The Emergency Management Bureau of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) participated in the Annual Statewide Hurricane/EOC Activation Exercise Wednesday, May 22nd at the Sheriff’s Office Emergency Operations Center in DeFuniak Springs. The annual exercise serves to practice Walton’s emergency plans and procedures for a potential hurricane making landfall in the panhandle, in preparation for the upcoming Atlantic Hurricane Season. Along with federal, state and private-sector partners, the Emergency Management Bureau simulated emergency response efforts to manage an evolving hurricane scenario. “I was very pleased by the representation and cooperation of the various Emergency Service Function participants. Every one worked together toward the common goal of preparing our community for potential storm impact,” said Major Joe Preston, Director of Emergency Management.
The 2013 Statewide Hurricane Exercise scenario centered on the potential landfall of two fictitious storms, Hurricane Kirk and Hurricane Lay. Hurricane Lay, named in honor of the late Brevard County Emergency Management Director Bob Lay, made landfall directly in Walton County.
As part of this year’s exercise, the Florida Department of Health deployed a Forward Operating Base and Healthcare Facility Assessment Team to Walton County. This was the first ever deployment of these two assets and their participation was deemed a huge success. “Working with our state partners to deploy these new resources helps to ensure that Walton County will be able to respond to the health and medical needs of our county post-disaster. We were grateful to have had the opportunity to host these teams as part of our exercise,” commented Russell Beaty, Assistant Director of Emergency Management.
The 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season begins Saturday, June 1. Make sure your family and business are prepared to follow the instructions of local officials if a hurricane threatens our community by knowing the nearest shelter, making an evacuation plan, having a disaster supply kit, and having business continuity plan. More information on family disaster planning can be found at: http://www.floridadisaster.org/family and information on business continuity planning can be found at: http://www.ready.gov/business-continuity-planning-suite.
The official mark of the summer season is upon us—Memorial Day weekend. As schools around the nation release for summer break, families from all over will descend on Walton County to enjoy all we have to offer. The influx of people to the area means citizens and visitors need to pay attention to their surroundings, whether on the roadway or in the emerald green waters of the Gulf.
There are several safety tips the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) offers up to the public.
1) Travel/road safety: The increased traffic on the roadways can be hazardous. Take precautions.
- Being in a hurry to get to the beach or shopping center could mean drivers are not aware of vehicles maneuvering around them, especially if they are not familiar with the area. Drivers are cautioned to familiarize themselves with the area ahead of time.
- Don’t drink and drive or travel with anyone who has been drinking.
- Wear seatbelts at all times and make sure vehicles have been serviced before a long road trip.
2) Beach Flag System: Get acquainted and abide by the rules that have been set forth for your safety.
- South Walton beaches follow Florida’s uniform beach warning flag system, designed to alert beachgoers to changing surf conditions and their relative safety to swimmers. Because the Gulf of Mexico is a natural body of water, dangerous rip currents can be present even under seemingly calm conditions. By heeding the flag system, beachgoers can remain safe.
- The easiest way to keep abreast of changing surf conditions is through South Walton’s text alert system. Simply text the word “SAFETY” to 67463 to have daily updates sent to your mobile phone for the duration of your stay. You may also check out http://www.visitsouthwalton.com/beach-safety or http://www.swfd.org/beach.php which details beach flag colors and current weather conditions.
3) Boater and swimmer safety: Memorial Day weekend is often the time of year that boaters begin to come out in full force to enjoy our beaches and waterways.
- Boaters should remember to wear their life jackets, as 67% of the 55 boating deaths last year in Florida resulted from drowning (according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission). Operators of vessels, just as with vehicles on the roadway, should remain sober.
- Boaters should also be aware of maritime rules, water conditions and swimmers in the area.
- Marine pests, such as jellyfish, are present in our waters. For jelly fish stings, rinse away the tentacles using hot water if possible. If heated water isn’t available, use salt water rather than fresh. Fresh water may worsen the stinging pain.
- Don’t swim alone and supervise children at all times in and near the water.
- Identify points on the beaches where lifeguards are stationed. Lifeguards will be stationed between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
- Learn to identify rip current conditions. One or more of the following features indicate the presence of a rip current:
•Darker color surf
•Murky brown water caused by sand stirred up on the bottom
•Smaller unorganized waves, alongside more evenly breaking waves over a sand bar
•Waves breaking further out to sea on both sides of the rip current
4) Sun Safety: Even if water-related activities are not in the plans for this holiday, you may want to enjoy Florida’s sunny weather. If you do so, make sure you are prepared.
