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City of Fort Worth – Focusing on Safety and Access

City of Fort Worth – Focusing on Safety and Access

You may have received word about the new Fort Worth Accessible Hazardous Alert System (Fort Worth AHAS). This is not a rumor. It is really happening in Fort Worth.

On Thursday, February 14, 2013, Mayor Betsy Price personally presented the new Fort Worth AHAS during a press conference attended by media outlets, City personnel and Fort Worth residents. CART and Sign Language Interpreting were provided. “We are very proud to be among the first to implement the Accessible Hazardous Alert System. Public Safety is priority number one, but we can’t be a safe city if only portions of our citizens receive emergency alerts. We identified a need, and we took action,” said Mayor Betsy Price. “The announcement about our Accessible Hazardous Alert System shows why we Fort Worth carries the very distinguished international designation as a ‘Safe Community.’ This is a great accomplishment.”

Forth Worth AHAS is provided by the City of Fort Worth Office of Emergency Management, which is part of the Fort Worth Fire Department (FWFD). Fire Chief Rudolph “Rudy” Jackson, Jr., was also on hand and spoke about the FWFD focus on safety and its community programs. This includes an eight-week course, Citizens Fire Academy, for residents to learn about safety and experience a glimpse of the work that FWFD Fire Fighters do.

Fort Worth AHAS

The City of Fort Worth is partnering with Deaf Link of San Antonio to provide the alerts in video, including American Sign Language and voice and text in English. Alerts can be received by all video capable devices as well as refresh Braille readers. Fort Worth AHAS alerts can be sent to your computer, smart phone, iPad and Android tablets. Fort Worth residents who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Blind, and Deaf-Blind are eligible to receive the alerts by registering at http://ftwahas.deaflink.com/index.php?q=node/63. If you work or attend school in Fort Worth, and would like to receive the alerts, be sure to include the address and zip code of your job or school. The alerts will inform you of weather and other hazards affecting Fort Worth only. It is hoped that the Fort Worth program will encourage other cities throughout Texas to provide this service as well.

We Had It Once

You may also know that Deaf Link AHAS was provided by the State of Texas at one time and was abruptly disconnected in 2011. Lack of use was one of the reasons given for ending the service. It was later learned that many people received AHAS alerts through other individuals and organizations, who forwarded these messages to friends, clients and co-workers. This might have been helpful to do, but it was not smart to do, because the State did not have visibility over the actual use and need of the service. Most importantly, alerts must be sent directly to you, to ensure that you are receiving them in a timely manner.

Special Situations

Unless you have a special situation, it is best for you to register to receive the alerts yourself and not through others. However, family members, caregivers, service providers may also want to register as back-up and support for their parents, children, clients, neighbors and friends. Individual registrations are the only way the Fort Worth Office of Emergency Management will know the service is being successfully used, and hopefully other Mayors and City Councils will find a way to provide this much needed service for their residents.

Much Appreciation

I would like to thank all of you, who have been supportive throughout this process of change in the City of Fort Worth. The experience has been a learning process for all involved. Presently, a group of citizens, who are deaf and hard of hearing, are participating on the Subcommittee for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing organized by the Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD). Their work will contribute to training Fort Worth Police Officers. Officers will not only learn American Sign Language and about Deaf Culture, they will also experience it as part of their training. This is part of Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead’s commitment to the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community. Other Subcommittees are also being organized to include the different cultures living in Fort Worth.

Sometimes, change does not begin at the top. It begins within the ranks, which is also a tribute to excellent leadership and management in any organization. Juan Ortiz, Director of Office of Emergency Management in Fort Worth championed Fort Worth AHAS within the City. Juan recognized a need and made Fort Worth AHAS possible with the support of Chief Jackson, Mayor Price and the Fort Worth City Council. Juan did approach other cities to participate, but they could not manage the budget at this time. I hope this will change in the near future. I hope that we can be an inspiration for other cities and their communities to follow the City of Fort Worth’s role model.

We’re Not There Yet

There is more work to do. Each step is a new beginning. Change does not always happen as fast as we would like, however, I notice that it takes place faster when people from the community become involved. It is important to be visible and give leadership the opportunity to know you and to learn from you. You become an inspiration for champions like Juan Ortiz. You are your best advocate. When you register for Fort Worth AHAS, you are advocating for yourself. When you participate in services and programs which empower you, you are advocating for yourself and others. Showing up, participating and being visible are necessary, and more of this is needed from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community in Fort Worth.

Things You Can Do

You can help by passing this message to family and friends and build awareness with people you know and with your Mayor and City Council representatives. Safety and access are important for all communities:

Fort Worth AHAS: If you live, work, attend school in Fort Worth, register today for Fort Worth AHAS at http://ftwahas.deaflink.com/index.php?q=node/63. This is a free service to those who register. If you have a special situation, questions or would like more information about Fort Worth AHAS or the Special Needs Assistance Program (SNAP), please contact Randy Westerman with the Fort Worth Office of Emergency Management at [email protected] or 817-392-6170.

Other FWFD Programs: For information about free smoke detectors call 817-392-6862 or visit the FWFD website at http://fortworthtexas.gov/fire/. For information about Nixle, Citizens Fire Academy, and other FWFD community programs, contact 817-392-6862. Also see http://fortworthtexas.gov/fire/info/default.aspx?id=2542 for more information about Citizens Fire Academy.

FWPD Programs: For information about Fort Worth Police Department community programs, including Citizens Police Academy (CPA) and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Training, please contact Officer Charles Lewis at [email protected] or 817-871-6500 or 817-253-5587. CPA applications are provided at http://www.fortworthpd.com/get-involved/citizens-police-academy.aspx and CERT workshops are being scheduled.

I still serve on the Forth Worth Human Relations Commission (HRC). We continue to meet on the 4th Tuesday of each month at 5:30 PM at the Hazel Harvey Peace Center for Neighborhoods, 818 Missouri Avenue, Fort Worth, Texas 76104. Our agendas continue to provide time for Citizen Presentations. To request meeting schedule and accommodations, please contact Diane Vargas at [email protected] or 817-392-7525.

The Human Relations Unit (HRU) continues to accept discrimination complaints regarding employment, housing, public accommodations. The HRU can be reached at 817-392-7525. Their website provides a link to the HRC at http://fortworthtexas.gov/humanrelations/.

To learn more about accommodations and access at the City of Fort Worth and about the Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities, please contact David Ondich, ADA & Disabilities Program Coordinator at [email protected] or 817-392-8552. Closed Captioning is provided in Council Chambers and on the Internet for Fort Worth City Council meetings. If you are unable to attend Pre-Council or City Council meetings, you can see them at http://fortworthgov.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=2. The next Council meeting will be March 5, 2013. Sign Language Interpreting is provided upon request.

Again, Fort Worth AHAS is a major step forward for safety and accessible communication. Register today, http://ftwahas.deaflink.com/index.php?q=node/63, and stay safe.

Sincerely,

Tracey Michol
Tracey and Friends
[email protected]

P. S. I would also like to thank the City of Garland for the steps it has taken to replace its sirens with ones which provide sound and flashing lights.

If you missed the news coverage about Fort Worth AHAS, please see the CW33 news clip at http://nightcaptv.com/2013/02/14/fort-worth-introduces-emergency-alert-system-for-the-deaf-blind/#axzz2Kw1IIbhF, Star Telegram article at http://www.star-telegram.com/2013/02/14/4623195/fort-worth-launches-partnership.html, and information on the City of Fort Worth’s website at http://fortworthtexas.gov/citynews/default.aspx?id=107660.

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