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The Houston Fire Department Encourages Fourth of July Firework Safety

The Houston Fire Department would like to remind citizens of potential risks associated with the personal use of fireworks- including devastating burns, injuries, fires, and even deaths.

Each July 4th, thousands of people, most often children and teens, are injured while using fireworks. Emergency rooms treat thousands of people for fireworks related injuries; half of those injuries were to the extremities and 34% were to the eye or other parts of the head. Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for more than one-third (36%) of the estimated 2018 injuries. These injury estimates were obtained or derived from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s 2018 Fireworks Annual Report by Yongling Tu and Jason Ng.

In addition, it’s important to remember it is illegal to discharge fireworks in the City of Houston and parts of the county, with fines ranging from $500 – $2000 for each individual firework. If a minor is caught discharging fireworks, the parent or guardian will receive the fine even if they were unaware of the minor’s possession and/or usage.

“Remember that igniting fireworks in the City of Houston is illegal, but even more important is life safety,” says HFD Assistant Chief, Fire Marshal Alfredo Martinez. “ In 2018, fireworks started approximately 19,500 fires in the United States and caused over 9,000 hospital emergency room visits.”

Citizens should also remember that discharging fireworks is illegal near certain locations of unincorporated areas of Harris County, such as near churches, hospitals and asylums, a licensed child care center, or a public or private primary or secondary school or institution of higher education unless the person receives authorization in writing from that organization.

Complaints regarding the illegal use of fireworks should be directed to the HPD Tel-communicator (non-emergency line) at 713-884-3131. If the citizen believes that there may be a fire and/or medical emergency related to the use of fireworks, he/she should dial 9-1-1 and request the HFD.

“Independence Day is a great day for our country,” says HFD Fire Chief Samuel Peña. ” We appreciate the gift and sacrifices made by so many. Let’s promise to be good citizens of our country and help America grow into a better nation each day.”

With COVID 19 in the Air, Drownings may Increase

Written by Dr. Tom and Rachel Griffiths

www.aquaticsafetygroup.com

Many parents probably believe with COVID 19 among us and many municipal swimming pools in the country either opening late or not at all this summer, there will be a decrease in drowning deaths this year.  However, Water Safety Professionals around the country have a much different opinion; they believe we will see an increase in drowning rates this summer due to COVID-19.  Why?  As evidenced already in some counties in Florida, because children are at home all day with schools closed and parents distracted while working from home, young children have more opportunities to slip into backyard swimming pools undetected.  With many public pools closed, when the weather gets hot, older youths may seek to swim in open-water ponds, streams, and lakes, without the watchful eyes of lifeguards on duty.  With fewer swim lessons offered, young non-swimmers may be unable to learn how to swim this summer to become safer around the water.

When it comes to residential swimming pools, a four-sided isolation fence, whereby the backside of the house cannot serve as one side of the protective barrier, is the best way to keep toddlers and young children out of the water.  Look into technology – there are a variety of pool alarms that can be installed in the pool or worn by the child that will alert adults inside when someone enters the swimming pool unnoticed.  The entrance to the pool should be a self-closing, self-latching gate that is at least five feet high.  Designate a Water Watcher whose sole responsibility it is to watch the kids in the water.  Even if you do not have a pool, be aware if any of your neighbors, child’s friends, or family friends do.  Children can slip into the water in unexpected places, especially when you do not have your own pool so it may not be at the forefront of your mind.  If traveling, also be aware of any pools at vacation homes, hotel/motels, or other locations you visit and safeguard your child around the pool, making sure they are unable to access the pool area during non-swim times.  If you or someone you know has a residential swimming pool, now is a good time to add these effective Layers of Protection to prevent drowning.

Warn and educate your children about swimming with a lifeguard on duty, and insist on this vitally important safety requirement.  Having said that, if you take your kids to a guarded facility, put down your phone and any other handheld devices you may be carrying and watch your kids vigilantly!  Just because a lifeguard is on duty and he or she looks like they are watching the water, there is no guarantee they are watching your kid.  Whatever you do, if your child is invited to a pool party, do not send them alone.  Go to the pool party with your child for their safety and your own piece of mind.  If you child is a weak or non-swimmer, place them in a properly fitting US Coast Guard Approved Life Jacket.  It is important to understand more than 50% of all drowning deaths in this country occur during group functions at aquatic facilities.  In addition, we have yet to learn of a single swimming pool drowning of a child in this country while wearing a properly-fitting US coast Guard Approved Life Jacket.

For every child who dies of drowning in this country, another five non-fatal drownings occur, often with long lasting physiological, psychological, and emotional catastrophic affects (cite the CDC?).  Tragically, these non-fatal drowning events can be just as devastating to families and friends as fatal drownings.

Drowning prevention tips include:
– Swim lessons, early and often.

