Though timing of an improvised explosion device (IED) counterterrorism workshop by Homeland Security Wednesday in Orange County may seem in response of Monday’s bombing of the Boston Marathon, it has been in the planning for a year.

Jeff Kelley, director of Orange County Emergency Management was reporting details of the planned exercise this week about 15 minutes before the Boston incident happened Monday.

He said response to the workshop was so great; they had to limit the size of the event.

There would be loud “booms” but nothing else, said Kelley. Since the Boston bombings had not happened yet, there wasn’t a concern to make sure the public knew about it.

At press time, local police departments in Bridge City, Port Arthur and Groves, plus the Orange County Sheriff’s Department were still searching for information on an unexplained explosion that rocked Bridge City Monday night.

The Counterterrorism workshop is being held Wednesday at the Orange County Convention and Expo Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., so the public should not be alarmed if they hear something that sounds like an explosion during those hours.

The class is instructed by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). It will enhance the knowledge of law enforcement and public/private sector stakeholders by providing exposure to key elements of the IED threat, surveillance detection methods, and soft target awareness.

“This workshop illustrates baseline awareness and prevention actions that reduce vulnerabilities to counter the threat along with information sharing resources to improve preparedness,” stated Kelley in a press release. “This workshop utilizes current tactics, techniques, and procedures of IED threats which improve critical infrastructure owners and operators understanding of new IED threats and the terrorist attack cycle.”

In other business, commissioners signed a resolution requesting Baptist Orange Hospital to continue offering obstetrics at the Orange facility.

County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said he would be attending a meeting this week with hospital officials, local mayors and other local leaders hoping to convince Baptist Hospital Beaumont to reverse its decision.

“It puts expectant mothers and unborn children at risk having to travel outside the area for obstetrics,” said Thibodeaux. “It also makes it difficult to attract and retain obstetricians and pediatricians to this area to practice medicine.”

The court also issued several proclamations. April was named as “Sexual Assault and Awareness and Prevention Month” and “Child Abuse Prevention Month.”

April 21-27, 2013 was declared “National Crime Victims’ Right Week.”

“There is nothing warm and fuzzy about what we do,” said Cindy Fertitta, education coordinator at Rape and Suicide Crisis of Southeast Texas. “One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime.”

Kim Hanks, a forensic interviewer at the Garth House for almost 22 years said, “Unfortunately we have seen almost 10,000 children come through our doors to be interviewed at the Garth House.” She said, “Seventy-five percent of the mothers we see were also sexually abused.” Hanks said these mothers never received any counseling and abuse tends to run through families. “We hope to break that cycle one day.” According to Hanks about 20 percent of those children interviewed are from Orange County.

Dianne Wright, the executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates Association (CASA) stated there is currently a shortage of volunteers.

“When we’re short of volunteers, our case managers have to step out of their roles as case managers and act as CASA volunteers and that puts a lot of strain on our organization,” said Wright. “So we really need volunteers.”

She thanked commissioners for their continued support of the organization.


About Penny LeLeux

Penny has worked at The Record Newspapers since 2006. A member of the editorial staff, she has "done everything but print it." Most frequently she writes entertainment reviews and human interest stories, with a little paranormal thrown in from time to time.She has been a lifelong member of the Orangefield community.