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FEMA Opens Individual Assistance for Calif. Wildfire Victims

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 16:52

Over the weekend the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced it expanded public assistance for debris removal and emergency services to two types of individual assistance for California wildfire victims:

  • Income- and property-tax relief for individuals and businesses
  • Grants and loans for those in Sonoma, Napa, Butte, Lake, Mendocino and Yuba counties

Homeowners, renters and businesses can apply for grants and low-interest loans to pay for uninsured fire-related expenses like temporary housing, emergency medical costs and funeral expenses, to replace personal property, including automobiles, and to make home repairs. The Small Business Administration is handling the national disaster loans to both business and homeowner wildfire victims.

California wildfire victims can apply through early December at DisasterAssistance.gov, by calling (800) 621-3362 or at California Office of Emergency Services centers when they open.

Tax Relief Provisions

The Internal Revenue Service and California Franchise Tax Board authorized income and property-tax relief and have extended certain filing deadlines for those affected.

Victims may also be eligible for property tax relief and should inquire at their local county tax aseessor’s office within 12 months. In areas where Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, property tax payments can be deferred without penalty or interest until the property is reassessed. If property taxes are dispersed with mortgage payments, however, only reassessment is available.

FEMA also made public assistance available to Solano and Orange counties to address wildfires in Southern California.

See the original coverage on SFGATE.com.

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EPA Has $7M for 2017 Clean Diesel School Bus Rebates

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 15:48

Through the The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act of 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is offering $7 million for the 2017 School Bus Rebates.

Diesel engines emit harmful nitrogen oxide (NOx), particulate matter (PM) and other pollutants, and replacing old buses with cleaner buses can improve public health. Replacement can reduce NOx and PM by as much as 90 percent.

New buses may be alternatively fueled with compressed natural gas (CNG), propane, hybrid, battery electric, liquefied natural gas (LNG), gas and other alternative fuels.

Up to $1 million in EPA’s school bus rebates are also available to retrofit older buses with verified clean diesel technologies that reduce emissions, like Diesel Oxidation Catalyst, Closed Crankcase Ventilation and Fuel Operated Heaters. Rebates for retrofits could be as much as $20,000, depending on eligible variables.

States, regions and school districts, municipal governments or tribal agencies are eligible. Private companies operating school buses may also apply.

Applications are limited based on the fleet size characteristics (below), as well as requirements that buses must have engine models that are 2006 or older, be in operation at least three days per week, accumulating a minimum of 10,000 miles transporting students over a period of 12 months and more.

New, or retrofitted buses, must operate for three years after school bus rebates are granted.

Applications are due to EPA by November 14, 2017.

Review and download instructions and an application:

2017 DERA School Bus Rebate Webinar by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

Schools Turn to Propane Buses as Stricter Emissions Standards Loom

Oklahoma Tribes Win Federal Grants for CNG Buses

More Clean Diesel Trucks Now On the Road Means Lower Fuel Consumption and Fewer Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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The Top 10 Most Costly Traffic Spots

Mon, 10/16/2017 - 08:32

INRIX Roadway Analytics used its traffic tool to rank 108,000 traffic hotspots in 25 U.S. cities notorious for traffic congestion.

Traffic backups for these areas of the country will cost between $18.9 billion and $90.9 billion by 2026, making traffic not only time consuming, but expensive.

#1 Traffic Los Angeles

The most congested traffic in Los Angeles on I-405 N at Exit 43 to Exit 21. It will cost L.A. drivers an estimated $91 billion, a whopping 42 percent higher than drivers from the #2 mostly costly traffic spot in the list.

#2 NYC Traffic

The traffic in NYC builds up the most at Brooklyn Queens Expressway E at Exit 28A to W Shore Expressway. This BQE bottleneck will cost drivers $63.9 billion.

#3 Washington D.C. Traffic

The most congested area for traffic in Washington D.C. is on I-95 S at Exit 133A to Fairfax County Parkway. This section of Interstate will cost Beltway drivers $29.2 billion.

#4 Atlanta Traffic

Traffic in Atlanta is the most backed up I-285 S at I-20 to Route 23. It will cost Atlanta drivers $28.9 billion.

#5 Dallas Traffic

Traffic in Dallas is most congested on I-20 W at Exit 451 to Exit 466. It will cost Dallas drivers $28.3 billion.

#6 Chicago Traffic

Chicago traffic is the most congested at I-90 W at 81A to Exit 56B. This section is expected to cost Chicago drivers $28.2 billion.

#7 San Francisco Traffic

Traffic in San Francisco backs up most frequently at I-80 W at Emeryville to CA-4. This traffic will cost Bay Area drivers $26.9 billion.

#8 Houston Traffic

Traffic in Houston is most congested at I-45 S Exit 46A to Exit 63. It’s expected to cost Houston drivers $23.8 billion.

#9 Miami Traffic

Traffic in Miami is the most congested at I-95 N at Exit 12A to US-1. It’s expected to cost South Florida drivers $19.1 billion.

#10 Boston Traffic

Boston traffic backs up most often at Massachusetts Turnpike E at Boston University Bridge to Oak St. It’s expected to cost Massachusetts drivers pouring in and out of the city this way $18.9 billion.

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Advice for Winning School Emergency Preparedness Grants

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 16:06

A few years ago, I wrote a school emergency preparedness grant for a district. The community surrounding the schools had high rates of crime, including heroin use and drug dealing. Past incidents in the district community included an escaped inmate, home invasions and drug cartel issues. In the first four weeks of the school year, dangerous incidents included a bomb scare, a district student being arrested for murder, and a drug cartel style abduction and extortion of a 16-year-old which resulted in a high-speed police chase towards the border with Mexico, resulting in arrests of five suspects and subsequent rescue of the victim.

Thinking of violent incidents in that school district along with those such as Columbine, Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech, I was passionate about working on that school emergency preparedness grant proposal and ecstatic when it was funded. The $30,000 grant program helped the school district acquire much needed training, community planning meetings, school site emergency toolkits, police radios, tablets and WIFI routers and updating the Emergency Response Plan. This grant allowed school security personnel and community first responders to enhance their work together in keeping students, staff and the public safe.

So how can you prepare such a grant proposal to make it stand out from the rest and increase your chances of funding? Here are some tips.

Express the Need

Make the reviewer feel as if they live in that community, and that they must fund your proposal to help your students. Follow these four steps:

  1. Gather school discipline data, police reports, community crime statistics and personal school stories involving students (without using names of course).
  2. Collaborate with school security personnel, local law enforcement, fire departments, military bases, hospitals, airports, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), businesses and other emergency responders to strengthen the proposal.
  3. Evaluate the district emergency response plan, noting strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Ensure the plan includes the following critical elements: prevention, response, recovery, protection, and mitigation.
Know the Jargon

Make sure you understand terms such as active shooter, targeted violence, mass casualty incident, armed assault, intrusion, burglary and robbery. There is a big difference between a planned attack and a violent act in the community spilling over into the school environment, such as those requiring a lockdown or an order to “shelter in place.”

Understand the Likelihood of Violence in Schools

While mass casualty incidents are rare, the media makes them seem much more likely. Research current statistics such as those found through FEMA, and understand the need to prepare for events that may be very different from those portrayed through the media.

Action Item: Prepare threat assessments annually.

Prepare Parents and Families for Crisis Incidents

Since many students have cell phones at school, they may alert parents that a violent incident is occurring. Having a mass arrival of parents at the school can hinder the work of first responders, so ensure families understand the district crisis plan and policies. This includes natural disasters, life threatening contagious diseases and technological emergencies.

Seek Collaboration

Funders are increasingly looking for this. Besides the partnerships with first responders and other community resources, involve many district personnel, families, students, counselors, youth service agencies, churches and other local stakeholders in the grant planning and project implementation.

Pro Tip: Consider forming an Emergency Response Advisory Team if you don’t already have one.

Share Communications Plan

Ensure the communication plan for school emergencies is available to all stakeholders and understood by all, including those who may not be proficient in English. Assign buddies to help students with language difficulties or special needs.

Dispel the “Not Us” Myth

Prepare stakeholders for anything, and make sure there is not an overabundant feeling of being safe in a school. Although this should be the case, it is not always the reality. People inherently avoid having these kind of difficult thoughts or possible emergency event discussions. Encourage stakeholders to report warning signs such as violent social media posts, disturbing art, cruelty to animals, discussions of violent acts, bullying or suicidal ideology.

