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RVC Fire Services includes 25 recommendations in Master Plan

Twenty-five recommendations to improve Rocky View County’s (RVC) fire services will be addressed and brought back to council individually for approval.

The 2022 Fire Services Master Plan was accepted as information by RVC council during the April 5 meeting, after an hour-long presentation from emergency services personnel.
Randy Smith, RVC’s manager of fire services and emergency management, said with approval of the master plan, the intent would be to assemble a steering committee to look at all the recommendations moving forward.

He said with the report being accepted as information, every recommendation is based on council’s approval.

Division 5 Coun. Greg Boehlke moved to accept the plan as information, stating that every item will then require budget approval from council.

Jeffrey Carlisle, senior fire and emergency operations management specialist of Behr Integrated Solutions, who reviewed the fire services master plan, highly recommended the plan be reviewed and evaluated on an annual basis. He argued that would outline the immediate and future emergency service needs of the community.

Carlisle began his presentation to council by outlining the response data of RVC’s fire services. From 2016 to 2020, he said RVC saw 10,001 calls across all zones, with only 1,846 of the calls being for fire-related incidents.

The majority of RVC’s fire services calls were for medical responses, followed by motor vehicle collisions, alarms, and then fire.

Within an eight-kilometre radius of RVC’s fire stations, the 80th percentile response time benchmarks are set at 10 minutes with four firefighters, excluding the Irricana and Madden fire stations, which have an 80th percentile response time goal of 18 minutes.

According to the data provided during the presentation, response times from 2016 to 2020 exceeded the 10-minute mark across the board.

Carlisle added that with the current closure of 101 Street SW in Springbank, the area would see a decrease in emergency response service levels, with an increase of approximately 240 seconds. The response time once the interchange route is established was not part of the current report.

Compared to four other counties across the province with smaller populations but larger land areas, RVC fell in the mid-range when it comes to a cost per capita for fire services. The County currently spends seven per cent of its municipal budget on fire services, compared to 10 per cent in the County of Grande Prairie, six per cent in Clearwater County, 13 per cent in Foothills County, and five per cent in Yellowhead County.

“In our opinion, you have a very efficient fire service,” Carlisle told council.
Recommendations provided in the master plan are meant to improve operational effectiveness and efficiencies.

The recommendations to be addressed immediately included issues like completing a mission statement, improving communication with administration, staff, and the union, reviewing the equipment inventory, and developing a response matrix to identify which calls require assistance.

Smith explained the fire trucks in RVC are highly used and therefore have high mileages. A fire engine was recently replaced, but another early replacement is recommended.

“This is an ongoing process for our fleet where we have to assess each piece of equipment based on its use… It’s not uncommon for us to have well over 100,000 kilometres on a fire truck, which is not the norm in the industry,” Smith said. “We’re putting a lot of hard miles on our equipment and it’s impacting our replacement schedule.”

The majority of recommendations fell under the short-term category, to be addressed between one and four years. This includes completing a review of the firefighter water supply for new and current developments within the county and completing a community wildfire protection plan and FireSmart program.

The development of a fire prevention branch capable of supporting ongoing cyclical inspections of high-risk properties (instead of inspections based on complaints or requests) was also a short-term recommendation.

Carlisle stated industrial buildings have the highest fire code non-compliance and can pose major risks in industrial areas.

Another short-term recommendation is the building and development of an in-house live fire training facility. According to Carlisle, the Calgary training centre used to be readily accessible for RVC Fire Services, but that is no longer the case.

Other municipalities surrounding Calgary are also looking at constructing a building to use for fire training, which council suggested could be managed by a regional facility through cost-sharing agreements.

Several intermediate recommendations included undertaking a comprehensive risk analysis of  individual station demand zones to identify policy gaps, as well as developing a comprehensive structural risk inventory program.

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Russian hackers exploit six-year-old Cisco flaw to target US government agencies

APT28, a state-sponsored hacking group operated by Russian military intelligence, is exploiting a six-year-old vulnerability in Cisco routers to deploy malware and carry out surveillance, according to the U.S. and U.K. governments.

