Apr 10 2008

Nationwide text message alert system approved

By John Dunbar, The Associated Press on MSNBC.com WASHINGTON - Federal regulators Wednesday approved a plan to create a nationwide emergency alert system using text messages delivered to cell phones. Text messages have exploded in popularity in recent years, particularly among young people. The wireless industry's trade association, CTIA, estimates more than 48 billion text messages are sent each month. The plan stems from the Warning Alert and Response Network Act, a 2006 federal law that requires upgrades to the nation's emergency alert system. The act tasked the Federal Communications Commission with coming up with new ways to alert the public about emergencies. "The ability to deliver accurate and timely warnings and alerts through cell phones and other mobile services is an important next step in our efforts to help ensure that the American public has the information they need to take action to protect themselves and their families prior to, and during, disasters and other emergencies," FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said following approval of the plan. Participation in the alert system by carriers is voluntary, but it has received solid support from the wireless industry. Cell phone subscribers would be able to opt out of the program. They also may not be charged for receiving alerts. There would be three different types of messages, according to the rules. The first would be a national alert from the president, likely involving a terrorist attack or natural disaster. The second would involve "imminent threats," which could include natural disasters like hurricanes or tornadoes or even university shootings. The third would be reserved for child abduction emergencies, or so-called Amber Alerts. The alerts would be delivered with a unique audio signature or "vibration cadence." The service could be in place by 2010. Add This Bookmark [ad#post-1]

Permanent link to this article: http://workplaceviolencenews.com/nationwide-text-message-alert-system-approved/

Apr 10 2008

District, students to battle violence

By Eric White, The Intelligencer PA - Hatboro-Horsham School District is unveiling a new tool to keep its schools safer. The district's new director of security, Albert Hall, is unveiling a student tip line to report safety threats. Students can call and leave a voice mail at 215-420-5100 or send an e-mail to tips@hatboro-horsham.org. The lines can be used to report crimes, acts of violence, bullying incidents, a student in danger, or any other situation that might present a threat to school safety, officials said. A districtwide contest resulted in three posters to advertise the effort. “The fifth-grade poster was geared around bullying and the high school poster was geared around violence,” said Hall in a telephone interview, reflecting the issues that made the biggest impression on the students. At Monday night's school board meeting, the three students were honored for their work. Chris Hammel, a fifth-grader at Blair Mill Elementary School; Wayne Arminavage, a seventh-grader at Keith Valley Middle School; and Lauren Liberg, an 11th-grader at Hatboro-Horsham High School, were recognized. On Tuesday, the posters were placed in district buildings. ChATs, or Chiefs Advisory Teams, an all-volunteer group of public service-oriented citizens, will be distributing posters to local businesses throughout the area to promote the program. Any local businesses that are interested in displaying a poster in their workplace should e-mail Hall at ahall@hatboro-horsham.org. “The tip line will be one more tool for the district to employ as it seeks to prevent and avoid all types of incidents that disrupt learning or threaten student safety,” Hall said. He also instituted a telephone tip line and e-mail address when he served as director of safety at St. Joseph's University. Hall's voice is on the tip line's message, and he will respond to the message. Depending on the incident, information could be forwarded to school principals or directly to police if a threat is imminent. Hall encouraged students to make use of the service. “When in doubt, make the phone call,” said Hall, who added, “If you're wondering if you should call, you should.” To help If you witness bullying, a student in danger, or a situation that might present a threat to school safety, call 215-420-5100 or send an e-mail to tips@hatboro-horsham.org. Add This Bookmark [ad#post-1]

Permanent link to this article: http://workplaceviolencenews.com/district-students-to-battle-violence/