Create Classroom and District Emergency Toolkits

These should include the crisis plan, student rosters, first aid kits, flashlights, batteries, water, snacks and other supplies as recommended by FEMA.

Follow National Incident Management System (NIMS)

Use this proactive approach to planning for emergencies including the following components:

  • Command and Management
  • Resource Management
  • Communications and Information Management
  • Preparedness
  • Continual Management and Maintenance.

Describe how you will use these tools to plan and manage staff in the grant proposal.

Take these tips to heart, and prepare that school emergency preparedness proposal with passion and ability. Know the reality, train yourself, plan, and ensure your district is ready for anything. After all, as Howard Ruff, famed financial adviser, said, “It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”

About the Author

Dr. Judy Riffle owns Santa Cruz Grants & Consulting, LLC, and has raised 17 million dollars for various schools, school districts, and nonprofits. Funded grants include public school/charter school entitlement grants such as ESEA Consolidated, IDEA Basic, and Title III LEP. She is a former K-12 teacher, education specialist, new teacher mentor, and administrator with degrees in special education, Deaf education, and educational leadership. Besides being a member of the Grant Professionals Foundation (GPF) Board of Directors, she also chairs the GPF Marketing Committee, and serves on the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) Grant News Publications Subcommittee.

How to Find School Cybersecurity Support

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Colo. Alternative Fuel Grants Prioritize Infrastructure, Fleets

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 14:27

Colorado’s ALT Fuel Program will offer grants to fund projects related to alternative fuel infrastructure and the buildup of alternative fuel fleets in several counties around surrounding Denver.

The alternative fuel grants will help fund private, public and non-profit entities that update their fleets to new, Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) vehicles, class 2 – 8 that operate on:

  • Compressed natural gas
  • Propane
  • Electric
  • OEM bi-fuel

Grants funds are based on weight and determination of alternative fuel public or private fleets operating in the eligible areas.

The funds are made possible through a partnership between the Colorado Energy Office (CEO), the Regional Air Quality Council (RAQC), the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA).

Eligible areas include Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Boulder, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson Counties, as well as parts of Larimer, Weld, El Paso and Teller counties.

Funded vehicles must operate within the program boundaries at least 60 percent of the time.

For the current cycle, applications are due by Nov. 17, 2017.

View the Grant Application Guide below and apply online through SurveyGizmo beginning Oct. 16, 2017.

View this document on Scribd

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CTO Download: Education, Training & Managing Risk

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 13:21

Over the last few years, Tulsa County has made strides in utilizing technological advancements to enhance it’s ability to serve its citizens, visitors and customers. Dan Pease, CIO of Tulsa County, Okla., leads an IT Department focused on embracing technologies to manage risks and costs, while creating ways to educate both citizens and civic leaders on how technology can benefit government operations.

From your perspective, how has IT’s role in government evolved over the last decade?

Pease: I have been in IT for 35+ years, however I have only been in the public sector for three years. That being said, many of the changes I have observed and been a part of during my short stint in government, have been dramatic and far-reaching. Government agencies are embracing today’s and tomorrow’s technologies in the hopes of managing risks and costs.

Customer, client and constituent support and services have moved to the forefront and the old guard, by aging out, has opened the door for today’s innovators. Customer service  and satisfaction, EQ (Emotional Intelligence), consolidation, integration and much more are moving at a much faster pace than ever before.

As a technology leader working within the public sector what specific technologies interest you and why?

Pease: Probably the biggest impact on the perception of government servicing our clients is digital and social media. It’s the old proverb, “No one knows IT is working until it’s not!” The more information avenues we can open, the more informed people become.

Technologies around training can and are making the biggest impacts in government and the private sector, to facilitate the change in all facets of service, productivity, efficiency, product utilization and more.

Virtual environments, cloud computing, storage-as-a-service, software-as-a-service, and smart networks are truly changing the landscape by:

  • Reducing the local footprint
  • Lowering total cost of ownership
  • Reducing man-hours and man-power
  • Making IT easier to use

What are some innovative examples of your government utilizing technology?

Pease: We have and are moving towards today’s Web/cloud technologies to:

  • Change our client service model
  • Solve our disaster recovery initiatives
  • Become more transparent to our clients and constituents
  • Shore-up our security model
  • Educate our internal workforce, helping them become better stewards of public paid resources
  • Give the taxpayers what they are paying for — an efficient and service-oriented operation

Implementing video court is one solution that provides a myriad of savings while lowering risks. If you don’t have to transport several 100+ inmates a day several miles to and from the courthouse or have the judges, lawyers, bailiffs, etc. haul all their court docket information to the jail, untold savings while lowering risks become a reality. Accidents, manpower, fuel and vehicles are some of the cost savings.

Another example is drone surveillance being used to survey storm damage, look for missing, injured or hiding people issues, security and digital marketing.

Cell services are being used as backup networks, and [business intelligence] is now impacting operations and business decisions. GIS is creeping its way into multiple services from the sheriffs’ departments to the county clerks. GIS provides the ability to geolocate accidents, needed infrastructure repairs, equipment locations and tracking, regional demographics, traffic management and much more.

All in all, back when The Verge was a big hit, everyone thought there were no more innovative ways to affect change without just merging existing technologies. Day after day, that is being disproved.

Image: Tulsa County

When implementing or adopting new technologies in your government, what specific challenges has your department faced? 

Pease: How do you get to tomorrow without change? What’s the point, if we have nowhere to go?  I’ve done it this way for the last 30 years!  Why would I want to do that?

The questions and roadblocks come in all different shapes and sizes and seem to be, more often than not, the squeaky wheel. However, with a tweak here, a subtle change there, give a group willing to move forward better technology tools and they will change the world for you.

Education of upper management about what technology is and how it can help has become our mantra. One does not have to teach what a motherboard is, or that this is really just a bunch of ones and zeros running around in space, it’s more about saving money, better service, why consolidation works, what would email in the cloud do for us if a natural disaster hits. Solving the problems that keep them up at night, if possible with a new technology, is a challenge that can be overcome.

As a civic and technology leader what keeps you up at night?

Pease: Jimmy Fallon! But right after the monologue, as my wife will tell you, somewhere between, 30 seconds and 2 minutes, I am sawing logs.

In the end, it’s really about doing your best, doing what is right and providing top management with all the information they need to make informed decisions. If you’ve done that, then you have done your job.

EQ is partially about understanding your role and that in the end, you can’t change people or make them understand the importance of a situation. All you can do is inform and educate. After that, the decision to move or not move forward, is not on you.

The interesting thing about government entities is, knowledge requires action. You impart your knowledge, then act when given the opportunity.

EfficientGov’s CTO Download column highlights the work of civic IT leaders that achieve notable, forward-thinking technical solutions that change the game for their local governments. Who they are, what they believe and their approaches advance cities governing under limited resources.

Civic technology leaders who would like to participate in CTO Download should email editor@efficientgov.com.

CTO Download: 24/7 Police Service is Life or Death

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Trump Ends Insurer “Bailouts,” Individual Plan Costs to Spike

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 11:49


By Ken Thomas

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a brash move likely to roil insurance markets, President Donald Trump plans to halt payments to insurers under the Obama-era healthcare law he has been trying to unravel for months.

Two people familiar with the decision described the plan late Thursday night, seeking anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The White House said in a statement that the government cannot legally continue to pay the so-called cost-sharing subsidies because they lack a formal authorization by Congress. However, the administration had been making the payments from month to month, even as Trump threated to cut them off, to force Democrats to negotiate over healthcare.

Halting the payments would trigger a spike in premiums for next year, unless Trump reverses course or Congress authorizes the money.

The top two Democrats in Congress sharply denounced the Trump plan in a joint statement.

“It is a spiteful act of vast, pointless sabotage leveled at working families and the middle class in every corner of America,” said House and Senate Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi of California and Chuck Schumer of New York. “Make no mistake about it, Trump will try to blame the Affordable Care Act, but this will fall on his back and he will pay the price for it.”

The President’s action is likely to trigger a lawsuit from state attorneys generals, who contend the subsidies to insurers are fully authorized by federal law, and say the president’s position is reckless.