In a joint advisory issued on Tuesday, U.S. cybersecurity agency CISA along with the FBI, the NSA and the U.K.’s National Cyber Security Center detail how the Russia-backed hackers exploited Cisco router vulnerabilities throughout 2021 with the aim of targeting European organizations and U.S. government institutions. The advisory said the hackers also hacked “approximately 250 Ukrainian victims,” which the agencies did not name.

APT28, also known as Fancy Bear, is known for carrying out a range of cyberattacks, espionage and hack-and-leak information operations on behalf of the Russian government.

According to the joint advisory, the hackers exploited a remotely exploitable vulnerability patched by Cisco in 2017 to deploy a custom-built malware dubbed “Jaguar Tooth,” which is designed to infect unpatched routers.

To install the malware, the threat actors scan for internet-facing Cisco routers using a default or easy-to-guess SNMP community string.

SNMP, or Simple Network Management Protocol, allows network administrators to remotely access and configure routers in place of a username or password, but can also be misused to obtain sensitive network information.

Once installed, the malware exfiltrates information from the router and provides stealthy backdoor access to the device, the agencies said.

Matt Olney, director of threat intelligence at Cisco Talos, said in a blog post this campaign is an example of “a much broader trend of sophisticated adversaries targeting networking infrastructure to advance espionage objectives or pre-position for future destructive activity.”

“Cisco is deeply concerned by an increase in the rate of high-sophistication attacks on network infrastructure — that we have observed and have seen corroborated by numerous reports issued by various intelligence organizations — indicating state-sponsored actors are targeting routers and firewalls globally,” Olney said.

Olney added that in addition to Russia, China has also been spotted attacking network equipment in several campaigns.

Earlier this year, Mandiant reported that Chinese state-backed attackers exploited a zero-day vulnerability in Fortinet devices to carry out a series of attacks on government organizations.

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South Florida counties gear up for stinky seaweed season

Sargassum making its annual voyage to South Florida’s shorelines, threatening tourism and coastal ecosystem.

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Large patches of what will become stinky shoreline seaweed, stretching from the west coast of Africa to just off the southern cost of Cuba, are making their way to South Florida and local leaders are getting ready.

Local 10 News Photojournalist Curt Calhoon recently spotted sargassum, surface floating patches of brown micro algae, off the deck of a ship cruising through the Caribbean.

Brian Barnes is one of the University of South Florida researchers tracking a bloom via satellite.

“We call it the great Atlantic sargassum belt,” Barnes said. “They range in size from a handful to a square mile.”

In the ocean, it serves as a floating nursery for a variety of marine species.

The problem happens when it comes on shore. If not cleaned up properly, it can shade out corals and sea grass and create near-shore dead zones as it decays.

“It uses up all of the oxygen in the area and you can get a dead zone,” said Barnes. “As it decays, it can fall in the weather column and straight smother those ecosystems.”

As it starts to decompose, the sargassum releases hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs.

“Some people with asthma may have some respiratory issues, but not the broader population,” said Barnes.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the county will gear up as needed.

“We have a contract in place with a company that is removing sargassum from some of the hot spots,” she said.

Researchers who have been tracking the steady annual increase in sargassum say there are a variety of factors at play regarding why the naturally occurring micro algae is blooming patches upwards of a square mile in size, from warming seas to oceans rich in nutrients like human sewage and fertilizer run-offs from the world’s rivers into the sea.

“Definitely we are on alert and making sure there should be an increase — our current cost is $3.9 million per year for the contract,” said Levine Cava. “We do have requests for support from state and federal sources, so we are gearing up to bring attention to the fact that we do need help.”

Sargassum season typically runs from May to October, the same window as sea turtle nesting season.

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South Florida counties gear up for stinky seaweed season
Sargassum making its annual voyage to South Florida’s shorelines, threatening tourism and coastal ecosystem
South Florida coastal counties preparing for stinky seaweed season

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MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Large patches of what will become stinky shoreline seaweed, stretching from the west coast of Africa to just off the southern cost of Cuba, are making their way to South Florida and local leaders are getting ready.