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher and apply it generously throughout the day
- Wear a hat and sunglasses
- Drink a lot of water to stay hydrated
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) Cyber Crime Unit wishes to advise the community of the FBI MoneyPak virus. Several citizens in our community have come across this particular scam and reported it to our office.
It was first discovered in 2012 by computer technicians and the premise of this scam is that cyber criminals disguise themselves as members of the FBI. They attempt to persuade victims to pay a fine (usually $100-$300) within a certain amount of time. The criminals have created a virus that will lock the victim’s computer down and then demand payment. Victims have also been threatened by the possibility of jail time. These criminals claim that the victim has violated laws, such as downloading copyrighted material or child pornography). It is important to stress these victims are NOT really in trouble with the FBI; the crooks just make them believe they are.
This type of virus is known as “ransomware” and paying the fine not only does not unlock your computer, but can cause more damage. There are also several different variants of this type of scam but they all boil down to one thing—they lock your computer and ask you to pay through pre-paid money cards, such as MoneyPak. If you are infected with ransomware such as the FBI virus, your personal and private data and computer system functionality is already at a very high risk. If the infected computer is powered ON and connected to the internet, Trojans horses may have complete control of the computer system and access to every piece of stored data.
The public may report such activity to www.ic3.gov (the Internet Crime Complaint Center). The IC3 is a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.
Captain Charisse Rivers, Chief over the Criminal Investigations Bureau at the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) recently graduated as a part of the 129th Administrative Officers Course (AOC) at Southern Police Institute (SPI). The SPI is located at the University of Louisville in Louisville, KY. The AOC is an in-residence, accredited college level program that lasts for 12 weeks and is designed to develop informed, effective, ethically and technically competent law enforcement managers who are capable of assuming positions of leadership in their respective agencies. Officers from all over the United States, as well as from countries such as Turkey, attended the course. According to the Southern Police Institute, the diversity of class members “ensures that class members will leave the Southern Police Institute with a network of graduates that will provide an outstanding resource from which they can seek assistance for organizational problems throughout their careers.” The motto of the 129th Administrative Officer’s Course was “Ancora Imparo”. This translates various ways, but really means, “And Still, We Learn”.
Along with the education Captain Rivers received from the SPI, she brings experience in the law enforcement which began at the Ft. Walton Beach Police Department as an auxiliary officer while working full-time at Eglin Air Force Base in Range Patrol and Security Police Investigations. She worked as a patrol deputy with both the Collier and Hendry County Sheriff’s Offices before transferring to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) in 1997. In 1998, Captain Rivers was promoted to investigator and spent the next several years investigating crimes against persons. She later became a sergeant. Captain Rivers was promoted to lieutenant in 2009 and served as the Agency’s accreditation manager, leading to the successful accreditation of the WCSO. Rivers was promoted in October 2012 to Captain of the Criminal Investigations Bureau.
Captain Rivers has accumulated over 2,500 hours of law enforcement and management training, and she earned an Associate of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Okaloosa-Walton Community College.
“This course was an extremely positive and challenging experience,” Rivers said. “The lessons I learned and the people I met positively impacted my life. Overall, I believe the class will certainly enhance my future performance as a leader.”
Yesterday, Sheriff Adkinson met with the three winners of the 1st Annual Family Fun Art Contest. Jonathan Clenney, Molly Rausenberger and McKenna Rausenberger were awarded with a $25 gift card to Blast Arcade along with a gift card for free ice cream at Moo La La Ice Cream Store, both located in Baytowne Wharf. The winners also met the Sheriff and had their photos made with him. Blast Arcade was the sponsor of this year’s event and their representative, Kitty Whitney, was also present to meet with the children.
Jonathan Clenney was awarded as overall winner and will have his artwork created into a poster that will hang in all of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office substations. Jonathan attends West DeFuniak Elementary in DeFuniak Springs.
The contest was held during the month of April, commonly recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month. Children were asked to create artwork depicting their favorite family activity. Jonathan chose fishing, while Molly chose “taking a nature walk” and McKenna chose “fishing”.