Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Idaho Firefighter Trains at TEEX Municipal Fire School

In July in College Station, all eyes turn to the skies over Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service's (TEEX) Brayton Fire Training Field. Firefighters of all stripes turn up for the Annual Fire Schools, and this year, Donnelly, Idaho firefighter Michael Murphy was one of them.
Murphy had heard about TEEX from others in his Idaho rural fire department, but what drew him was the specialized training. "I'm taking the Pump Maintenance class. That's kind of the reason that I came. I have never seen it available anywhere."

What sold Michael, though, was the facility. "As far as what's different about TEEX? We have a fire academy in Donnelly as well, but it's just a very, very, VERY, very shrunk down version of this. This is incredible. I love it!"

Now Michael's already planning for next year and he's already got his class picked out: Pump Operations. "Even after just taking the Pump Maintenance class, I'm thinking that the training is more accurate. Plus, they've already said some things about pump operations that we aren't doing that I'm planning on taking back."

A former submariner, Michael served in the Navy for twenty years and missed the camaraderie after getting out. When he joined the Donnelly Rural Volunteer Fire Department ten years ago, he found it again.

"When I walk into my fire department, I hear, 'Murph!' Here, I walk out of my room at the La Quinta, I hear 'Idaho'! And everybody's yelling. It's really cool." He must mean the training because it can't be for the balmy temps, right? Here's a photo Michael sent his 90 year old dad.

See you next year, Michael!

Unique course content along with hands-on training from subject matter experts are only two of the reasons our training is so highly reviewed by our students. If you're interested in learning about TEEX's training, visit our Annual Schools website

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Burglar Proof Your Home #8: Insurance Claims

One other thing that you really can do that helps law enforcement and will help you in your insurance claim, should you fall victim to burglary. You've spent a lot of time and effort putting nice televisions, stereos, personal belongings in your home. Most of those have manufactures, model numbers and serial numbers. So my recommendation is create you a chart where you can write down the items.

Write down the manufacturer, the model number, the serial number and how much you paid for it. Get yourself an established value. Inventory everything because you never know what your insurance company may ask you for when you're filing for a loss. Once you've created that spread sheet take that next step and print it out and secure it somewhere else. There's nothing more disheartening than to realize you've taken all the time to make the spreadsheet and it’s in your computer and that was the item that was stolen.

So always having a hard copy is a good thing. It will sure make your job a lot easier, it will make law enforcement's ability to recover stolen items a lot better if they have models and serial numbers and values.

Watch all the home safety videos by TEEX Law Enforcement's Kyle McNew:

6.) Burglar Proof Your Home #6: Garage Doors
7.) Burglar Proof Your Home #7: Alarm Systems
8.) Burglar Proof Your Home #8: Insurance Claims

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Burglar Proof Your Home #7: Alarm Systems

One of the other things we want to talk about when it comes to hardening the target is the use of alarm systems. There's a lot of different alarm dealers out there that are installing systems. My recommendation is that you do your homework.

Find out who is licensed and who is bonded before you just call anybody to come and install an alarm system in your home. A couple of things you want to think about, most alarm companies are going to offer you a basic package, which is going to probably take care of putting contacts at all your external doors and it’s probably going to offer you a motion sensor.

I would say that as a bare minimum, you want all your external doors contacted so that you know when one is opened. And you want to put at least a motion sensor in the house itself. The other thing to think about, most alarm companies are going to offer you some sort of monitoring service so if the alarm goes off, it sends a signal to a central monitoring area and then notify law enforcement to respond.

Most alarm systems are going to have some sort of siren unit in the home itself, so if that alarm goes off it creates an awful lot of noise which will obviously number one, alert the burglar and hopefully make them run out.

One of the things that you may want to think about if you're not going to be home, is putting that alarm in the silent mode so that if it does go off, it doesn't alert the burglar by sounding the alarm in the house but the central monitoring system does get the phone call and they alert law enforcement.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Burglar Proof Your Home #6: Garage Doors

Garage door openers have come a long way. This particular garage door opener is one of the unique ones because it has a randomly generated code. Which means every time it’s used, it will change the code itself. 