Apr 10 2008

Justice Court a ‘very dangerous’ place: Judge pleas for more suitable facility

By Denise Civiletti, The Suffolk Times Long Island, NEW YORK - "It's like being on a lucky streak. Sooner or later it's going to end." That's how Southold Town Justice Bill Price describes the odds of averting disaster in the town's overcrowded makeshift courtroom when court is in session on Fridays. A lone court officer, armed with a handgun, is the only protection afforded bench, bar and citizenry in Southold Town Hall when court is in session. That's not enough, in Justice Price's experience. Things can get hot in the courtroom sometimes, he says. Like the recent occasion when a defendant in custody became belligerent and abusive as Justice Price attempted to arraign him in a standing-room-only courtroom. The defendant's behavior incited members of the audience, some of whom may have been his family and friends, to join in the disruption. The only way the defendant could be brought under control, the judge said, was by being "put down" by the sheriff's deputies who had delivered him to Justice Price from the county jail for arraignment. That brought angry shouts of "police brutality" from the audience, as the deputies dragged the man from the courtroom. "It started getting rowdy," he said. For several tense moments, Justice Price said, he feared losing control of his courtroom -- or worse. "Thank God the deputies were there," he said. But during most court sessions, he's only got his gavel and that one court officer to maintain order. There's no metal detector to help prevent weapons from being brought into the Town Hall meeting room, which doubles as the Justice Court. The double doors which allow access to the room from the parking lot often aren't even locked, says. On many Fridays, the courtroom is jammed with litigants and defendants -- and their families and attorneys. All seats are filled and the line of people waiting to get into the meeting room overflows into the Town Hall lobby and out into the parking lot, he said. "We don't know who's in the courtroom. Do they have a weapon, or don't they have a weapon? It is just not safe," Justice Price said. "It is dangerous." "The under sheriff called me up to say [the sheriff's deputies] don't like coming into our court because it's really dangerous," he said. The justice court liaison to the state office of court administration also reported to the state that the Southold courtroom is "very dangerous," Justice Price said. The town justice court handles both civil and criminal cases. Its criminal docket on any given Friday will often top 200 cases. These range from vehicle and traffic violations to arraignments of defendants for the most serious of alleged crimes, including violent felonies. "We handle any criminal case that starts in the Town of Southold, whether it's something simple like public intoxication, or murder. They all start here," Justice Price told the Southold Town Board at its work session Tuesday -- a meeting held in the very same meeting room, which on Tuesday morning was practically empty. "Our workload has increased significantly," said Justice Price, who was first elected to the bench in 1981. "Last year, we handled more than 7,500 matters." Even the judge's "chambers" are makeshift -- a trailer attached to the back of Town Hall in 1990 as a "temporary fix." The trailer is overflowing with files and can barely accommodate its clerical staff. It, too, has safety and security issues, he said. The front door separating the clerks from the public doesn't fully close, let alone lock. Clerks in the justice court office on Tuesday, who asked that their names not be printed in the paper, said they often fear for their safety, with just a "panic button" alarm linked to the police station in Peconic as their only security. The judge asked the Town Board to act swiftly to relocate the court to a larger, more secure facility. He said he's asked the office of court administration for advice about what size facility is needed for the town court's case load. "We need a properly designed separate courthouse that's going to be adequate for right now but also for the years to come," Justice Price said. He said in a phone interview yesterday that fellow Town Justice Rudolph Bruer shares his concerns and supports his request to the Town Board. A phone call to Justice Bruer's law office yesterday was not returned by presstime. Board members discussed possible alternative court locations, such as the current recreation center after the Peconic school is renovated for use as a new recreation facility. "I ask this board to be committed to finding a separate complex for the court," Supervisor Scott Russell told the board. "In our workplace violence survey, every department in town government focused on Friday court sessions as the biggest concern," he added. Justice Price also said that in addition to overcrowding, the dual use of the meeting room creates problems if it is in use when justices need to arraign a defendant or hear an application for an arrest warrant. "A week or two ago, the ZBA was meeting in here and [we] needed to do an arraignment" of a man charged with driving while intoxicated, Justice Price said. The arraignment was delayed because the ZBA was in the middle of a hearing. "Turns out the police released the person I was supposed to arraign," Judge Price said. "Since it was a DWI, I'm supposed to take his driver's license away right then and there. That didn't happen," he said. "The police released him." Add This Bookmark [ad#post-1]

Permanent link to this article: http://workplaceviolencenews.com/justice-court-a-very-dangerous-place-judge-pleas-for-more-suitable-facility/

