Thursday, July 31, 2014

Safety first during wildfire season – resources are available to help homeowners

The forests are dry, the wind is blowing and the weather has brought lightning with only scattered rain showers. Fire Season is upon us. Except, few fires have actually ignited in west central Idaho; it’s a waiting game. Wildland firefighting personnel are ready.

Their skills have been fine-tuned supporting our neighbors to the west in Washington and Oregon who have thus far had a very busy fire season. It seems these days; somewhere in the country every year communities experience devastating loss. Unfortunately, home destruction from wildfire has happened again in 2014. But what about your home, your community? Are you ready if a wildfire threatens your neighborhood?

Families may not be together when disaster strikes. It’s important to discuss a plan in advance. Consider identifying a safe place to meet, how will you get there, how will you contact one another? The web site www.ready.gov has planning tools to prepare a family, including children and seniors, pets and livestock for the unthinkable. Have these conversations before an emergency occurs.

If your home is in the wildland urban interface, you should be prepared for a threatening wildfire. The Firewise program (found at www.firewise.org) provides extensive information on all phases of being a homeowner in the wildland urban interface. Consider the Firewise Wildfire Approaching Checklist:

 Call for help

Use a cell phone if your electrical power has been interrupted.

 Close all entrances, windows and other openings.

This includes doors, garage doors, windows, vents and any other entrances to your residence or garage. Close shutters, heavy drapes, Venetian blinds or other window coverings. This action is recommended to prevent sparks from blowing inside your house and igniting there.
 
Dress to protect yourself

Wear cotton/woolen clothing including long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, gloves and a handkerchief to protect your face.
 
Wet down the roof

If your roof is combustible, wet it down with a hose. Place the ladder you use for this task on the side of the roof opposite the fire.
 
 
Turn off residential fuel

If you use natural gas or butane, turn it off at the tank or the meter.
 
Prepare the automobiles

Back as many vehicles as possible into the garage. Then close the garage door. In the event you evacuate, close the garage door behind you as you leave. If you do not have a garage or if the garage is full, park vehicles so they are heading in the direction of the evacuation route.

 Evacuate the family

If evacuation becomes necessary, take your family and pets to a safe location.

The University of Idaho Extension office has provided an excellent resource document authored by Yvonne C. Barkley, Chris Schnepf and Jack Cohen titled Protecting and Landscaping Homes in the Wildland Urban Interface available at www.uidaho.edu/~/media/Files/Extension/Forestry/Fire/WUI/FireProtectBro2010_final

Beginning with forest health and the role fire plays in healthy ecosystems, the authors explain that if you live in the wildland urban interface, you need to recognize that the home ignition zone (your home and its immediate surroundings) belongs to you. That means you have the responsibility to reduce your homes vulnerability to wildfire.

The report goes on to explain that homes that are not vulnerable to ignition will not burn in a wildfire. During the Wildland/urban fires, homes ignite in two principal ways; from flame heating and/or more commonly from fire brand ignition (burning ember spot ignitions). Regardless of how they start, all fires must meet the requirements for ignition and combustion – a sufficient amount of fuels, heat and oxygen.

Take the time to review the tools available to you. Have conversations with family, friends and neighbors about what the plan is should evacuations occur. Learn what you can do to make a difference in saving your property. Nobody can predict the future, but we can all prepare for it.

Public and firefighter safety is always the number 1 concern during a wildfire. If you have any concerns or questions please do not hesitate to contact the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests at 208-983-1950. We will be glad to visit with you. Be safe out there.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Clearwater County unemployment falls to 10 percent; highest in the state

Clearwater County, with a rate of 10 percent, was the only county in Idaho with a double-digit unemployment percentage in May. Ten percent is Clearwater County’s lowest unemployment rate in several years. In April of this year the rate was 10.6 percent, and in May of last year it was 10.9 percent.

The last time the state saw only one county in double digits was July 2008.

Idaho County’s May rate was 6.7 percent, down from 7.1 percent in April, and from last year’s May rate of 8.6 percent.

Nez Perce County’s rate ticked down from 4.4 to 4.3 percent from April to May. In May of 2013 it was 5.4 percent.

Lewis County, at 4.0 percent, has the lowest rate in counties near Clearwater. In April Lewis County’s rate was 4.4 percent, and last May it was 5.7 percent.
 
 
Statewide information

Only four Idaho counties—Jefferson, Jerome, Owyhee and Power—saw jobless rates increase from April to May, but all 44 counties posted declines in unemployment from May 2013.

Eighteen counties had rates above 4.9 percent, down from 21 in April and 39 in May 2013. The lowest rate was 2.4 percent in Franklin County, and that was up a tenth from April’s rate.