“We are prepared to sue,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “We’ve taken the Trump Administration to court before and won.”

Word of Trump’s plan came on a day when the President had also signed an executive order directing government agencies to design insurance plans that would offer lower premiums outside the requirements of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

Frustrated over setbacks in Congress, Trump is wielding his executive powers to bring the “repeal and replace” debate to a head. He appears to be following through on his vow to punish Democrats and insurers after the failure of GOP health care legislation.

On Twitter, Trump has termed the payments to insurers a “bailout,” but it’s unclear if the president will get Democrats to negotiate by stopping payment.

Lawmakers Call for Return of Cost Sharing Subsidies to Carriers

Experts have warned that cutting off the money would lead to a double-digit spike in premiums, on top of increases insurers already planned for next year. That would deliver another blow to markets around the country already fragile from insurers exiting and costs rising. Insurers, hospitals, doctors’ groups, state officials and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have urged the administration to keep paying.

Leading GOP lawmakers have also called for continuing the payments to insurers, at least temporarily, so constituents maintain access to health insurance. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., is working on such legislation with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington.

The so-called “cost-sharing” subsidies defray out-of-pocket expenses for people with low-to-modest incomes, and can reduce a deductible of $3,500 to a few hundred dollars. Assistance is available to consumers buying individual policies; people with employer coverage are unaffected by the dispute.

Nearly 3 in 5 HealthCare.gov customers qualify for help, an estimated 6 million people or more. The annual cost to the government is currently about $7 billion.

But the subsidies have been under a legal cloud because of a dispute over whether the Obama health care law properly approved the payments to insurers. Adding to the confusion, other parts of the Affordable Care Act clearly direct the government to reimburse the carriers.

For example, the ACA requires insurers to help low-income consumers with their copays and deductibles.

And the law also specifies that the government shall reimburse insurers for the cost-sharing assistance that they provide.

But there’s disagreement over whether the law properly provided a congressional “appropriation,” similar to an instruction to pay. The Constitution says the government shall not spend money unless Congress appropriates it.

House Republicans trying to thwart the ACA sued the Obama administration in federal court in Washington, arguing that the law lacked specific language appropriating the cost-sharing subsidies.

A district court judge agreed with House Republicans, and the case has been on hold before the U.S. appeals court in Washington. Up to this point the Trump administration continued making the monthly payments, as the Obama administration had done. The round of payments would be due around Oct. 20.

While the legal issue seems arcane, the impact on consumers would be real.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that premiums for a standard “silver” plan will increase by about 20 percent without the subsidies. Insurers can recover the cost-sharing money by raising premiums, since those are also subsidized by the ACA, and there’s no legal question about their appropriation.

Consumers who receive tax credits under the ACA to pay their premiums would be shielded from those premium increases.

But millions of others buy individual health care policies without any financial assistance from the government and could face prohibitive increases. Taxpayers would end up spending more to subsidize premiums.

Earlier Thursday, Trump had directed government agencies to design a legal framework for groups of employers to band together and offer health insurance plans across state lines, a longstanding goal for the president.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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Slashed Navigator Programs Another Blow to ACA

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 11:19

Open enrollment for healthcare plans available through the federal marketplace will begin Nov. 1, but for 34 states, the programs aimed at helping applicants through the process will be severely decimated. Since 2015, navigator programs funded through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) play an important role in the annual open enrollment, assisting those seeking help in signing up for health plans through the healthcare exchange marketplaces.

Budgeted funds have been announced at the beginning of each year for the three-year agreement: $60 million in 2015 and $63 million in 2016. But funding was cut nearly in half for 2017, and that is expected to have a significant impact on ACA enrollment for the 2018 plan year.

Image: KFF

An interactive map produced by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) shows the estimated number of 2017 enrollees in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace, with rollover information including the number of Medicaid enrollees from expansion states. For more information, including the methodology, visit KFF’s interactive map.

Budget Cuts Eviscerate Navigator Programs

In August, CMS announced a 40 percent budget cut would limit navigator programs’ abilities to provide the full range of services to the 34 states with navigator programs. Of those states, only three saw no reduction in funds: Delaware, Kansas and West Virginia.

A survey of the assistance programs across the affected states by KFF found that the lack of funds would limit the ability to:

  • Provide information and guidance to rural applicants — 55 percent of state programs and 72 percent of regional programs said they would not have the resources to assist applicants in far-flung areas.
  • Offer experienced staff — nearly 90 percent of the programs will have to lay off knowledgeable staff members and rely on inexperienced volunteers.
  • Promote the ACA and its health care plans — more than 80 percent of the assistance programs said they will reduce outreach and public education activities.
Vulnerable Groups Could Be Affected by Changes

Larger cities with more resources will be better equipped to assist residents looking to sign up for healthcare plans through individual health insurance markets, even with the cuts to navigator programs, but Americans located in smaller towns and rural areas may find help lacking.

This includes help for people looking to sign up for Medicaid, which was also offered by the programs as part of their “no wrong door” policy, allowing one application for either individual health plans, or Medicaid enrollment.

ACA Repeal Fails, But White House Chips Away with EOs

After a Sept. 30 deadline passed without a full or limited repeal of ACA by Congress, despite multiple attempts, the White House issued an executive order this week that diminishes certain aspects of the law.

An early morning tweet by President Trump announced his intention to circumvent the House and Senate’s failures on healthcare repeal through an executive order.

Since Congress can’t get its act together on HealthCare, I will be using the power of the pen to give great HealthCare to many people – FAST

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 10, 2017

The executive order (EO) would allow small businesses to buy health insurance through association plans, as well as removes restrictions on short-term health insurance plans. Without having to follow the ACA minimums in regards to benefits, they are cheaper options some refer to as “junk plans.”

Dozens of Health Organizations Warn of Consequences

A statement signed by 18 health organizations, including the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the United Way Worldwide, warned of the burden Trump’s EO would have on those with pre-existing conditions, by allowing healthier patients to purchase cheaper, less beneficial plans, forcing higher premiums for sicker individuals.

This order has the potential to price millions of people with pre-existing conditions and serious illnesses out of the individual insurance market and put millions more at risk through the sale of insurance plans that won’t cover all the services patients want to stay healthy or the critical care they need when they get sick,” the statement read.

American Medical Association President David O. Barbe said the President’s actions could weaken the stability of the individual health insurance market. American Hospital Association Executive Vice President Tom Nickels echoed his sentiments, and warned it could be disastrous for all Americans.

Today’s Executive Order will allow health insurance plans that cover fewer benefits and offer fewer consumer protections. No one can predict future health care needs with complete certainty and such plans could put patients at risk when care is needed most.”

The president’s EO does not automatically make the changes it outlines; it instructs necessary cabinet members to create the guidelines and issue directions, and could take months to enact, according to The Hill.

How to Prepare for ACA Open Enrollment
  • Start early: Enrollment runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15, and will not open again until November of 2018.
  • Visit HealthCare.gov for information on how to search and purchase plans through the marketplace.
  • Contact the Marketplace Call Center at 800-318-2596 to speak with someone who can help you.
  • Find someone local who can assist you by using the HealthCare.gov location tool with your zip code.

Get more information on changes to the ACA and healthcare exchanges:

47 Counties to Lose Healthcare via Health Insurance Exchanges

Uncertain CSR Payments: 2018 Healthcare Exchange Plan Rates Filed

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DOJ: 4 Cities May Have Sanctuary City Violations

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 16:41

According to Reuters, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is giving New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, and Cook County, Ill., including Chicago, until October 27th to provide further evidence that they are in compliance with 8 U.S.C. § 1373, or certain government grant funding, like DOJ’s COPS Hiring ProgramCOPS grants for the federal Anti-Heroin Task Force Program and Community Policing Development Program, will start being cut off due to their sanctuary city violations.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that these cities “adopt the view that the protection of criminal aliens is more important than the protection of law-abiding citizens and of the rule of law.”

Earlier in the year DOJ sent letters to several units of government asking for detailed compliance with the law.

DOJ in its recent announcement also determined that Milwaukee County, Wisc., Clark County, Nev., Miami-Dade County, Fla., and the state of Connecticut have are in compliance with Federal law and are not guilty of sanctuary cities violations.

