Dowless to lead emergency services in Bladen County

Dowless to lead emergency services in Bladen County

 

By: Alan Wooten – Bladen Journal

 

ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County’s emergency services leader during two hurricanes 23 months apart has departed.

But with its recent hire, the county will still have someone intensely familiar with how Matthew and Florence delivered impact. Nathan Dowless was in the emergency operations command center for both, a volunteer worker more than happy to help out.

“The last two hurricanes, he called and asked if I would help as a volunteer at the EOC,” Dowless said of Bradley Kinlaw, the former director of emergency services. “So I was familiar with that for both of the last two hurricanes. Bradley is a friend.”

Dowless succeeds Kinlaw, who served the county nearly 10 years before departing for a position in Harnett County. The two have a lengthy history: Dowless has most recently sold fire trucks and equipment in a 14-county region, and he and Kinlaw knew each other growing up and served in the same volunteer fire department.

In his role, Dowless will oversee functions of emergency management; emergency medical services; Geographic Information Systems/E-911 addressing; planning; building inspections; and the office of the fire marshal.

“I’m settling in pretty good,” Dowless said. “I have a lot to learn. I came into a lot of hurricane stuff and I’m trying to learn about it, the lay of the land so to speak.”

He knows the job is about more than hurricanes and disasters. State level contacts are key, and he’s got Kinlaw a phone call away.

“He told me if you keep the best interests of the citizens of Bladen County in mind you’ll do all right,” he said. “He really cared about the county. I truly care about this county, and the citizens in it, and what we do. This is my way of giving back, or helping out the best way I see fit.”

Dowless, who grew up in the Abbottsburg area of Bladenboro, was a fire training coordinator at Bladen Community College for about half a decade.

“I think Nathan is a great asset to lead the Bladen County Emergency Services team as he has a known passion for public service to the citizens of Bladen County,” Kinlaw said. “The relationships that he already has with the emergency services team, partners and stakeholders in the county will prove to be invaluable during his journey. I have no doubt he will work that well with the team to take the customer service, level of service, response capabilities to record levels in their mission to serve the citizens and visitors of Bladen County.”

County Manager Greg Martin shares similar beliefs.

“Nathan brings a passion for emergency services, and, by having established relationships and an understanding of the community, he will be able to hit the ground running,” he said. “Nathan has a track record of success in previous positions and we are confident that the citizens of Bladen County will be well-served by Nathan’s leadership in this important role.”

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COKER NAMED EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT COORDINATOR

COKER NAMED EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT COORDINATOR

Recently appointed to the Young County Emergency Management Coordinator (YCEMC) position, Greg Coker brings more than just a wealth of experience, expertise and knowledge to his new role. Primarily, Coker is responsible for emergencies that occur within the county such as natural or man-made emergencies, which could be a fire, tornado, active shooter or hazmat spill, to name a few.

Coker helps law enforcement and first responders coordinate large events falling under the National Incident Management System (NIMS), which is the first-ever standardized approach to incident management and response that was developed by the Department of Homeland Security and released in March 2004. NIMS establishes a uniform set of processes and procedures that emergency responders at all levels of government use to conduct response operations.

Coker wants the public to know that his priority for emergency management at a county level is to ensure the county’s emergency management plan is up-to-date, and to make sure Young County’s first responders have the training to deal with any emergency that may arise. Also, Coker wants the first responders to know they can come to him with questions and for training.

A valued member of the armed forces of the United States, Coker retired from the Army as a Chief Warrant Officer 4 where he piloted helos for several years. In the latter years, he piloted Cobra and Apache Helos. After completing special operations training at Fort Campbell, he joined the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR) where he had an opportunity to fly the AH-6 Little Bird, which is a lightweight helicopter gunship reserved for special operations. Coker served our country with dedication and pride in such places as Afghanistan and Iraq among other tours of duty until his retirement in 2008.

