding way to be involved is to become certified with the Community Emergency Response Team. This requires a free 8-week course, with a three-hour once-a-week class. The curriculum includes Preparedness, Fire Suppression, Medical Operations, Search and Rescue, Disaster Psychology and Organization, Terrorism, and Simulations. Schedules can be found atwww.harriscountycitizencorps.com. By taking this training, you could be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem, should disaster strike. Some P.I.P. attendees were certified, and reported it to be very rewarding.
April 2012
Did you know that identity theft is America’s fastest growing crime? At HPD’s April Positive Interaction Program, the speaker was Nate Maxwell, one of USPS’s 30 postal inspectors in the Houston area. His top priority is the protection of the 10,500 postal employees in Houston, but he also deals with all crimes involving the postal service, including identity theft.
 
The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence act defines this criminal offense as occurring when a person knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of federal law or that constitutes a felony under any applicable state or local law. If you have been a victim of identity theft, there is a 56% chance that you have no idea who committed the crime, but there is a 16% chance that it was committed by someone you know. Only 2% of identity theft is USPS-related, yet our speaker warned us that we should always deposit outgoing mail at the post office or in a blue Postal Service collection box - or hand it directly to your carrier. If someone does steal your outgoing bill payment from your curbside box, it contains a wealth of information about you.
 
The other three important precautions that Maxwell urged everyone to take are to shred any documents with personal information before discarding them, to never give personal information over the phone or internet unless you initiated the contact, and to review your consumer credit reports annually. You can order your free annual credit report online at annualcreditreport.com, or by phoning 1-877-322-8228.
 
Additional tips from postal inspectors are to sign your new credit cards before someone else does, memorize your social security number and passwords and don’t carry them with you, don’t use your birth date as your password, match credit card receipts against monthly bills, and don’t leave receipts behind at ATM, bank counters or gasoline pumps. To insure that your internet orders are secure from online prowlers, do not input financial numbers unless it offers a secure transaction. A secure or “encrypted” transaction will have the icon of a lock in the bottom strip of the web browser page and a URL address that changes from “http” to “https” for the page at which you enter personal data.
 
If you are a victim or credit card fraud, report it to any one of the three major credit reporting agencies:
 
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285, www.equifax.com
Experian: 1-888-397-3742, www.experian.com
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289, www.transunion.com

If the crime involved USPS, report it online at http://postalinspectors.uspis.gov

If the crime involved counterfeit credit cards or computer hacking, report it to the U.S. Secret Service at www.secretservice.gov
June 2012
On June 21, HPD’s Positive Interaction Program presenter was Sgt. Melissa Holbrook with the Special Crimes Division assigned to the District Attorney’s Office. Holbrook’s program was “Family Violence”, which accounts for 22,000 HPD reports per year, and 40,000 Harris County cases. In 90% of these cases it is violence by an adult male committed against an adult female. In 2009 there were 111 women killed by their domestic partners in Houston.
 
Holbrook stressed that domestic violence is prevalent across all sectors of race, geography and economic class in Houston. It ends in one of three ways: either the abuser is stopped, the victim leaves, or the abuser kills the victim. If you suspect a friend or neighbor is a victim of domestic violence, there are six helpful things you can say to that person:
 
1) I am afraid for your safety.
2) I am afraid for the safety of your children.
3) It will only get worse.
4) I am here for you.
5) You don’t deserve to be abused.
6) It is not your fault.
 
Law enforcement officials are trying to look at warning signs to intervene before violence escalates. You need not be the victim to report suspected domestic violence. Friends and neighbors may report it, and law enforcement may file charges without the victim’s participation if the evidence is present. The Westside unit can be reached by phoning 281-584-4900, the Central unit’s phone is 713-308-1100, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE.
 
HPD crime statistics are available online by beat. If you wish to read the statistics for Ashford Hollow and our neighbors on your computer, go to website here.

October 2012
The October 18 Westside Divisional Positive Interaction Program was presented by Stephen Daniels, a civilian employee of HPD’s Public Affairs Division. Daniels is an Active Shooter, which means he trains HPD officers to respond to the escalating violence of mass murder in the workplace, or in schools, or in public venues, or even in houses of worship. Daniels emphasized to us that the probability of surviving such an attack depended on developing a survival mindset. Most victims have no idea how to respond or what to do when there is an active shooter whose only goal is to see us die.
 
At the time of our first active shooter in Texas, Charles Whitman at the University of Texas in 1966, the most common weapon for police officers was a .38 revolver, which is no match for a sniper’s rifle at the top of a tower. Now you can expect officers to have a long gun in the trunk of their cars. Law enforcement has realized that their most effective response to such situations is to reach the shooter as fast as possible. That means that they will pass by the dead and dying, even an officer down, to achieve the goal of taking down the shooter. And it means that you must not distract them from this goal; you must remain calm and keep your hands visible and empty so as to not represent any appearance of threat.
 
The City of Houston, with support from the Department of Homeland Security, has an excellent video, “Surviving an Active Shooter Event”, and Daniels encouraged us all to google “RUN HIDE FIGHT youtube” and watch it with our families. The first, and preferable, option is to escape - break windows, jump out of second story windows, leave your belongings behind, do not wait for others - get far away from the shooter as fast as possible. If running is not possible, then shelter in place - turn off lights, lock and fortify doors. If all else fails, be prepared to fight for your life - time is not on your side, so engage the attacker at the first opportunity.
 
Aurora. Columbine. Virginia Tech. What if we had been there? Would we have survived? To help us prepare, we should consider in advance our best escape route if faced with an active shooter in the building. Or consider where you could hide, or take cover. Think about what objects are weapons if you cannot run or hide: heavy books, chairs, fire extinguishers or letter openers.
 
Is the idea of tackling an armed shooter unthinkable? Daniels also recommended that we google “Alon Stivi youtube.” Alon is an Israeli survival expert and you can watch his video “Last Resort Active Shooter Survival Measures.” Should you ever face such a situation, this video will empower you and give you confidence to act, rather than react, so that you can be a survivor rather than a victim. This was the best PIP program we’ve had in 2012.

Here are the links: 'RUN HIDE FIGHT" and "Alon Stivi"

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