Chicago sued the federal government in August over the threats of funding cuts based on compliance with Section 1373. Last month, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction barring the U.S. government from denying public safety grants.

Read the original story on Reuters website.

5 Things to Know to Certify Compliance with Section 1373

Trump AG Defines ‘Sanctuary Cities’, Clarifies ICE Compliance

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Florida Reports First 2017 Zika Virus Transmission

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 16:15

According to the Orlando Sentinel, a couple that traveled to Cuba recently transmitted Zika after returning to Florida.

One of them contracted Zika while on the Caribbean island, and the other contracted the virus through a mosquito at home in Tallahassee.

No other local cases have been reported so far in the state in 2017, but 296 cases of local Zika virus transmission were reported in 2016.

Read the original story on the Orlando Sentinel website.

Access EfficientGov Zika virus resources:

How to Inform Travelers They Could Bring Zika Home

What Zika Virus Looks Like on a Florida Map




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Sonoma County Did Not Use Wireless Emergency Alert in Wildfire

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 15:56


One of the California counties hard hit by wildfires this week chose not to use one type of emergency alert service to warn residents of possible danger. Spokeswoman Jennifer Larocque says Sonoma County considered but did not use the Wireless Emergency Alert which sends a widespread message to cell phones and is sometimes likened to an Amber Alert.

Larocque says because of its broad reach officials concluded the message could panic people who were not in danger and trigger unnecessary evacuations that would snarl traffic and delay emergency vehicles.

Sonoma County did use another emergency alert service that texted thousands of warnings to residents to flee Sunday night. However, nearly 80 cellphone towers were knocked out or badly damaged.

Read the original story on ABC10.com

Why Mobile Alert Failure During Tennessee Wildfires Matters

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Webinar & Guide: How to Clean Up Flooded Homes

Thu, 10/12/2017 - 14:05

In a recent webinar on how to clean up flooded homes that 300 people, mostly from regions affected by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, attended, Jonathan Wilson of National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH) provided the good news:

Yes, you can save those houses,” he told Florida and Texas homeowners, housing and community development agency representatives, municipal employees and builders and designers focused on recovering flood damaged housing.

Wilson supported recovery efforts in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and said he was brought in to answer the question, could homes flooded above six feet with mold up to the ceiling be saved and made healthy and livable again? In partnership with Enterprise Community Partners (Enterprise), NCHH created the illustrated step-by-step Field Guide for Clean-Up of Flooded Homes for do-it-yourselfers and contractors to prevent mold-related health problems and save storm-damaged homes.

Why ‘How to Clean up Flooded Homes’ Resources are Needed

Enterprise, the Florida Housing Coalition, NCHH, and NeighborWorks America brought in Armand Magnelli from Livable Housing, Inc., to deliver the two-hour “How to Restore Your Flooded Home: Addressing Mold & other Health-Related Hazards” to share best practices and post-flood mold remediation techniques to make damaged homes safe and habitable. The webinar highlighted the dangers of mold, the six main points of exposure from inspection to moving back in and the stages, including best practices, products and tools needed to safely complete remediation work.

Because current rebuilding estimates make Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma “unofficially the third and fourth costliest hurricanes in U.S. history,” according to Enterprise,  hundreds of thousands of residents are “displaced, without power and at risk of serious health issues if damp conditions and mold are left untreated.”

Many residents need to know how to clean up flooded homes because the clock is ticking.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Transitional Sheltering Assistance program was recently extended for Hurricane Harvey survivors. And in Florida, where FEMA has approved hundreds of millions in assistance to numerous counties, local official cautioned weeks ago that home inspections related to federal aid often accomplished in a week to 10 days might now take up to a month, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Funding may not be available, or may not reach disaster displaced people in time, and the urgency to rehouse is great. Magnelli opened the webinar with a poll, and about half of attending respondents indicated they were doing the mold remediation work themselves. Magnelli couldn’t stress enough how dangerous mold is before he walked through the safety issues and key steps in cleaning it up.

Living in a building during reconstruction is of special concern, he said.

Mold can cause serious health problems for young children, seniors and anyone with respiratory illnesses and weak immune systems.  According to Laurie Schoeman, the program director for Enterprise’s National Resilience Initiative, the “aha moment” came when attendees learned about measuring the air quality of an impacted home, that the level of mold spores can go up and down in the phases after flooding disaster.

Who Should Watch the Webinar and Use the Guide

The webinar and guide in how to clean up flooded homes is designed for:

  • Community-based organizations
  • Contractors
  • Housing owners
  • Technical assistance providers
  • Code enforcement officials
  • Volunteer housing managers
  • Finance partners involved in clean-up and risk mitigation

The field guide was developed out of hurricane recovery response and draws from the recovery and rebuilding experience after Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy, Irene and Rita.

Cleaning up after a flood or extreme weather event is a labor-intensive and hazardous process, according to the webinar notes. While the basic concepts of the field guide will not change, said Schoeman, Enterprise and NHCC are currently working on updates on equipment requirements and mold data and will add more robust information to the remediation process section.

Why Housing Agencies are on the Frontlines of Disasters

In particular, housing agencies face numerous challenges during recovery efforts after an event like Hurricane Harvey, Schoeman told EfficientGov.

For starters, there are the tight budgets that have gotten even tighter. In July, the approved 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Senate Appropriations bill cut $88 million from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhoods Program, according to Vermontbiz, affecting public housing agency budgets.

They are really strapped,” said Schoeman.

Enterprise regularly engages with public housing agencies and partnering organizations on resilience and emergency response issues to help them mitigate exposures by shaving costs and improving efficiency, she said. The goal is to address communities in recovery and complacency in at-risk communities. Continuity of operations is an integral part of operations and maintenance routines, and creating emergency preparedness programs improves community resilience.

“When a climate event hits, it’s catastrophic.”

Second, a lot of agencies didn’t have emergency plans for certain housing, Schoeman added, citing the example of the seniors sitting up to their waists in water at the La Vita Bella Nursing Home in Dickinson, Texas, which went viral on social media and alerted local rescuers of the dire situation.

Enterprise provides community development corporations (CDCs) with funding and technical support. It’s the CDCs, housing agencies and partners that bring the recovery support to the facilities, buildings and residents who need it, said Schoeman.

We really feel like these housing organizations are fire houses of sorts,” she said.

Schoeman shared the webinar and webinar notes, below.

Webinar Quick Tips
  • Inactive mold is a hazard, particularly with asthma development and respiratory infections and allergic rhinitis, but cleaning is standard with borate-type treatment products and half-face, negative air respirators with a HEPA filter.
  • If sewage, which is hazardous, is or was present in stormwater, clean-up will also require bleach, and in standing water, waders.
  • Unexpected animal residues, like pigeon nests, are incredibly toxic.
  • Open cuts raise exposure to all contaminants present in flood and storm damaged buildings.
  • Know that moisture is the ultimate enemy: “We have to get the buildings dry before we close them in or apply finishes,” within 24-28 hours., Magnelli stressed.
  • The basic steps of how to clean up flooded homes are: protection protocols, thorough cleaning, scrubbing down, drying the building out, treating with borate to reduce mold growth potential, more thorough drying and increasing sustainability in reconstruction where possible.
  • Fogging or spraying throughout a flood damaged building is not recommended.
  • Inspectors should have no connection to those doing the remediation work, which may be mandated by law in some places, such as the state of Louisiana.

Webinar Notes: Here’s Five Things to Know About How to Clean Up Flooded Homes

Ensure you’re taking all precautions necessary and addressing every issue in the cleanup process.

#1 There are major health risks. These are the top causes of health problems you’ll need to keep in mind when you’re working in flooded homes:

  • Structural problems – this includes shifted foundations and rotted floorboards. DO NOT enter the building if the foundation has been pushed, and test for the latter by hitting floorboards with the end of a two-by-four.
  • Mold – too small to be seen with the naked eye, mold spores floating in the air cause issues for allergy-sufferers: anything from a stuffy nose to a life-threatening asthma attack.
  • Lead dust – caused by lead paint drying and flaking, symptoms are typically nonexistent.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) – do not use fuel-burning equipment, including portable generators, inside flood-damaged homes; CO poisoning can cause sudden illness and death.
  • Cuts and punctures – broken glass and boards and exposed nails are additional hazards present in contaminated floodwaters.
  • Electric shock – turn off the electricity at the breaker before starting work; any electrical device that has been flooded is a danger.