If you've got a much older home, you may find that you don't have the newer garage door opener. So what you may find is that the garage door opener code is actual set up by a series of what we call dip switches. So, it’s a matter of moving certain switches up and establishing some sort of pattern so the transmitter and receiver talk to each other.

The problem with those particular type of garage openers is, when the home builder puts them in, he goes and buys a bunch of them at one time. They're all come programmed the same way so what you will find is if you don't take the time and go to change and make your own unique code by setting those dip switches. A lot of garage door opener will open your own garage door.

That's the beauty of having the random code garage door opener that regenerates a code every time it's used for that transceiver. 

Watch all the home safety videos by TEEX Law Enforcement's Kyle McNew:

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Burglar Proof Your Home #5: Patio Doors

This back patio door poses a unique curve. Number one is that it's got glass in it. So there's a vulnerable space for us. The other thing you'll notice are the hinges for the door are outside.
There are two ways for me to enter the house, I can either break the glass and go in, or with a hammer and a small screw driver I can actually knock the hinge pins out and have this door fall out.
We talked earlier about the hinges that had the pin and the receptacle on the other side. These hinges would be a great candidate for upgrading to the pin hinges. 

Interestingly enough, there is a deadbolt here which is great. This is what we call a single cylinder deadbolt. On the inside, what you're going to find is what we normally find, and that's a way to activate it with just a throw. It opens with by simply twisting with our fingers.

However, we would want to take a different approach with this door. We’d recommend using a double cylinder deadbolt instead. What that means is that the deadbolt on the outside would be mimicked on the inside. It would be a keyed dead bolt that would actually physically require a key to lock and unlock it. So if this glass was broken out, the intruder would still need a key to get this door out of the frame or to get it opened.

Safety laws in the United States mandate that these locks be designed so that if you lock it from the inside, it will not let you remove the key. Therefore, if you get into a situation where the house is on fire while you're in the home, you've got a way to get out of the door.

So we’d definitely recommend putting a double cylinder deadbolt on this door just to make it a more difficult target.

Watch all the home safety videos by TEEX Law Enforcement's Kyle McNew:

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Burglar Proof Your Home #4: Windows

Manufacturers do a really good job of producing pretty good windows nowadays. However, there's always more that we can do.

These particular windows are aluminum framed windows. The manufacturer has gone as far as putting two locking mechanisms on them. 

Remember, though, that this window and these mechanisms are only as good as the person who uses them. You leave them open, they leave an entryway for a burglar, so you want to make sure that you do lock your windows.

You can also get what we call a secondary locking device. It's a very simple device. Basically it will fit in the track itself, right here. It will tighten down and basically what happens is if I'm able to defeat these two, it provides another place for this window to bump up to without getting it over.

Another thing that we can do that is real simple, is we can cut a wooden dowel that fits between here. The sliding part of the window and the top of the frame. And by wedging that in over on the side, it again will keep this window from opening. 

Watch all the home safety videos by TEEX Law Enforcement's Kyle McNew:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Burglar Proof Your Home #3: Doors

One thing that we can always do, and I highly recommend it, is investing in good quality locks and doors. There are certain things we need to check around the doorway itself.

First of all, we want to make sure that any door we have on the outside is a solid-core door versus a hollow door. Most reputable builders are going to put a solid core door on the house itself. Unfortunately, we don't always invest in the best locks and hardware.

There are some specific things that we want to think about when placing outside doors. First is where the door closes. This door has both a normal door catch and it also has a single cylinder deadbolt. So when the door's closed, we're actually making contact with the door frame in two places.

This is the normal part, the regular doorknob, and this would be where the deadbolt is. There are a couple of important things to think about. Generally the screws that hold these strip plates into the door frame come with the plate itself. They're only about an inch long. If you use these screws, then it's very easy for an intruder to kick in the door with enough force to break out part of the frame.

These screws actually need to be four inches or greater so that they go not just through the 1x4 frame of the door itself, but all the way into the 2x4 structure. Now you've attached it to much stronger place to secure the door.

Another thing to look at are the screws in the main hinges that hold the door. Let's go back to the idea of using screws that are 4 to 6 to 8 inches in length. In this case, there are four hinges in this door frame, so we would want to put at least half of those screws at that 4 to 6 to 8 inch length versus that short 1 1/2, 2 inch screw. We want to get past the door frame itself and into the heavy construction framework of the doorway itself.