Businesses hired at or just below their May average for the past five years, maintaining Idaho’s steady economic recovery and driving the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate below 5 percent for the first time in nearly six years.

Total employment increased another 1,000 from April to May, eclipsing 741,000 for the ninth record in as many months.

That was enough to accommodate the entry of 2,000 more workers into the labor force, holding the state’s labor force participation rate at 63.8 percent of all residents over age 15. Job generation by Idaho employers pulled another 1,000 workers off the unemployment rolls, dropping the number of jobless workers below 38,000 for the first time since July 2008.

With over 15,000 more people working this May than last, the unemployment rate at 4.9 percent was 1.5 percentage points below May 2013. Idaho’s rate was also 1.4 percentage points below the national jobless rate for May, marking more than 12½ years that the state rate has been lower.

Idaho’s economy has added 29,000 jobs since January, and total employment has risen every month since mid-2012. Financial services, real estate, information, health care, natural resources, mining, hotels and restaurants all generated jobs at just above the five-year average for May. Manufacturing, retail trade and transportation maintained the average, and only business services, private education services, construction and government fell short of their five-year performance.

The state’s economic activity continued to drive down demand on the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, but the number of claims and amount paid has crept back up above the levels of the mid-1990s expansion.

In May, an average of 7,600 workers a week collected a total of $8.3 million in jobless benefits, down 42 percent from a year earlier with benefit payments – both state and federal extensions – 35 percent lower. Federally financed extended benefits ended in 2013.

Chautauqua parade Aug. 2 will feature jugglers, clowns, and a marching band

 
 
The Chautauqua Festival coming to Orofino July 31 – Aug. 2 will include a parade that will march through downtown Orofino starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 2. The parade will include jugglers, clowns, unicyclists, stilt-walkers and local community members who will march down Michigan Avenue to put on an “Everybody’s Welcome” parade to let the public know about Chautauqua’s arrival.

Following the parade the educators and entertainers of the Chautauqua Festival will provide an afternoon festival of workshops including juggling, magic, organic gardening, mask-making, clowning, bubble blowing, alternative energy, quilt making, samba drumming and dance.

The following workshops are scheduled (with the possibility of more to come):

3-5 p.m. - Water Color Painting with Janet Brewer

3-5 p.m. - Flint Knapping with Mike Tylzinski

3-30 p.m. - The History of Belly Dancing by Yazmin

3:30-4:30 p.m. - Performing Belly Dancers

4:30-5 p.m. - The Heritage of the Dulcimer - Barbara-Lee Jordan

4-5 p.m. The Essentials in Playing Bridge - Margaret Cook

4-4:30 p.m. Intro into Composting - Patrick Slater

The festival comes to town after a nearly 100 year absence, to honor Orofino local and longtime Chautauqua member Faith Petrick, who recently passed away.

That evening a Family Style Vaudeville Show will mark the closing of the festival and it will take place at the Orofino High School starting at 7 p.m. The cost for the show will be $10 per adults and $5 for children ages 11-18. Children 10 and under are admitted free of charge.

Tickets can be purchased at the following Orofino locations: The Real Estaters on Michigan Avenue, Orofino Chamber Of Commerce on First Street, AmericanWest Bank on Main Street, and Lewis Clark Credit Union on Johnson Avenue.

The Clearwater Community Concert Association, based in Orofino, is hosting this event as part of their community outreach program for the 2014-15 season.

For a complete list of events please visit the Chautauqua Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/OrofinoChautauqua or email Kathy Pence at kathy@idahorealestaters.com or call 208-476-9428.

Orofino will welcome an amazing parade to its downtown streets during the Orofino Chautauqua Festival which will take place on July 31, to Aug. 3.

Please contact Kathy Pence at kathy@idahorealestaters.com or call 208-476-9428 for more information or visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/OrofinoChautauqua.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tips for preventing identity theft - Digital Hygiene: Conclusion


By Don Gardner

This is the sixth and final installment of a series of articles by Don Gardner, Clearwater County Emergency Management Coordinator, about protecting your digital identity. 

Digital hygiene when traveling, especially abroad

Did you know that a U.S. judge ruled that Customs and Border Protection has a right, without a warrant, to search your laptop when you enter the United States, even if you are an American citizen?

Do you access your bank accounts, email accounts or mortgage accounts online? Do you pay your rent, medical bills, parking tickets, credit cards, etc., from your computer or mobile device? Consider that you are essentially carrying your identity with you in an easy-to-steal package that might as well be wrapped with a ribbon.

Here are some tips.

Take “burn” laptops, tablets, and smartphones that are “clean” (free of substantial amounts of information) and are disposable when the trip is concluded.

Remove your battery from your devices even if they’re “off” during important conversations.

Wait an hour after landing at the airport before turning on your smart phone, and turn off your phone an hour before your return.