Apr 10 2008

Workplace violence is preventable, Wyomissing expert says

By Holly Herman, Reading Eagle Wyomissing, PA - Violence in the workplace is unpredictable but can be prevented if employers know the warning signs, a Wyomissing psychologist said Wednesday. “Companies feel they don’t know how to identify a hostile workplace,” said Dr. Jeffrey L. Sternlieb, president of MetaWorks. Sternlieb, told about 250 business participants at a human resource summit breakfast that it is important for employers to be aware of the potential for workplace violence. He spoke at the summit, spon sored by Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry in the Sheraton Reading Hotel, Wyomissing. “We need to be brave enough to recognize and speak up about it,” Sternlieb said. “A lot of companies believe that a sexual harassment policy will protect women, but that is not enough. “We as humans have a history of not wanting to deal with conflict. The old phrase, ‘Don’t kill the messenger,’ is true. “None of us likes to deal with conflict. I have had three calls in the last several days about violence in the workplace.” Sternlieb said there are more than 1,000 homicides in the workplace each year in the United States. He said homicide is the No. 1 cause of death of women at work. Sternlieb urged employers to develop written plans to deal with violence, adding that having security guards is not enough. All employees should know what to do. “Do you have a game plan if someone gets hurt?” he asked. “When we were kids at school they had fire drills. We don’t do anything close to that as adults.” Sternlieb recommended that companies do criminal background checks before hiring new employees and have a written no-violence policy. Sternlieb said employers and their employees should look for warning signs. “All major violent episodes have warning signs,” he said. “People will start to talk about their feelings and the episode. When people are throwing things around, that is a warning sign.” Sternlieb advised employers to be sensitive about language used in such situations such as firings. He urged employers to learn more about their employees and how each one functions socially within the organization. “Disgruntled employees need to be heard,” he said. “We spend more time listening to people above us than those below us. “We lose sight of the people we supervise.” Add This Bookmark [ad#post-1]

Permanent link to this article: http://workplaceviolencenews.com/workplace-violence-is-preventable-wyomissing-expert-says/

Apr 10 2008

Guns-At-Work Bill Goes To Governor

By Russell Ray & Michael Sasso, Tampa Bay Online TALLAHASSEE - In a major victory for the gun lobby, lawmakers have approved legislation that would allow Floridians to bring a gun to work as long as the owners have a permit and the gun is locked inside their car. The Senate's vote Wednesday follows last month's House's approval, sending the guns-at-work bill to Gov. Charlie Crist, who is expected to sign the bill into law. Like the House, the Senate's Republican majority was forced to choose between the right to bear arms and private property rights, each supported by powerful special interests. The bill was approved in a 26-13 vote along party lines. Crist on Wednesday said, "I understand there are competing interests. There always are in this process. "But people being protected is most important to me." Democrats doubted that public safety would improve with the ability to bring a gun to the workplace and predicted the law would be struck down in court. "There is a property right an employer has to ensure that he has the ability to protect his employees," said Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton. "Why are we forsaking that right in exchange for a bill that in Oklahoma has already been found to be unconstitutional?" Also, the bill fails to bar assault rifles and does not exempt child care facilities and nursing homes, Deutch said, creating a situation in which employers "aren't then able to protect the most vulnerable members of our society." The measure would allow certain workplaces to bar guns at work, such as nuclear-power plants, public hospitals, schools and jails. Marion Hammer, spokeswoman and former president of the National Rifle Association, said the bill simply clarifies the rights of gun owners and sends a message to business owners who prevent employees from having a gun in their locked car. "We have always had the right to have a gun in our car in parking lots," Hammer said. "Unfortunately, some businesses were violating those rights." This is the third year the NRA has pushed for guns-at-work legislation. In addition to employees, the bill would allow customers to leave their guns locked in cars at malls, restaurants and other retail stores. Patrick Muldowney, president of the Central Florida Human Resource Association and an employment lawyer, said his organization opposes the legislation because it increases the potential for violence in the workplace. If an employee becomes angry and a gun is readily available, "there's no ability for that person to cool off," Muldowney said. Also, the legislation raises liability issues for the business owner if employees are injured in a gun-related incident. "The idea that an employer cannot preclude guns from being on its workplace is extremely problematic from an HR perspective," he said. Less concerned was Bill Shumate, co-owner of Bella's Italian Cafe in Tampa and a former chairman of the Florida Restaurant Association, now known as the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. Speaking for himself and not the FRLA, Shumate said a new law won't have an effect on whether someone brings a gun to the workplace. "Legal or illegal, if they're going to do it, they're going to do it," Shumate said. The bill prohibits employers from banning guns on their property as long as the employees and customers who bring weapons to the business have a permit and leave the guns locked in their cars. "This bill is about having a legally owned firearm locked in your car in a public parking lot," said Sen. Durrell Peaden, R-Crestview, the bill's author. "It's not anything else. It's just a preservation of that Second Amendment right." However, an employer has no way of knowing who has a concealed-weapons permit, since state law prevents the public from viewing those records. Crist said he will probably sign the bill into law, knowing that big business may decide to challenge it with a lawsuit. "Does that surprise anybody?" Crist said. "They have that right." Oklahoma, Alaska, Kentucky and Mississippi have similar guns-at-work laws, although a judge struck down Oklahoma's law after finding it conflicted with federal workplace-safety rules. Add This Bookmark [ad#post-1]

Permanent link to this article: http://workplaceviolencenews.com/guns-at-work-bill-goes-to-governor/

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