Another thing you can look for on your door frame is your door hinge itself. When looking at the hinge, reach in the side and see if the plate is flat. If that plate in the center of the hinge is flat, it doesn't offer as much protection as some other hinges that will actually have a small pin and a hole on the opposite side so that when the door is closed that pin actually goes into the hole. It makes that hinge itself more stable and it also makes it harder to get the door out of the framework itself.

Another thing that we want to talk about is your deadbolt. We want to make sure that the home builder has put a deep enough hole in the side of the door frame to accommodate the throw of the deadbolt. We also want to make sure that the deadbolt will go all the way into the door frame without hitting the bottom or bottoming out in the door frame hole.

So a good way to do it is extend the deadbolt, find something, measure it. So, this is how far that deadbolt is going to go, I should be able to get all the way into the stripe plate with no problem without hitting the back. If you actually notice, the depth of the striped plate hole is actually greater than than the throw of the deadbolt by at least about an 1/8th or 1/4 inch. So this is really a well set up deadbolt.

Watch all the home safety videos by TEEX Law Enforcement's Kyle McNew: 

1.) Burglar Proof Your Home #1 
2.) Burglar Proof Your Home #2: Landscaping 
3.) Burglar Proof Your Home #3: Doors

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Burglar Proof Your Home #2: Landscaping

There's no way for me to totally exclude a burglar from hitting my home or from trying to break into my house. If I can harden the target and make it much more difficult to get in, then thieves are more likely to look for an easier target.

Everybody likes to landscape around their house; I appreciate a nicely landscaped house as well as anyone else. However, we have to be aware of what's going on with our landscaping. Around our windows and doors, we want to have landscaping that doesn’t cover them up and create a potential hiding place for burglars.

You notice that there is shrubbery out by the windows but yet it doesn't totally cover the windows and that in fact it doesn't offer me as a potential burglar a hiding place.
You might think about those types of landscaping plants that offer some sort of thorny type protection for yourself.

Basically what we are doing is not offering a comfortable place for the criminal element to work from. So if I've got to climb up in a thorny rose bush, I'm probably going to look for somewhere else to go.

Take a look at what your landscaping looks like, trim your hedges back as necessary so that you do allow that clean view of those windows themselves.

That way when you do have law enforcement officials riding through doing checks at night they can very simply, with a spot light, see the windows and see those things and we don't offer those hiding places.

Watch all the home safety videos by TEEX Law Enforcement's Kyle McNew:

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Director’s Message: Safety is First and Foremost

About five years ago, we asked a team of TEEXans to evaluate our mission, vision and core values. This team embraced the charge and diligently worked on defining what is our purpose, where are we going, and what is most important to us. Highest on the list of our core values was Safety.  It was very reassuring that this team felt that everything paramount to TEEX revolved around safety.

When you lay the cards on the table, it makes a lot of sense. Virtually all of our training and courses have safety as a significant component. We are considered among the best in emergency response training and technical assistance. Our students and customers rely on us to transfer our knowledge to them so that they can ensure their personal safety and the safety of their employees and organizations. 

To put it simply, Safety is in our DNA. So the question we need to ask ourselves is: “Are we taking care of each other as well as we are taking care of our students?” Every task we perform, every idea we want to try out, every step we take, should be put in the context of safety first. Safety is not just a slogan on a sign. Safety is a commitment that we make to each other. I care about your well-being, and being safe is first and foremost.  

~ Gary Sera is CEO of the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, which conducts extension training and technical assistance for nearly 170,000 people each year.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Cybersecurity and Romance: Looking at the Internet through Shakespeare's Eyes

February is the month of love and here at TEEX, we love cybersecurity! In honor of Valentine’s Day, Knowledge Engineering (KE) has provided cybersecurity tips inspired by some of William Shakespeare's most famous romantic quotes.

Tip #1: "Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none."

It seems like every day there is a new story about someone saying or doing something on social media that is harmful to others, whether it is cyberbullying, trolling, posting insensitive videos, etc. Social media is a part of the internet that provides a platform for people to express themselves (both positively and negatively). It was created to share life experiences, whether that’s sharing pictures of your child being born, graduating from college or something as simple as wishing a friend or loved one “happy birthday.” However, the internet and social media can be used to execute crimes and as a place of contention and hate. Here are some positive ways to use the internet and methods on how to be safe doing it.