Lock every device with a password.

Update your stored owner information to just a phone number.

Turning off Bluetooth is an absolute Must, and adjust your near field communications (NFC) settings.

Enable data storage encryption.

Don’t open attachments from, or link to unknown source.

Do not download any software during your trip.

Watch for “shoulder surfers” - they’re watching for your password and reading your monitor.

Use your cellular G3 or G4 network, not the free WiFi in airports, hotels, and coffee shops, if possible.

Assume that a misplaced device is lost or stolen and report this immediately.

Just watch out for your digital self when you travel. 

How to report identity theft

If you suspect, or become a victim of, identity theft, follow these steps:

Report it to your financial institution. Call the phone number on your account statement or on the back of your credit or debit card.

Report the fraud to your local police immediately. Keep a copy of the police report, which will make it easier to prove your case to creditors and retailers.

Contact the credit-reporting bureaus and ask them to flag your account with a fraud alert, which asks merchants not to grant new credit without your approval.

Credit-reporting bureaus: Equifax: 1-800-685-1111 - Experian: 1-888-397-3742 - TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289.

To request your credit report, go to www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.

Next phase of Forest Plan begins; public comments encouraged

Rick Brazell, Forest Supervisor of the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, announced the next phase of revising the Forest’s Land and Resource Management Plan (the Forest Plan).

The Forest has released the proposed action for the Forest Plan and is asking for additional public input. For the last 20 months, the Forest has engaged the public in collaborative public participation efforts which have been instrumental for providing input into development of the proposed action.

Brazell shared, “I appreciate the hard work that our interdisciplinary team and the public that has participated in collaboration have done to get us this far. The public has devoted a lot of their personal time to come to the table to discuss how the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests should be managed. We still have a lot of work to do and I welcome input on this initial proposal. I encourage anyone interested in the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests to submit comments on the proposed action.”

The Nez Perce and Clearwater forest plans were written in 1987 and the forests were administratively combined in 2013, resulting in need for revision. The Forest is an early adopter of the 2012 Planning Rule which guides the planning process. The rule includes protection for forests, water and wildlife, while supporting the economic vitality of rural communities. It requires the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions.

The 2012 rule strengthens the role of public involvement and dialogue throughout the planning process. As an early adopter, the Forest is setting the stage for other national forests as they revise their plans.

The proposed action includes preliminary identification of the following items: forest-wide and management area desired conditions, objectives, standards, guidelines, and the suitability of lands for specific multiple uses, including those lands suitable for timber production; a long-term sustained yield calculation and a range of planned sale quantities; the distinctive roles and contributions the forest contributes within the broader landscape; priority restoration watersheds; proposed and possible actions that may occur on the plan area over the life of the plan; a list of rivers eligible for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic River inventory; and two preliminary options for areas to be recommended to Congress for inclusion in the Wilderness Preservation System.

Community meetings have been scheduled to provide an opportunity for the public to ask questions of the planning team. Meetings will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., PT in the following locations:

In Orofino Tuesday, July 22, North Fork Ranger District, 12730 Highway 12.

In Grangeville Thursday, July 24, Forest Service Grangeville Office, 104 Airport Road.

In Lewiston Monday, July 28, Idaho Dept. of Fish & Game office, 3316 16th Street.

In Moscow Wednesday, July 30, 1912 Center, 412 East Third St., Moscow.

In Lolo, MT Monday, Aug. 4, Lolo Middle School, 11395 U.S. Hwy 93 S.

Public comments will help the Forest identify issues and develop alternatives for analysis in an Environmental Impact Statement. Comments or questions about plan revision can be submitted to fpr_npclw@fs.fed.us.

For those who prefer regular mail, written comments can be mailed to Forest Plan Revision, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, 903 3rd Street, Kamiah, ID 83536. In addition, geographic-specific comments can be submitted via the Collaborative Mapping Website at http://my.usgs.gov/ppgis/studio/launch/4290.

More information about the plan revision process, large scale color maps and the 2014 assessment is available online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/nezperceclearwater.

For more information contact: Timory Peel at (208) 935-2513.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tips for preventing identity theft - Digital Hygiene: Part 5

By Don Gardner

This is the fifth in a series of articles by Don Gardner, Clearwater County Emergency Management Coordinator, about protecting your digital identity.

Wireless theft

Your credit card information could be stolen just by walking by someone in a store or a mall that has possession of an RFID scanner. An RFID tag is located in credit cards that are noted by a radio signal symbol on the back of the card. If you have this radio signal on the back of your credit card, you need to take some precautionary measures.

The RFID tag includes a tiny microchip that works with an antenna sending out a radio signal with your credit card information. While it makes it easier for customers during checkout, it also makes stealing easier for committing fraud.