Coker donates his time and expertise as a helo pilot along with other skills to help veterans at the Young County Warriors Ranch located in Graham Texas. The 20-acre ranch is a nonprofit organization that brings veterans together to enjoy hunting, fishing and fellowship. The ranch has a big pond for fishing, a bunkhouse that can sleep approximately 18, a small range and a large building for special events. The ranch is always open to Veterans 365 days of the year to bring their families or to enjoy solo. The ranch is much more than just a retreat or place to unwind, said Coker. Veterans are most comfortable talking and sharing with other veterans, and the ranch provides the platform to facilitate this desire. For additional information about the ranch, visit the Facebook page using the email: info@ycwarriorranch.com).

Annually, usually in March, the ranch hosts a hog hunt on a helo for approximately 24 veterans from all over the country. Invitees include active duty military, retirees and veterans. Coker said he enjoys watching the guys come in on the first night, which is usually a Thursday. And he said he enjoys watching their transition through that weekend as they unwind and relax. “The weekend is a weekend of friendship. The organization is a faith-based program that helps form friendships and allows the veterans to fellowship in a trusting environment. God Bless America,” Coker concluded.

County Emergency Management Director settles into role

County Emergency Management Director settles into role

 

For a little more than a year, Texas County’s emergency management director (EMD) has been Licking resident Clinton Schwarz.

A native of Minnesota, Schwartz entered the military right out of high school and became a chemical, biological and radiological defense specialist. He was stationed at Fort Leonard Wood in 2013 and retired last year after working there as a CBR instructor.

Schwarz is currently enrolled at Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla and is pursuing a degree in civil engineering, with a minor in explosives. He is married, and he and his wife, Jessica, have a daughter who will also be attending Missouri S&T beginning this fall and a son entering ninth grade.

Schwarz said his primary role as county EMD is to act as a liaison between the citizens, the county and the state with regard to securing financial assistance for disaster relief. He said it’s crucial for people to report damage following a disaster because the state has a monetary threshold that needs to be reached before relief funding can be distributed.

“I want people to give me a heads-up,” Schwarz said, “because I won’t know to report to the state that we may have met a threshold if nobody’s calling me.”

Schwarz is also City of Licking EMD. As county EMD, he reports directly to Presiding Commissioner Scott Long.

Schwartz can be reached by phone at 619-405-9826 or by email at emd@texascountymissouri.gov.

“Hopefully, I never have to do my job,” he said, “but I’m here for the people to help figure out what to do if something happens that we don’t want to have happen.”

How States Are Changing the Face of Emergency Management

How States Are Changing the Face of Emergency Management

 

Every disaster or emergency presents a challenge to emergency managers – what resources to commit, who is needed to respond, when to pull what levers for support, where to put people, and how to recover. Lessons from past events inform how we respond to future emergencies but are only part of the equation. As emergency managers, we need to look at innovative methods, technologies, and tools to prepare for disasters and make our communities more resilient. It takes a village, and our roles are unique in that we work every day to pull that village together.

Part of how emergency managers innovate and improve is through networking, identifying best practices, and working with our counterparts across the country to learn from one another. The National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) is one organization and gathering that allows emergency managers to do just that. Meeting annually, the group allows members to come together and examine recent disaster response and recovery operations and talk about the ways we are preparing for the next one. The same is true of public information officers in emergency management. From July 17-18, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region III office in Philadelphia is hosting the annual NEMA PIO Meeting to share skillsets, identify new opportunities for growth in the field of public information, and develop new practices to take back to our jurisdictions for the next emergency.

In preparation for this meeting, FEMA asked our state counterparts in emergency management to answer a simple question: How is your state changing emergency management? By pulling together these responses, our hope is to show the progress we are making and the change in focus across the nation on emergency preparedness. Not only looking at what went right in an emergency, but what we are doing before the next one to prepare our communities. Whether it’s unique websites, school curriculum programs, or a focus on exercises and training (to name a few), every day new things are being done to help prepare for tomorrow’s emergency. One disaster can affect a community forever, and our job has never been more important, but we continue to make strides in how well we can respond. Our communities, families, and nation depend on it.