When posting on Facebook:

Love all: Keep it light. People visit their Facebook page to check up on friends and family, share uplifting messages and things they like, or to share photos of their vacation and family. 

o   Don’t use it as a place to broadcast your hatred of other people, famous or otherwise.

o   Use Facebook and other social media sites to make each other laugh and feel good. Don’t use it as a place to berate someone’s looks, choices, or point of view.

o   We all love a good laugh, but don’t post embarrassing photos or videos of others, unless you have their permission. It is no fun to be laughed at, unless you are laughing too!

·      Trust a few: Lock down your Facebook page. People are using social media sites to gather information before they initiate cyber attacks and physical attacks. If you leave your photos, friends list, and post open to anyone, you are providing the bad guys with information to further their attack.  Explore the security and privacy settings to see your options for securing your Facebook page.

·      Do wrong to none: Think about what you post on social media and how it may impact others. Once you post something on social media, it no longer belongs to you and won’t necessarily stay within your group of friends. A picture of someone in a compromising situation could do irreparable harm to their career or family.

Tip #2: “Love is blind, and lovers cannot see, the pretty follies that themselves commit.”

Most of us love the Internet. We can use it to catch up on what is going on in the world, buy whatever we want, watch cat videos, and communicate with friends. Who wouldn’t love that! But we shouldn’t let our love of the Internet blind us to the hazards associated with it. 
  • Malicious websites can download malware to your computer without you knowing, 
  • Public Wi-Fi connections can be set up by criminals to steal your personal information, and 
  • Hackers can create websites that look legitimate to record your login information so they can use it to access your accounts. Below are a few tips to prevent Internet blindness:
Not all browsers are equal when it comes to secure browsing. Firefox and Chrome are considered to be more secure than other popular browsers because of the security features they offer.

·     Watch out for malicious websites because they can look legitimate. Here are a few tips to help you spot a malicious site:

o   If you are visiting financial sites or shopping sites, check to make sure they are using encryption. The web addresses of secure sites will start with https://. For example, Wells Fargo’s web address is while a spoofed Wells Fargo web address would start with http://. What looks like a minor difference, could have a big impact if someone uses it to steal your banking information.

o   Pay attention to how it looks and what it is trying to get you to do. If something looks off or you are asked to download something you are not expecting, cancel the download and close out the site. Run your virus scan software just to make sure nothing malicious was downloaded.

o   Never click on web addresses in an email. Links in email aren’t always as they appear. Type the address into your browser or Google the company’s name to find the legitimate web address. It is extra work, but you can never be too careful!

·      Be careful when using open Wi-Fi connections. Public Wi-Fi is great, but did you know that for under a $100, someone can buy a device to set up a public Wi-Fi connection that they can use to intercept emails you are sending or log your keystrokes. Some ways to prevent this are:

o   Use a virtual private network (VPN) that encrypts your data. If a hacker intercepts it, chances are they won’t be able to decrypt it.

o   Refrain from visiting financial sites or purchasing items if you have to type in your credit card information.

o   When typing in passwords or other sensitive information, make sure no one is watching what you are doing (shoulder surfing). This is an easy way for criminals to obtain your information.

Tip #3 “I pray you, do not fall in love with me, for I am falser than vows made in wine.”

On the Internet it is easy to hide your true self. You can create a whole new identity for yourself and no one would know. Criminals and other unscrupulous people will use this to their advantage. People may create sad stories to collect “donations,” develop personal relationships on false pretenses for fun or to deliberately hurt someone, or sell counterfeit products as the real thing knowing you won’t have any recourse to get your money back. Always know who you are dealing with online. If something seems off, it probably is.

To learn more about cybersecurity, take one of TEEX’s online cybersecurity classes or schedule a face-to-face class in your jurisdiction. Visit us at and at on Facebook. 

In honor of Shakespeare, always “Embrace the cyber world with love and safety in mind!”

~ by Diane Cornwell and Antonio Watson, Cybersecurity Training Coordinators with the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.