– US Coast Guard Approved Lifejackets in ALL bodies of water for weak and non-swimmers, all the time.  All swimmers, regardless of swimming ability, need life jackets in the open-water.

– Swim near a lifeguard.

– Supervise your child around the water without distractions.

– Designate a Water Watcher, dedicated to watching the kids in the water.

– Isolate your swimming pool with four-sided fencing and a self-closing, self-latching gate that is at least 48” tall (consult your local jurisdiction for specific requirements).

– Utilize technology to help safeguard children, including alarms and wearable drowning detection
technologies.

– Learn CPR and learn to swim if you are not confident in the water.

REOURCES:

Aquatic Safety Research Group, LLC: www.aquaticsafetygroup.com 

National Drowning Prevention Alliance: https://ndpa.org/ 

American Red Cross:  https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety/swim-safety.html 

Centers for Disease Control (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/index.html 

Pool Safely: https://www.poolsafely.gov/ 

 

Crime Stoppers Victim Advocacy

Victim Advocates are trained to support victims of all crime, especially violent crime. They offer emotional support, victims’ rights information, help in finding local resources and a myriad of other responsibilities. Advocates need to have strong interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate effectively with people of different types of education and background. Most of all they need to be sympathetic, understanding and patient.

Crime Stoppers of Houston became the first of its kind to enact a victim services/advocacy program in June 2018. One of our main objectives is to ensure victims and survivors have a voice in our criminal justice system. The office routinely meets with victims and their families to discuss how Crime Stoppers can help bring attention to their case with the assistance of law enforcement through media intervention. We believe it is vital to empower crime victims in the hopes of rebuilding their lives.

One of the unique services the office offers that no one else does is to regularly meet with the parole board along with victims and surviving family members of homicide to assist in requesting the offender remain in prison. In addition the office conducts numerous victim related events throughout the year, including The National Day of Remembrance and The Memorial Tree Ceremony to bring attention to the issues surviving family members of homicide have to endure. The office also coordinates events in conjunction with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week in addition to hosting forums for Domestic Violence, Human Trafficking and Missing Persons.

In Harris County we are fortunate to have over 25 different victim service related organizations to help combat and assist victims of child abuse, human trafficking, domestic violence, drunk driving, missing persons, sexual assault and homicide victims. Crime Stoppers is proud and honored to partner with all the agencies that assist victims of crime. Crime Stoppers hosts a quarterly meeting of law enforcement victim service agencies and advocates to ensure everyone is on top of the issues currently facing crime victims.

Our office often seeks legislative remedies and solutions to enhance public safety and victims’ rights. Last Legislative session the Director pursued a statute that became the first of its kind in the country titled ‘The Sir Romeo Law’. The new law enacted in September 2019, allows families whose children were the victims of attempted murder to apply for relocation expenses from the State’s Crime Victims Compensation Fund administered by the Texas Attorney General’s Office. The office assisted in the passage of the new CLEAR ALERT which allows for alerts to be sent out when adults go missing as a result of criminal conduct. Texas became the second state in the nation to pass such a law.

Crime victims are the only unwilling participants in the criminal justice system: Everyone else chose their roles. Crime Stoppers mantra is to assist victims to make sure their rights, well-being and healing are the utmost priority within our criminal justice system. We try to take negatives and turn victimization into positive action for social change. We can’t go back and change what happened to you and your family but Crime Stoppers of Houston strongly believes we should try to make things better in order for everyone to leave a lasting legacy.

Crime Stoppers of Houston Victim Services and Advocacy Program is nationally recognized for their innovative practices regarding crime victims’ rights and was recently awarded the distinguished Marlene Young Leadership Award from the National Office of Victim Assistance (NOVA) for going above and beyond the scope of providing much needed services for victims of crime.

 

Caring for Senior Adults Amidst COVID-19

It goes without saying that this time of uncertainty is scary for all of us. There seems to be a never-ending flood of news about COVID-19, and recommendations for how we should live our lives seem to change daily. As everchanging news overtakes our devices, one piece of messaging remains consistent—The elderly is at an increased risk of vulnerability, and it is imperative for them to self-isolate. AARP has focused on the health and wellbeing of senior Americans and their families for over 60 years. Their top-priority remains the same during COVID-19. AAPR CEO, Jo Ann Jenkins says “In the face of a public health emergency like this, you can count on us to fight for you in the corridors of power and deliver information to keep you and your family safe and healthy” in her recent letter to the 50+ community.

This is exactly what AARP is doing. They have created a plethora of resources dedicated to senior adults and their caregivers in the wake of Coronavirus. Here are just a couple things they have created specifically for our senior population and their caregivers during this time:

  • Weekly COVID-19 Tele-Town Halls to keep you up to date on the latest health and lifestyle recommendations for senior populations
  • A COVID-19 and Caregiving resource guide
  • AARP Community Connections– an online platform launched to allow users to find local volunteer groups to help pick up groceries, provide financial assistance, and lend emotional support.