#2 It’s important to create an agreement with any mold remediation professional. Per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Centers for Disease Control, hire a professional if mold covers an area of 100 square feet or a 10-by-10-foot space. Then, make sure you have an agreement that you will hold the payment until the work passes an inspection. The inspection should show there is no visible mold, no mold odors and that air tested after the work was done has a safe level of indoor air quality.

#3 Passing inspection is two-tiered. First, there’s the Basic Safety Inspection where you check for structural damage, have your electrical and natural gas system inspected, etc. Next, there’s the Flood/Storm Damage Inspection where you check for mold and water damage, take inventory of what can be salvaged, etc.

#4 Protective equipment is a must. Some steps in the cleanup process require head-to-toe protection – lungs, eyes, ears, feet, head and hands – everything from goggles to work boots with steel shank, toe and insole. The minimum you’ll find for any level is a cap, safety glasses and an N95 or N100 respirator.

#5 There are eight stages in the cleanup process:

  • Pre-work Inspection: Open the doors and windows for 30 minutes before you start working in the home to reduce odor levels and allow for dilution of airborne contaminants. In this step, you’ll also need to complete a Basic Safety Inspection and a Flood/Storm Damage Inspection.
  • Before work begins: In this stage you purchase or rent your tools and supplies, plan for trash removal, make sure you have a working bathroom, etc.
  • Site preparation: This is when you set up a safety and cleanup area, put on your personal protection equipment, lay a plywood path, and so on.
  • Clean-out: Here you’ll complete tasks such as removing furniture and appliances, remove wall-to-wall carpet and clean out closets and kitchen cabinets.
  • Gut tear-out procedure: As the name implies, this is where you get into the more heavy-duty portion of the process – tearing down drywall or plaster ceilings and walls, removing layers from the floor, tearing out cabinets, and so on.
  • Pre-construction cleaning and treatment: In this stage you’ll be preparing the space for constructiondry brushing and vacuuming all surfaces, disinfecting all hard surfaces, drying out the building, etc.
  • Selective tear out and preparation before restoration: There are a few more tasks to complete before restoration begins, such as ventilating the attic, opening the crawl space, and disposing of insulation.
  • Restore possessions: Finally, you’ll need to take care of what you salvaged by sponging off wood furnishings, disposing of or thoroughly washing clothing and textiles, and damp-wiping china, glass, jewelry, porcelain and metal possessions.

Enterprise Community Partners, headquartered in Columbia, Md., and its partners are working to develop a similar webcast to be delivered in Spanish for Puerto Rico attendees following the Hurricane Irma disaster. Through offices in 11 metropolitan areas, Enterprise partners with affordable multifamily property owners, government agencies and community development corporations to support resilience at the building, neighborhood, city and state levels, offering a range of products, services and grants. For example, Enterprise  is an intermediary under the Section 4 Capacity Building for Affordable Housing and Community Development program, funded by the HUD and is currently administering rolling hurricane recovery grants.

Up to $50K Hurricane Recovery Grants Available


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PG&E Suspect for Electric Equipment Fires in Sonoma County

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 13:29

According to the Mercury News, Sonoma County emergency dispatchers dealing with wildfires in the region suddenly received multiple calls of downed power lines and exploding electrical transformers. In one 90-minute period, fire crews responded to more than 10 different locations resulting from the rash of 911 calls and other reports about electrical equipment fires.

The electric equipment failures raised scrutiny on utility PG&E, about it’s equipment maintenance and whether it adequately cut back trees from power lines to reduce fire risk to the degree required by state law. Here’s the map of the calls:

PG&E refuted the claims in a statement, citing hurricane velocity high winds and years of drought weakening trees across the North Bay region. But the company has a long history of losing lawsuits alleging negligence dating back to 1994.

More recently, California levied a $1.6 billion state penalty for a 2010 natural gas pipeline explosion that killed eight people and destroyed about three dozen homes in San Bruno, a suburb of San Francisco.

In April, the California Public Utilities Commission also fined PG&E $8.3 million for failing to maintain a power line that sparked a 22-day Butte Fire in Amador County in 2015, which destroyed 549 homes, charred 70,868 acres and killed two people.

In 2016, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection also filed a lawsuit against PG&E to pay $90 million in firefighting costs. More than 1,000 lawsuits and claims are currently pending against the utility, according to the Mercury News.

“It was more than just a lack of maintenance. It was a complete disregard for their requirements of vegetation management in rural areas,” said Frank Pitre, an attorney who has previously filed lawsuits on behalf of claimants against the company.

Pitre said his law firm has already been contacted by Sonoma County residents who said transformers exploded and wires sparked unrelated to wildfire. “This is very definitely on people’s radar of what caused a number of fires to break out all at once.”

Redwood City State Senator Jerry Hill said if negligence is found to be the cause for the electric equipment fires, it’s going to be time to dissolve PG&E.

If it turns out that PG&E is responsible for this fire and negligent for not putting in the resources or for diverting the resources, then I will be the first one to stand up and say we need to dissolve PG&E as a private company and form a public utility. We would not have the confidence or trust in them in the future. Nor should we,” Hill said.

Read the original story on the Mercury News website.

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5 Wildfire Safety Steps Everyone Should Know

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 12:41

Hundreds of acres of land are damaged by wildfires each year, leaving behind a trail of destruction. However, by utilizing proper wildfire safety procedures, these disaster don’t have to result in the loss of life.

The important thing to remember about wildfires is their unpredictability; they can jump over barriers that would seemingly stop them, such as highways. If there is a risk of wildfire near your community, or you become aware of a wildfire heading your way, it’s time to follow wildfire safety protocols and be ready if the threat continues to move closer.

The following five steps are critical to a community’s emergency planning for wildfire.

#1 Listen to Emergency Notices

Most deaths from natural disasters occur due to people ignoring the warnings and notices of first responders and other rescue organizations. Wildfire safety and preparation means understanding what each step of an emergency notification means, and heeding the information.

Fire Weather Watch — Issued when the potential for severe fire weather exists in the near future. A watch is used when there is a relatively low probability of occurrence and less chance of verifying. The fire danger rating is usually in the high to extreme category. A Fire Weather Watch normally will be issued 12 to 24 hours in advance of the expected onset of severe fire weather conditions.

Red Flag Warning — Issued to indicate the imminent danger of severe fire weather and a relatively high probability of occurring. The fire danger is usually in the high to extreme category. A Red Flag Warning will normally be issued for severe fire weather events less than 12 hours away from occurring.

Evacuation Order — Evacuations are issued when there is an extensive threat to life and property, and should be taken seriously and followed.

#2 Wildfire Safety Requires Planning Ahead

There are areas around the country that are susceptible to wildfires; most of the states out west, particularly California, see hundreds of wildfires each year. If you live in an area that has a history of being threatened by wildfires, you need to be planning ahead. That includes:

  • Mapping multiple evacuation routes, in case your preferred route is closed
  • Gathering important documents that can be easily grabbed before evacuating
  • Putting a change of clothes, first-aid kit, non-perishable food and water in your car
  • Coordinating future evacuation plans with family members

If you have pets, you should plan accordingly to prevent tough decisions in the heat of the moment. Service animals will be accepted at shelters, but if you need to evacuate with a pet, visit PetsWelcome.com to help find lodging that can accommodate both your two-legged and four-legged family members.

#3 Protect Your Home From Wildfire

With strong, severe wildfires, even the most well-developed wildfire safety preparation wont’ be enough to prevent damage to your home, but certain measures could help stop smaller fires from creeping upon your property. The following wildfire safety tips could prevent extreme damage to your home and may be helpful to communities in regions that experience regular wildfires.