And with that, we are proud to share how FEMA and our state partners are changing emergency management.

 

Everett Teen Sentenced 22 Years for School Shooting Plot

Everett Teen Sentenced 22 Years for School Shooting Plot

 

The 19-year-old was storing a rifle in his bedroom along with plans for a mass shooting at his high school in his personal notebook.

A 19-year old teenager from Everett, Wash., was convicted of planning a high school shooting and sentenced to 22.5 years in prison.

Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Bruce Weiss sentenced Joshua O’Connor on Thursday, after a three-hour court hearing on Feb. 12, reports HeraldNet.

It was O’Connor’s grandmother, Catherine Katsel O’Connor, who called 911 out of concern for her grandson and the safety of others.

“To me, ma’am, you are a hero,” the judge told her.

In Feb. 2018, she found a spiral notebook in his room full of plans for a massacre. He was also hiding a rifle in his guitar case.

“I’ve been thinking a lot. I need to make this shooting/bombing at Kamiak infamous,” the judge read from the notebook. “I need to get the biggest fatality number I possibly can. I NEED to make this count.”

His initial target was going to be at Kamiak High School, where he previously attended and was suspended twice. Then he decided to flip a coin to see if he would shoot Kamiak or his then-current school, ACES, an alternative high school.

“The results: I’m coming for you Ace’s,” he wrote. “(Expletive) Kamiak you (expletives) got lucky. I hope someone follows in my footsteps and gets you dumb (expletives). I can’t wait to (expletive) up Ace’s! April is gonna be a blast.”

Police also seized grenades and other evidence that proved O’Connor carried out an armed robbery at a local minimart last year.

O’Connor’s plan for the massacre was to plant pressure-cooker bombs under the bleachers, zip-tie door handles and “mow kids down in the hallway and gym,” according to his journal.

He chose a day in late April of last year to align with the Columbine High School shooting.

As his final act, O’Connor planned to kill himself or die in a shootout with the police. He even hand-wrote his will.

O’Connor was also accused of attempting to plan a second school shooting from behind bars this past year.

An inmate told police that O’Connor tried to recruit him to bomb Kamiak and shoot up another high school in May 2018. The inmate claimed to have been beaten in jail because word was leaked that he told an attorney about the scheme.

O’Connor allegedly recruited another inmate, Travis Hammons, to carry out the beating. Hammons was charged with first-degree assault and is awaiting trial.

The teen’s defense team argued that his past has left him stunted and immature. His mother was untreated for an undiagnosed mental illness and he suffered physical abuse.

They asked for a sentence of 12 years in prison, but the judge believed O’Connor was aware of the consequences of his action and that he spent months plotting out the details.

“This was not the work or the brain of a youth with low impulse control,” Weiss said. “It was a plan, premeditated and contemplated. It was not an impulsive act.”

O’Connor wrote in a statement to the court that he feels remorse and embarrassment for his disturbing thoughts. He says at the time he was suicidal and abusing drugs and alcohol.

Over the last year, he says he has matured, turned to religion and is preparing to take college courses.

 

Johns Hopkins Faculty Members Oppose Private School Police Force

Johns Hopkins Faculty Members Oppose Private School Police Force

 

More than 60 Johns Hopkins University faculty members are attempting to stop the school from creating its own private police force.

They have signed an open letter in opposition to the proposed state legislation that would authorize this change, report The Baltimore Sun.

In the letter, members wrote that armed police officers could pose an increased safety risk and “inevitably amplify the climate of fear and justify their roles by citing stops, arrests and detainments.”

Concerns for the nonwhite population in Baltimore were also voiced in the letter.

“Black and brown students and Baltimoreans are already disproportionately targeted,” they wrote. “Private police on campus are likely to exacerbate racial profiling, with even more dangers and potentially fatal consequences.”

johns hopkins university

Johns Hopkins released to The Brew these updated statistics of aggravated assaults and street robbery that took place in and around the Homewood and East Baltimore campuses between 2014 and the end of 2018.