How can you protect yourself against wireless identity theft?

Leave the RFID credit cards at home. Only use these cards for only online purchases, and have another credit card without the RFID tag for outside purchases, or simply use cash.

You could wrap the RFID cards in aluminum foil before putting them in your wallet and it would block the signal, but it’s not a great idea. Or you could use a protective sleeve to help block RFID scanners from reading your card.

If a separate protective shield is not desired, consider a special wallet, such as DataSafe wallet. These wallets are manufactured with materials that have been approved by the Government Services Administration to block RFID transactions.

Monitoring credit card statements on a regular basis for errors or unknown charges can help detect purchases you did not make. Credit card fraud and identity theft can occur even if precautions are taken, however; monitoring statements regularly can help mitigate this risk.

Helpful sites

There are a host of tools, sites, and practices that can improve your chances of avoiding catching that digital virus or risking your private information. Below is a list of links that is by no means inclusive. Just remember, practicing good hygiene in your digital life will help ensure your offline activities aren’t interrupted. 

Tor - Anonymous browsing on the Internet https://www.torproject.org/

Tails - Bootable operating system with lots of privacy and security tools baked in https://tails.boum.org/

Guardian Project - Mobile security tools https://guardianproject.info/

TrueCrypt - Enryption of your data at rest http://www.truecrypt.org/

Avast - Anti-virus software http://www.avast.com/en-us/index

Tactical Technology - Has lots of resources for good digital hygiene for activists https://www.tacticaltech.org/

Portable Apps - Easy-to-use bootable apps http://portableapps.com/

Google 2-Factor Authentication - Increases email security https://support.google.com/accounts/answer/180744?hl=en

RedPhone - Encrypts mobile calls https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.thoughtcrime.redphone

TextSecure - Encrypts text messages https://whispersystems.org/

Facebook Privacy Settings - Change your Facebook Settings https://www.facebook.com/help/445588775451827

Increase the length and complexity of your passwords and use something like KeyPass for password management http://keepass.info/

Next week I will conclude this series, by providing tips to protect your information while traveling, and by describing how to report identity theft.

Clearwater County unemployment falls to 10 percent; highest in the state

Clearwater County, with a rate of 10 percent, was the only county in Idaho with a double-digit unemployment percentage in May. Ten percent is Clearwater County’s lowest unemployment rate in several years. In April of this year the rate was 10.6 percent, and in May of last year it was 10.9 percent.

The last time the state saw only one county in double digits was July 2008. 

Idaho County’s May rate was 6.7 percent, down from 7.1 percent in April, and from last year’s May rate of 8.6 percent.

Nez Perce County’s rate ticked down from 4.4 to 4.3 percent from April to May. In May of 2013 it was 5.4 percent.

Lewis County, at 4.0 percent, has the lowest rate in counties near Clearwater. In April Lewis County’s rate was 4.4 percent, and last May it was 5.7 percent.

Statewide information

Only four Idaho counties—Jefferson, Jerome, Owyhee and Power—saw jobless rates increase from April to May, but all 44 counties posted declines in unemployment from May 2013.

Eighteen counties had rates above 4.9 percent, down from 21 in April and 39 in May 2013. The lowest rate was 2.4 percent in Franklin County, and that was up a tenth from April’s rate.

Businesses hired at or just below their May average for the past five years, maintaining Idaho’s steady economic recovery and driving the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate below 5 percent for the first time in nearly six years.

Total employment increased another 1,000 from April to May, eclipsing 741,000 for the ninth record in as many months.

That was enough to accommodate the entry of 2,000 more workers into the labor force, holding the state’s labor force participation rate at 63.8 percent of all residents over age 15. Job generation by Idaho employers pulled another 1,000 workers off the unemployment rolls, dropping the number of jobless workers below 38,000 for the first time since July 2008.

With over 15,000 more people working this May than last, the unemployment rate at 4.9 percent was 1.5 percentage points below May 2013. Idaho’s rate was also 1.4 percentage points below the national jobless rate for May, marking more than 12½ years that the state rate has been lower.

Idaho’s economy has added 29,000 jobs since January, and total employment has risen every month since mid-2012. Financial services, real estate, information, health care, natural resources, mining, hotels and restaurants all generated jobs at just above the five-year average for May. Manufacturing, retail trade and transportation maintained the average, and only business services, private education services, construction and government fell short of their five-year performance. 

The state’s economic activity continued to drive down demand on the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, but the number of claims and amount paid has crept back up above the levels of the mid-1990s expansion.

In May, an average of 7,600 workers a week collected a total of $8.3 million in jobless benefits, down 42 percent from a year earlier with benefit payments – both state and federal extensions – 35 percent lower. Federally financed extended benefits ended in 2013.