  • Remove and clear anything that could be considered additional fuel, such as dry leaves, from all areas surrounding the home, including gutters.
  • Remove flammable lawn furniture and put in inside, in the middle of your home, away from the doors and windows.
  • Create fuel breaks, such as cement or gravel walkways.
  • Purchase and install extra-long garden hoses that are able to reach every part of your home, from front to back.
#4 Confirm Wildfire Danger Has Passed Before Returning Home

In the aftermath of a disaster, wildfire safety is still important. There are many hazards left behind by the flames that could be a threat to human life. Watch out for:

  • Ash pits, which are large holes of hot ash from burned up trees
  • Hot spots, which are sreas of the ground that are still hot from extinguished flames and have the potential to flare up
  • Falling debris from damaged homes and buildings
  • Downed power lines
#5 Stay Vigilant About Wildfire Safety While Surveying Damage

Visit the attic to check for damage and any signs that part of your home is still on fire, such as smoldering areas or smoke. If you find evidence of fire, evacuate the house immediately and call 911.

If the house is safe, before touching anything, document your entire home and property every and record area of damage for insurance claims.

See the following EfficientGov articles for more information on emergency preparation:

4 Steps to Disaster Safety for Seniors in Emergencies

Establishing a Medical Response Network for Disaster Prep

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Sonoma County Struggles with Wildfire Damage & Confusion

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 14:14

SONOMA, CALIF. — The Latest on California wildfires (all times local):

10:40 p.m.

A Northern California county says it has received more than 100 missing-person reports as family and friends scramble to locate loved ones while wildfires ravage the state.

Scott Alonso, communications director for Sonoma County, says the reports have come via calls to a hotline the county set up for the missing.

It is possible that many or most of the missing are safe but simply can’t be reached because of the widespread loss of cell service and other communications.

The firestorm consuming the state has killed at least 10 people, seven of whom were in Sonoma County.


10 p.m.

More than 5,000 Southern California homes were evacuated Monday as fire crews struggled to battle a rapidly growing brush fire.

The blaze has scorched 6,000 acres and destroyed dozens of structures in Orange County.

Plumes of smoke were visible over Disneyland and officials issued air quality warnings for parts of Los Angeles County.

An Anaheim police spokesman says there is no containment so far.

The firestorm consuming the state has killed at least 10 people and injured at least a hundred.


9 p.m.

At least 100 people have been injured in wildfires burning in Northern California.

St. Joseph Health said 100 patients have been treated, most for smoke inhalation, at two of its hospitals, Santa Rosa Memorial in Santa Rosa and Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa.

Those hospitals took on the majority of patients with other hospitals in the area evacuated because of the fires.

Two of the injured are critical. One has been transferred to a burn center with significant burns. Fifteen of the injuries are described as moderate and the rest are minor.

The number of injured is expected to climb as information comes in for all the other areas affected by the firestorm consuming the state.

The fires have also killed at least 10 people and destroyed at least 1,500 homes.


7:15 p.m.

Former San Francisco Giants pitcher Noah Lowry and his family were among those who had to flee from the ferocious series of wildfires in Northern California.

Lowry told The Associated Press that he, his wife, his two daughters and his 2-week-old son had to leave their home in Santa Rosa in a matter of minutes as the flames approached.

Lowry says he “can’t shake hearing people scream in terror as the flames barreled down on us.”

He said he ran into a closed U.S. 101 freeway because the flames had jumped it. But he and his family were able to get away in time and get to a friends’ house where they are staying.

Lowry, who pitched for the Giants from 2003 and 2007, now owns an outdoor sporting goods store in Santa Rosa.

The fires have destroyed at least 1,500 homes and killed at least 10 people.


6:45 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence said during a visit to California that the federal government stands ready to provide any and all assistance to the state as it deals with deadly and destructive wildfires.

Pence’s remarks came at an event Monday night in the Sacramento area after Gov. Jerry Brown, who has given disaster declarations to many parts of the state, said he asked President Donald Trump to declare a federal disaster. Pence said “we’ll be working very closely with Gov. Brown and California to see you through these challenging times. We are standing with you.”

It wasn’t clear whether Pence’s statements meant the request from Brown and several local leaders will be met.

The fires have destroyed at least 1,500 homes and killed at least 10 people in Northern California.


6:05 p.m.

The Napa Valley Vintners association says most wineries were closed Monday because of power outages, evacuation orders and the inability of employees to get to work.

The trade association said Monday that it does not have verifiable information on winery buildings that burned down or the impact the fires would have on the 2017 harvest.

Workers had picked most grapes for the season before fires broke out.

The wind-driven wildfires came as Napa and Sonoma counties were finishing highly anticipated harvests of wine grapes. Workers on Monday should have been picking and processing the ripe grapes that would make chardonnay and other wines.

At least two wineries were destroyed and many others damaged.


5:25 p.m.

Authorities have imposed a sunset-to-sunrise curfew in the city of Santa Rosa and say they are on the lookout for looters as firefighters battle blazes raging in California wine country.

Acting police Chief Craig Schwartz said Monday the curfew will be enforced in a mandatory evacuation zone, with violators possibly subject to arrest.

Other officials said they were beginning to get reports of looting in areas affected by fires.

Santa Rosa has about 175,000 residents.


4:55 p.m.

Officials say at least seven more people have died in fast-moving wildfires in California wine country, bringing the total number of fatalities to 10.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office tweeted Monday that seven fire-related deaths were reported from fires there.

California fire officials reported earlier that two people died in Napa County and one died in Mendocino County.


3:50 p.m.

Trailer park residents in California wine country had little time to escape before flames destroyed their homes.

Nancy Cook said Monday that her dogs alerted her to the wildfire that quickly came blowing over a hill early in the morning and ignited trees in the Journey’s End trailer park in Santa Rosa.

The fire is one of the most destructive of more than a dozen in the region.

Cook says she pounded on neighbors’ doors before fleeing with her husband, dogs and medications.

She and other residents didn’t have time to round up their cats and had to leave them behind in their haste. Some fled in their pajamas and left their wallets.

One person had to abandon a classic hotrod car that burned.

Cook says she thinks everyone in the over-55 community escaped, though most residents lost everything they owned.


3:16 p.m.

Authorities say at least half a dozen homes have burned in a fast-moving brush fire in Southern California.

Anaheim Sgt. Daron Wyatt says the fire that broke out on Monday had stretched to about 4 square miles.

Wyatt says the blaze has been driven westward by winds toward heavily populated areas of Orange County, prompting authorities to expand evacuations.

Wyatt says one firefighter suffered minor injuries fighting the blaze.

An overnight shelter has been set up at a nearby high school for evacuees.


2:56 p.m.

Authorities have expanded evacuations in Southern California’s Orange County because of a fast-moving wildfire.

Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt told KABC-TV on Monday that residents in the neighborhoods of Orange Park Acres, North Tustin and East Orange were also being evacuated.

Television cameras showed homes charred by flames in the hilly area known as Anaheim Hills. At least 1,000 homes in that area were previously evacuated.

Residents reported ash falling miles away in areas near the Pacific Coast.

Regional authorities have issued a smoke advisory through Tuesday morning for portions of Orange and Riverside counties.


2:20 p.m.

Officials say a wind-driven wildfire churning through canyons in hilly neighborhoods of Southern California has burned multiple homes.

Anaheim police Sgt. Daron Wyatt says there’s still no count of the number of homes affected by Monday’s blaze.

Anaheim Fire & Rescue says the fire has grown to 2,000 acres and is being fought by 200 firefighters, six helicopters and six airplanes.

One firefighter has been injured.

The fire erupted during the fall’s first significant blast of Santa Ana winds, which blow out of the northeast and toward the coast.

In Northern California wine country, officials say at least one person was killed and two others were seriously injured in fast-spreading wildfires,

At least 1,500 homes and commercial buildings have been destroyed, and 20,000 people have been evacuated.


1:10 p.m.

Officials say at least one person was killed and two others were seriously injured in fast-spreading wildfires in Northern California wine country.

CalFire said Monday the death and injuries occurred in Mendocino County, one of several counties struggling to contain a total of 14 major fires burning out of control.

Additional details were not immediately available.

Official say high winds are hampering firefighting efforts about 140 miles (225 kilometers) north of San Francisco.


12:41 p.m.

A wind-driven wildfire has ignited homes in a Southern California subdivision.

TV news helicopters over the blaze in the Anaheim hills of eastern Orange County are showing several homes fully involved and flames spreading in others Monday afternoon.

Fire crews are scrambling to protect structures. Evacuations have been ordered for neighborhoods and two elementary schools.

The fire erupted during the fall’s first significant blast of Santa Ana winds, the seasonal gusts linked to some of the region’s worst wildfires.