Local 10 News Photojournalist Curt Calhoon recently spotted sargassum, surface floating patches of brown micro algae, off the deck of a ship cruising through the Caribbean.

Brian Barnes is one of the University of South Florida researchers tracking a bloom via satellite.

“We call it the great Atlantic sargassum belt,” Barnes said. “They range in size from a handful to a square mile.”

In the ocean, it serves as a floating nursery for a variety of marine species.

The problem happens when it comes on shore. If not cleaned up properly, it can shade out corals and sea grass and create near-shore dead zones as it decays.

“It uses up all of the oxygen in the area and you can get a dead zone,” said Barnes. “As it decays, it can fall in the weather column and straight smother those ecosystems.”

As it starts to decompose, the sargassum releases hydrogen sulfide, which smells like rotten eggs.

“Some people with asthma may have some respiratory issues, but not the broader population,” said Barnes.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the county will gear up as needed.

“We have a contract in place with a company that is removing sargassum from some of the hot spots,” she said.

Researchers who have been tracking the steady annual increase in sargassum say there are a variety of factors at play regarding why the naturally occurring micro algae is blooming patches upwards of a square mile in size, from warming seas to oceans rich in nutrients like human sewage and fertilizer run-offs from the world’s rivers into the sea.

“Definitely we are on alert and making sure there should be an increase — our current cost is $3.9 million per year for the contract,” said Levine Cava. “We do have requests for support from state and federal sources, so we are gearing up to bring attention to the fact that we do need help.”

Sargassum season typically runs from May to October, the same window as sea turtle nesting season.

“Every day, there are people looking for where nests might be, marking off those areas, making sure they are not disturbing any nests while cleaning up the sargassum,” Levine Cava said.

In Monroe County, officials said they are planning for twice-daily cleanings.

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Antisemitic incidents are at an all-time high, the ADL reports

Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. rose 36% in 2022, an annual audit by the Anti-Defamation League shows.

The report, released Thursday, tracked 3,697 incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault targeting Jewish people and communities last year. It is the third time in five years that the tally has been the highest number ever recorded since the ADL first began collecting data in 1979.

«This escalation in antisemitic incidents comes just as ADL has reported on Americans’ highest level of antisemitic attitudes in decades,» the report says, adding that public officials, famous artists and social media stars have been instrumental in normalizing longstanding antisemitic tropes.

The ADL report comes on the heels of an FBI report earlier this month, stating that hate crimes reported across the country increased nearly 12% in 2021 from 2020.

5 states account for more than half of the incidents
According to the latest ADL analysis, surges in each of the major audit categories occurred in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Antisemitic harassment increased 29%, from 1,776 to 2,298
Antisemitic vandalism increased 51%, from 853 to 1,288
Antisemitic assaults increased 26%, from 88 to 111.

New York is the state with the highest number of reported incidents: 580. California follows with 518, New Jersey with 408, Florida with 269 and Texas with 211. «Combined, these five states account for 54 % of the total incidents.

Schools and synagogues are growing targets
Another alarming finding is the number of bomb threats towards Jewish institutions, including schools and synagogues, spiking from eight to 91. It is the highest number of bomb threats since 2017.

Young children and educators in K-12 schools were victims of threats or assaults in 494 incidents. Meanwhile, 219 incidents were reported on college campuses.

People who presented as Orthodox Jews were targeted in 59 of the assault incidents nationally.

The Goyim Defense League is behind more than half of all propaganda incidents
The ADL also found activity doubled among organized white supremacist groups, which were linked to 852 incidents of distributing antisemitic propaganda.

While the study cites a number of factors contributing to the surge, the organization concluded the massive uptick in the spread of anti-Jewish propaganda was «largely due to the growth of the Goyim Defense League,» known as the GDL.

The GDL network, which has significant crossover with other white supremacist groups and movements, was responsible for at least 492 propaganda incidents in 2022, a dramatic increase from the 74 recorded in 2021.

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