A poll by the Student Government Association showed 75 percent of JHU undergraduates are against the legislation.

Students, faculty and residents of West Baltimore congregated this week to protest, chanting, “No justice, no peace, no private police.”

If the bill is passed, JHU would join several Baltimore schools that have their own police forces, including Morgan State University, Coppin State University, the University of Baltimore and the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

Currently, there is a group of armed off-duty Baltimore police officers and sheriff’s deputies that the university pays to patrol near its campuses. The plan would be to convert those officers into its own police force of around 100 officers.

Karen Lancaster, a spokeswoman for JHU, responded to the letter by stating, “We believe strongly that university police departments can and do make a meaningful contribution to public safety in Baltimore, and we at Johns Hopkins want to do our part.”

According to the school, it needs its own police force as Baltimore has seen an increase in violent crime (see charts from the Baltimore Brew).

Last year, the group Students Against Private Police rallied in opposition to the plan. The push for a new police force failed the first time around, however, Lancaster says the response to Senate Bill 793 has been “positive.”

While several members support creating a private police force, most of Baltimore’s legislators in the General Assembly say they remain undecided.

About the Author

Katie Malafronte

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Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety’s Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS’s Web Editor since 2018.

Broward County Schools May Install Experimental AI Surveillance System

Broward County Schools May Install Experimental AI Surveillance System

 

Broward County school district has announced it will be unveiling an experimental artificial-intelligence (AI) system to keep students under surveillance.

The camera-software system from Avigilon will allow security officials to track students based on their appearance, reports the Washington Post.

One year ago tomorrow, a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 students and staff dead. Broward County has been under scrutiny for its security since the shooting, especially after a report released last month called out many flaws.

School administrators say the 145-camera system will be installed around the perimeters of the schools that they have flagged “at highest risk.” This is on top of 10,000 cameras that are currently installed across the county’s schools.

Guards will be able to pull up video everywhere a particular student has been recorded on campus with the click of a button.

According to a survey from the National Center for Education Statistics, surveillance cameras have expanded from nearly 20 percent of all public schools in 1999 – the year of the Columbine shooting – to over 80 percent as of 2015. However, in 2016, Campus Safety magazine found that more than nine in ten K-12 campuses have adopted video surveillance.

The new system does not come without questions and concerns from students, parents and teachers.

Kimberly Krawczky, a teacher who was present during the shooting last year, voiced her concerns about the system’s accuracy, invasiveness and effectiveness. She is not convinced AI could understand a campus as well as a human.

“How is this computer going to make a decision on what’s the right and wrong thing in a school with over 3,000 kids?” she said. “We have cameras now every two feet, but you can’t get a machine to do everything a human can do. You can’t automate the school. What are we turning these schools into?”

Some technology and civil liberties experts argue that the camera software has no proven track record for preventing school violence, an increasing issue in schools across the country.

Avigilon, which was bought by Motorola Solutions for $1 billion last year, says its algorithm allows risky behavior to be spotted with superhuman speed and precision.

Elizabeth Laird, current senior fellow at the Center for Democracy & Technology, however, says the system has not had much public testing for validity or long-term impact.

Because the system is so new and still considered “experimental,” there are factors that remain unclear, like how its data and performance will be regulated, measured and tested for flaws.

She fears the system will diminish an environment where students feel they can express themselves freely and think independently.

“We’re seeing that the uses of AI and technology like this are coming with unintended consequences, things the education sector has not experienced before, that may endanger the students it intends to protect,” she said.

Avigilon’s technology does not use facial-recognition software, and Laird fears that students could be wrongfully identified as dangerous based solely on what they wear or where they walk.

This component, however, could be what sets the system apart from other surveillance technology. An individual can be tracked as long as their body is on camera, not necessarily their face.

If the AI system is approved, Broward County will spend more than $600,000 in federal and local funds to install it in the high school campuses.

Kenneth Preston, a Broward high school senior who has criticized the district’s spending in the past, fears the surveillance will be used to target individuals.