In Northern California, wildfires overnight have destroyed at least 1,500 homes and commercial buildings, and 20,000 people have been evacuated.


12:30 p.m.

Authorities say they expect fatalities after 14 fast-moving wildfires destroyed more than 1,500 homes, department stores, hotels and other commercial structures in Northern California.

The state’s top fire officials said Monday that firefighters have focused on evacuating residents and saving lives rather than battling the blaze and protecting buildings.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott said fatalities are expected, but the fires are still out of control and it’s difficult for authorities to assess the damage done and the number of people hurt and killed.

He said about 50,000 people are without power.

October is typically the most dangerous time for fires in the state. He said there have been 1,500 more wildfires this year than last year at this time.

The California Highway Patrol says numerous roads are closed in the fire region, which is an eight-county swath of wine country north of San Francisco.


12:05 p.m.

A wind-driven wildfire is sweeping along the outskirts of a Southern California subdivision.

The blaze erupted at late morning Monday in Anaheim and moved rapidly through hills and canyons in Orange County, about 45 miles southeast of Los Angeles.

Authorities have ordered evacuations of neighborhoods and two elementary schools and shut down heavily traveled freeways.

City officials could not immediately say how many people are affected.

An evacuation center is being set up at a downtown community center. Authorities also are setting up a place for residents to evacuate their horses.

In Northern California, firefighters are battling blazes that have destroyed at least 1,500 homes and commercial buildings.


11:45 a.m.

Emergency workers and staff at a state home for the severely disabled outside of Sonoma have evacuated all of about 240 patients as flames from fast-spreading wildfires approached the center and ash rained down.

Officials at the Sonoma Developmental Center, located on 900 acres, in the town of Glen Ellen said there were no known injuries during the evacuation.

Center spokesman Jorge Fernandez says “everybody is safe so far.”

Crews got all patients from threatened buildings as flames closed within a few dozen feet of the center’s buildings.

Many of the patients were confined to beds and wheelchairs and had breathing or feeding tubes.

Vans and school buses were lining up to remove the last patients as workers in masks pushed frail residents in wheelchairs across parking lots and roads.


11 a.m.

Another wildfire has erupted in California, this time about 45 miles (72 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles in the hill country of eastern Orange County.

The Anaheim Fire Department says the fire erupted late Monday morning and is being pushed by 25 mph winds.

An unknown number of people have been ordered to evacuate.

Much of Southern California is under red flag warnings for fire danger due to the fall’s first significant Santa Ana winds, the seasonal gusts linked to some of the region’s worst wildfires.

The Anaheim fire erupted as the tally from numerous fires in Northern California worsens.

State officials say at least 1,500 homes and commercial buildings have been destroyed, and 20,000 people have been evacuated in California wine country.


10:45 a.m.

California’s fire chief says at least 1,500 homes and commercial buildings have been destroyed in wildfires that have ripped through the state’s wine country.

He says numerous people have been injured and a number of residents are also missing as 14 large fires burn.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Director Ken Pimlott say an estimated 20,000 people have been evacuated.

He called the estimates of destroyed structures very conservative. Pimlott says the fires are burning throughout an eight-county swath of Northern California, including Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties.

Pimlott said most of the fires started at about 10 p.m. Sunday and their causes are under investigation. He said firefighters are concentrating on saving lives rather than battling the blazes.

He didn’t have an estimate on the number of people hurt and missing.


10 a.m.

More than 200 people were hurriedly evacuated from two Santa Rosa hospitals threatened by wildfires that bloomed overnight.

Lisa Amador, a spokeswoman with Sutter Health, said around 9 a.m. that Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital had finished evacuating the last of more than 80 patients in surgical, labor and emergency care.

She says the hospital is sending staff home. Amador says the hospital and the medical office building next to it are intact, but other structures are ruined.

Jenny Mack, a spokeswoman for Kaiser Permanente, says about 130 patients were evacuated from the Santa Rosa medical center Monday morning.

She said all appointments and surgeries are cancelled for the day in Santa Rosa and Napa, and the KP medical offices in Napa are closed.


9:30 a.m.

California Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties because of wildfires that the governor says are threatening thousands of homes.

Brown issued the declaration on Monday, as multiple fires forced people to evacuate their homes.

Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said more than 50 structures had been destroyed, but there were no reports of injuries or deaths.

Residents describe terrifying middle-of-the-night scrambles to flee from raging wildfires.

Biermann says the fires had burned more than 68 square miles (176sq. kilometers).


8:55 a.m.

Residents in Napa and Sonoma counties are describing their terrifying middle-of-the-night scramble to flee from raging wildfires.

Terri Ruttledge, who lives on Adobe Canyon in Kenwood, just made it out before the fire burned her house.

Ruttledge says she looked out her window and saw the mountain across the road on fire. When she couldn’t reach 911, she quickly loaded up the car and fled.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered after blazes broke out late Sunday.

Napa County Board of Supervisors chairwoman Belia Ramos says officials do not yet have a count on how many properties have been affected in the 20,000 acre (8,100 hectare) fire.

She says the wind gusts were tremendous and made the fire unpredictable.

Fires also burned just to the east in the Napa County wine country as well as in Yuba, Butte and Nevada counties.


6:07 a.m.

Residents of Northern California wine country are describing harrowing escapes from wind-whipped wildfires.

Marian Williams says she caravanned with neighbors through flames early Monday as one of several fires reached the vineyards and ridges of the small Sonoma County town of Kenwood.

Williams says she could feel the heat as trees turned into torches.

The fires are being fanned by strong, dry and gusty winds raking the region.


1:53 a.m.

Firefighters are battling several wind-whipped fires that forced evacuations of rural neighborhoods in Northern California.

The Press Democrat reports (http://bit.ly/2xt7ekR ) that mandatory evacuations were ordered after a blaze broke out late Sunday near Santa Rosa, which is 54 miles (87 kilometers) north of San Francisco.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office says deputies were dispatched to help firefighters and California Highway Patrol officers with evacuations.

Multiple fires broke out Sunday night as strong winds buffeted the area. Emergency lines were inundated with callers reporting smoke in the area.

Downed trees were blocking parts of one rural road and fires were burning on both sides of Highway 12 as gusts reached up to 60 mph (96.5 kph).

Cal Fire says firefighters were battling a 200-acre (80.9-hectare) fire in Napa County.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Cities Can Have Pumpkin Cake & Eat It, Too: Fall Festivals Profit Guide

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 13:50

When visitors sample pies at the Versailles Old Tyme Apple Festival in Versailles, Mo., eat pumpkin cake at the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival in California or don Halloween costumes during Haunted Happenings in Salem, Mass., they’re helping cities drive revenues through these popular fall festivals.

Autumnal harvest festivals are a mainstay in American culture. They bring communities together to sample the bounty of nearby farms, participate in long longstanding traditions and take in live music. Think two-plus months of apple picking, pumpkin patches and tractor-drawn hayrides with a fiery, foliage-laden backdrop.

On weekends, in town squares and on farmland, there’s a cornucopia of fall festivals that include plenty of vendors and entertainment. Halloween typically signifies the end of the season, so holding a public Halloween party can be a success.

To keep fall festivals running however, they have to be profitable. Here are six ways for cities to profit from harvest fests.

# 1 Vending Fees

A revenue stream for fall (and all) festivals flows from vendors who sell handmade goods, musical instruments, original artwork, food and more. Vendors pay hundreds of dollars for booth space and some are required to pay a percentage of sales, too.

For instance, hundreds of arts-and-crafts vendors pay $300 each for a 10×10 space at the three-day Warrens Cranberry Festival in Warrens, Wisc. “Cranfest,” as it’s known in Wisconsin, will celebrate its 46th year in September 2018.

#2 Merchandise

When a band sells a CD or T-shirt at a festival, the host often takes a small percentage of that sale, too. Event staff sells the items and it’s a cost of doing business that the acts should factor into their pricing.

Good events sell their own merch, too: Each year there’s a logo contest for the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest held annually on Columbus Day weekend in Damariscotta, Maine. The logo is silkscreened onto T-shirts and available for purchase.