As always, you and your family’s safety (and now health) remains our top priority. Our staff at Crime Stoppers has been working around the clock to ensure you are getting the best and most up-to-date safety information. During these trying times we encourage you to keep seniors in your thoughts and if you can, help them by doing the following:

  • Offer to go grocery shopping and/or set up a grocery delivery for elderly. When delivering groceries be sure to stay 6 feet away from elderly at all times and disinfect any surface you touch in the process.
  • Ensure they have enough medication to get through at least a month and go pick up prescription for them. There are some helpful medication dispensers that you can control remotely to ensure they are taking medication in the right dosage at the right time. Check out elliegrid.com or Amazon for this!
  • If you have a loved one living in senior living, assisted living, or a nursing home, talk with their facility about what they are doing to protect their residents. What is their plan if one of the residents or staff members contact COVID-19? How will food be distributed? Are visitors allowed?
  • Remember that social distancing can be lonely and scary for an elderly person living alone. Set up regular phone calls or FaceTime “dates” with them to make sure they do not get too lonely. Ask grandparents if they will FaceTime with your child while they work on school or do a craft. It will give your child a bit of supervision and simultaneously keep the grandparents from getting too lonely.

We hope you and yours are staying as safe and healthy as possible. We will conquer this virus by banding together while we are physically staying apart.

Thank you to AARP Houston for providing us with information for this blog post. To find more helpful resources for senior adults please visit their website www.aarp.org.

How to help protect yourself from phishing

identity theft photo

Keeping your financial accounts and information safe is critically important to us. That’s why we’re proactively advancing our security and continually investing in account safety measures, such as strong encryption software and ongoing monitoring of suspicious activity.

We also want to help you avoid fraudulent schemes. Email and text message scams, known as phishing, can be difficult to distinguish from legitimate messages. They may impersonate a reputable company and include an urgent request for you to update your information, secure your account, verify your identity, or confirm a transaction. You may be prompted to call a phone number, sign on to a fraudulent website, or respond with personal or account information. Learn how to detect and report suspicious email and text messages, also known as ‘SMS phishing’ or ‘smishing’, that appear to be from your bank.

What is phishing?

Phishing is usually a two-part scam involving an email or text message containing links to a fraudulent website requesting sensitive information such as username, password, and account details. Once obtained, your personal and financial information can be used to access your account and steal money.

How to recognize a phishing email

Phishing emails are becoming more sophisticated and difficult to distinguish from legitimate emails. By impersonating a reputable company’s communications, these emails tend to use clever and compelling language, such as an urgent need for you to update your information or communicate with you for your security. To spot a phishing email, look for a combination of red flags. In this example, notice:

1. Non-bank email address: The email address of the sender does not include the wellsfargo.com domain name, instead using something like “comcast.net”: WellsOnlineBank2@comcast.net.

2. Urgent call to action: The email includes an urgent request in the subject line and message copy, such as “for your protection and for security reasons.” Phishing emails may also contain extra spacing or unusual punctuation in addition to other red flags.

3. Suspicious URL: The email contains a link to a non-Wells Fargo URL, which could be a fraudulent website. If you’re using a laptop or desktop computer, you can check a link’s URL by hovering over it with your cursor, and the URL will show in your browser window.

How to recognize smishing

Phishing texts use similar techniques as phishing emails: a sense of urgency to secure your account or verify your identity, using words like “locked,” “deactivated”, or “for your protection” to describe your account status. These texts may prompt you to call a phone number, click on a link, or respond directly with personal or account information. To spot a phishing text, look for a combination of red flags. In this example, notice:

1. Suspicious sender: The text was sent by an unknown phone number, instead of one of Wells Fargo’s official short codes: 93557, 93733, 93729, or 54687.

2. Unusual text treatments: The text message contains a combination of unusual text treatments, including all caps, arrows, ID numbers, and an exclamation point.

3. Unprompted identity request: The request to verify the recipient’s identity was unprompted. Wells Fargo will request to verify your identity via access code only when prompted by an action that you have initiated, such as signing on to online banking or sending money.

What you can do to help protect yourself

• Don’t click on links, open attachments, or respond to unexpected emails or text messages from suspicious or unknown senders.

• Don’t share your online banking password with anyone.

• Don’t sign on to your account from a link in a suspicious message. Access a company’s website by using a reputable search engine or typing the entire URL into your browser. For Wells Fargo, type https://wellsfargo.com or use the Wells Fargo Mobile® app.

If you receive an unexpected request for information from your bank

Verify it by calling the number on the back of your debit or credit card. For more information on how to spot and report suspicious emails or text messages that appear to be from Wells Fargo, go to https://wellsfargo.com/nophishing.

This blog was provided by Wells Fargo, generous supporters of our Safe School Institute.