“Maybe Johnny isn’t performing exceedingly well, so let’s track him to see why. And you don’t even have to sit by those cameras to watch him. It’s a system that can be abused and will be abused.”

Broward County schools have not yet been given the green light to install the system. Whether the Avigilon contract wins final approval from county leaders in the coming weeks or not, there is no denying that the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy has spurred schools across the country to take a closer look at their security and make student safety a priority.

About the Author

Katie Malafronte

Contact: 

Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety’s Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS’s Web Editor since 2018.

Conservative Activist Attacked on UC Berkeley Campus

Conservative Activist Attacked on UC Berkeley Campus

While recruiting students for a grass-roots conservative organization at the University of California Berkeley last week, an activist was confronted by two men. One of them began pushing him repeatedly and then punched him in the face.

The UCPD said that officers responded Tuesday afternoon to a “report of disturbance,” on upper Sproul Plaza, a center of student activity, according to CNN.

Hayden Williams, who is not a student at UC Berkeley, works for the Leadership Institue, which helps conservative students and clubs on campuses.

He was asked by the group Turning Point USA to assist them in recruitment.  The group is meant to be a network for Americans on college campuses and in high schools.

Williams, 26, has injuries to his face, police say, and the incident was captured on multiple witness’ phones. On Tuesday, it was announced by UC Berkeley officials that the police were preparing to apprehend a suspect on a felony charge.

“They’re willing to use violence if they think you’re being too controversial,” Williams said.

During the week following the incident, campaigns have been led by activists at UC Berekely and nationally, questioning how the school and police would respond.

“Wonder if it would be the same if a conservative beat up a leftist on the Berkeley Campus?” President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted Tuesday afternoon.

Within days of the attack, authorities said they had identified a possible suspect. Campus activists, however, felt the response time was too slow.

Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA asked, “A conservative is the victim of a vicious attack, and no one is held responsible?”

Despite speculation, university spokesman Dan Mogulof confirmed neither the university or police department acted with any liberal bias, reports the Washington Post.

Bradley Devlin, a UC Berkeley student and former president of the College Republicans on campus, also condemned the chancellor for not sending a mass statement about the incident.

Soon after, Chancellor Carol Christ and Vice Chancellor for student affairs Stephen C. Sutton addressed the community in a letter.

“Let there be no mistake, we strongly condemn violence and harassment of any sort, for any reason,” they wrote. “That sort of behavior is intolerable and has no place here. Our commitment to freedom of expression and belief is unwavering.”

About the Author

Katie Malafronte

Contact: 

Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety’s Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS’s Web Editor since 2018.

 

4 Colorado School Districts Receive $2.8 Million for School Security

4 Colorado School Districts Receive $2.8 Million for School Security

 

The Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management has given four western Colorado school districts $2.8 million in grant funding for safety and security upgrades.

Each school district has different projects in the works to improve its school security.

Palisade High School, located in District 51, plans to build a new security office, replace 209 outdated security cameras and then install 50 new security cameras, according to Director of Safety Tim Leon.

It will also be purchasing school radios and build security vestibules at East and West Middle Schools.

“We’re happy because now we can move forward with creating a safer school environment, which is part of the plan of hardening our school,” said Leon. “We’ll continue to look for other grant funding to help with more safety and security measures.”

In Delta County, the money will be used to install new interior and exterior door locks at every school, according to Jim Ventrello, a local business manager. The current locks in the district can only be locked from the outside with a key.

“If there’s an issue in the hallway, the door has to be pre-locked or the teacher has to go out in the hallway with a key, and depending on the situation, you may not want to be in the hallway,” said Ventrello.

With the new locks, doors will be able to be locked from the inside as well as locked simultaneously from a control panel in the main office.

“It’s a lot of work to change all of those locks but we’re really excited,” he said.

About the Author

Katie Malafronte

Contact: 

Katie Malafronte is Campus Safety’s Web Editor. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island in 2017 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and a minor in Writing & Rhetoric. Katie has been CS’s Web Editor since 2018.