#3 Fall Festivals Sponsorships

Small and large sponsors often subsidize a festival, especially when poor weather affects audience numbers. It’s important to have a development team that’s consistent and professional reaching out to potential and returning sponsors all year.

The Trailing of the Sheep Festival, held each October in Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho, has a variety of sponsor levels from which to choose. D.L. Evans Bank and the Harper Livestock Company are Premier sponsors. Other levels include Patrons, Benefactors, Supporters and Sheepdog Sponsors.

#4 Parking

Parking lots, city garages and metered spaces are often at capacity at urban festivals, so much so that Austin, Texas’ Pecan Street Festival has partnered with the Spot Hero car parking app, so attendees can find a space without hassle.

Organizers of the Fisherman’s Fall Festival in Seattle have created a handy map of parking lots in surrounding neighborhoods.

#5 Tickets

While admission to some autumn festivals is free, others charge a fee at the gate. Additionally, there are special events such as Chocolate after Dark, a signature event at the Kansas Chocolate Festival, held at the end of September in Topeka. The $55 per person VIP affair is held in a stately mansion and features chocolate and wine pairings, chocolate-infused hors d’oeuvres and live jazz.

#6 Alcohol Sales

Festivals can profit from responsible drinkers through individual drink sales, and sponsorship from breweries, wineries distilleries and cider makers. Sales often outweigh the cost of liquor liability insurance.

Lees Summit Chamber Oktoberfest offers a variety of national and local beer and cider brands. The free event, which attracts more than 70,000 people to downtown Lees Summit, Mo., features German meals, beer and brat tents, a biergarten, live entertainment, German dancers and more.

Why Cities Should Invest in Festivals


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The $45K Quiet, Electric Mini Ambulance is for Urban Areas

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 06:06


By Judy Siegel-Itzkovich

The United Hatzalah (UH) emergency medical-services organization has just put into use the world’s first narrow electric car, fully equipped with an automatic defibrillator and all other necessary equipment, to reach the sick and injured in spots impossible to access with other wheeled vehicles.

UH president and founder Eli Beer said the $45,000 vehicles, dubbed the mini-lance, can even get up stairs and over narrow sidewalks and streets. The first four cars, purchased with donations, have been places in cities around the country and can also be driven by disabled volunteers who are unable to mount UH ambucycles and bicycles to give first aid.

Revealed to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday in a three-hour interview, the mini-lance was found to be totally quiet, with room for two persons, and economical because it runs solely on electric power.

Access the story on the Jerusalem Post.

“United Hatzalah is always looking to cut down our response times and enable our volunteers to reach the people in need of medical help faster. This vehicle allows us to do that in densely populated urban areas. When thinking about the next wave of innovation in the field of EMS we have to look one step further than that as well. While arriving at the patient quickly is our main goal cutting down on our carbon footprint is also very important as is providing an alternate option to big bulky ambulances on congested city streets and freeways with less of a carbon footprint than our ambucycles. The Mini-Lance allows us to achieve all of these goals simultaneously and hence, is our next step in providing fast EMS response in dense urban areas,” said UH Founder Eli Beer in a press release.

See more images of the mini ambulance by Yeshiva World News.

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Munis Can Get on the Gov2Go Mobile Services Platform

Sun, 10/08/2017 - 05:33

Local governments and states can take advantage of a digital wallet already built and stored on Microsoft Azure to offer citizens a mobile path to access services, pay for renewals and buy tickets. Created by NIC, Inc., Gov2Go is a device-neutral mobile services platform available to citizens and governments in all 50 states.

An All-Government Mobile Services Platform 

It’s designed to eliminate perceived government silos, and it integrates with any government’s existing online services accessible by API.

Citizens really want only one entry point into government” said Amy Sawyer, general manager of Gov2Go.

Gov2Go’s goal is to eliminate the friction of dealing with multiple Federal, state and local agencies, and meet citizens growing on-demand digital service expectations. The free tool provides a personalized mobile government solution.

The tool begins by asking a few questions, and then loads services relevant and available to users. They can establish alerts and reminders, and one-click or biometric payment authentication (thumbprint payments) to process things like property tax payments, vehicle registration renewals and more.

Gov2Go enables a user’s government interactions throughout the year to be tracked, provides customizable notifications and completes transactions.

NIC said capabilities to integrate Gov2Go with Microsoft Cortana, Amazon Echo, Google Home and other voice-activated devices are in development.

Federal and Some State Services Already Available

Gov2Go contains elections information and the ability to buy National Parks and U.S Forest Service passes. Under existing state contracts with NIC, some state services are already available for citizens to access via the mobile services platform.

An expanded library of government services are already available to Gov2Go users in Arkansas, Colorado and Nebraska, with more to come.

According to NIC, 20 percent of Arkansas’s citizens have signed up for Gov2Go alerts.

“We launched Gov2Go in Arkansas because our citizens see government as one entity,” said Yessica Jones, director of the state’s Department of Information Services. “They want government information and services integrated across federal, state and local government in one convenient solution. That is exactly what Gov2Go provides.”

Local Governments Wanted for Mobile Services Platform

NIC is looking for more local government partners to integrate Gov2Go. The cost structure is the same as NIC’s existing flexible funding model, and services under existing state contracts may apply.

Watch the promo video to see how it works:

Learn more about Gov2Go on NIC’s website.

Review and download the brochure:

Gov2Go Brochure by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

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Colorado Trail & Winter Maintenance Grants

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 14:40

Colorado offers funding to non-profits, towns, cities or city governments as winter maintenance grants, which pay for upkeep costs of snowmobile trails and trail grooming equipment.

The Colorado Snowmobile Capital Grants Program provides winter maintenance grants for:

  • Purchase of new groomers
  • Repair of existing​ groomers
  • Trailhead improvements
  • Construction of permanent groomer and maintenance facilities
  • Purchase of signs and trail marking materials

The program seeks to fund projects that can justify the need for the equipment, repairs or maintenance, and contributes to the state snowmobile grooming program.

Applicants should:

  • Prioritize the need as related to the grooming program of the club and the state snowmobile grooming program
  • Demonstrate the ability to maintain the equipment/project being proposed
  • Justify the real need for the equipment.
  • Turn in a quality grant proposal with neat, well-organized information
  • Ensure proposals support safe, quality winter opportunities to the general public
  • Assure quality snowmobile trail systems
  • Provide for winter trail related facilities that enhance the snowmobiling experience
  • Connect winter trail systems into a statewide network

Applications are anticipated due April 7, 2018.

Get application documents and apply on the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.

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California Dam Spurs Flood Planning & Emergency Response Funding

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 14:24

In 2008, the Army Corps of Engineers gave the Whittier Narrows Dam in California its second-worst rating, a Dam Safety Action Class II (DSAC II), after inspection revealed that the dam was at risk of failing during normal operations, foreshadowing a need for downstream flood planning and a focus on emergency response to flooding.

The assessment stated that the dam was at risk of failure due to damage from seismic activity and erosion at the foundation. Nearly eight years later, the dam was reclassified into the worst category, DSAC I, and deemed “unsafe” and “critically near failure,” prompting cities downstream that were caught off guard by the upgraded assessment to prepare for a breach by kicking flood planning into high gear.

The Army Corps of Engineers cited three major reasons for its 2016 rating of the Whittier Narrows Dam:

  • Premature opening of the spillway gates due to mechanical error
  • “Backward erosion piping” of the foundation, originally used for dams for short-term needs
  • Overtopping, which is when a dam fails catastrophically as water crests and spills over its top

For Pico Rivera City Manager Rene Bobadilla, the issue of flood planning lies with the multitude of unknowns.

If we had to evacuate what would that look like? What would be the route to travel?” she said in an interview with KPCC. “How much flooding will occur if that there was ever a major breach? And where would the shelters be?”

The city of Pico Rivera is using $200,000 in grants for emergency flood planning, including funding from Round 2 of California’s flood emergency response grants program. Pico Rivera is in the process of designating shelters and solidifying traffic patterns for evacuating citizens.

Other cities in the path of flood waters from a potential dam breach have not finalized or publicized their flood plans.

The dam could fail in two different ways, either by the automatic spillway gates opening prematurely, or if erosion further damages the earthen dam foundation.

A round 3 for the statewide emergency response grants is imminent, according to the state website.

Oroville Dam Incident Emergency Website Launched

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