Monthly Archives: February 2017

Make a Report, Make a Difference

Safe2tell Colorado is a tool that was launched five years following the Columbine High School shooting that killed 15 people and wounded many. Following the school shooting, Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar and Governor Bill Owens began a study in search of tools that could be used to prevent another school shooting. Out of this study, safe2tell Colorado was created. Safe2tell expands the reach of law enforcement by engaging and enlisting community members to report behavior that threatens their safety or the safety of others. Since its creation in 2004, more than 21,000 reports have been filed by students, teachers, parents, and other community members.


The safe2tell Colorado platform allows users to submit anonymously 24 hours of the day via the web (, a toll-free hotline (1-877-542-7233), and even a mobile app found on the Apple app store and Google Play. Types of issues reported include bullying, suicide, substance abuse, child abuse, planned school attacks, mental health issues, and more. On the web and mobile app platforms, users complete a form and can even submit photos and/or videos related to the concern. If a user calls the hotline, a trained professional will gather appropriate and necessary information. On all platforms, anonymity is maintained and encouraged; there is no caller ID for the hotline.


To use the safe2tell Colorado app, users download the app and begin by selecting their location, school, and type of offense. Next, users submit as much information as possible, including the person involved in the threat/activity (if known), the date and time of the event, the location, and the names of anyone who may be able to provide more information about the situation. Photos and videos can be uploaded if available. After submitting the tip, users will receive a tip number and password that can be used to follow the status of the tip or provide more information if needed. Cases are sent to schools and law enforcement, such as the Colorado State Police, for investigation.


In the 2015 – 2016 school year alone, 5,821 reports were received, approximately one fourth of all reports received since its launch in 2004. In addition to annual reports, which can be found on their website, safe2tell reports quick data on a monthly basis. In November 2016, about 50% of reports were reported through the safe2tell webpage, 27% were reported via the hotline, and 22% of cases were reported through the mobile app. The top categories of reports during in November 2016 were suicide threats, bullying, drugs, and cutting.


To find out more about safe2tell Colorado, visit and

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Bringing All Oregonians to the Table

In sharp contrast to how government institutions and individual citizens alike managed the notion of community engagement just fifty years ago, the contemporary practice of community engagement is marked by transparency, pathways to government accountability, and ultimately a sense of partnership and collaboration. Creating this open environment requires reforming not only how the public gains information about policy discussions, but ensuring they understand the complexities and inherent tradeoffs baked into the policy-making process.

By tackling public engagement with this lens, the civic participation experiment known as Oregon’s Kitchen Table works to tackle the challenges associated with collaborative governance by maintaining various in-person and digital platforms for connecting policymakers with their constituents and promoting a feedback loop between both parties.

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In times of crisis FEMA relies on trained community volunteers through the CERT prorgram

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is a part of the Department of Homeland security. FEMA’s mission is to support American citizens and first responders in planning for and responding to all major hazards, natural or otherwise.

With a 2016 budget of $13.9 billion, and an estimated 10,000 current employees, FEMA has responsibility for the entire 320 million American population. Their role is to lead all organizations as they respond to natural disasters. They mobilize first response resources like ambulances, helicopters, and rescue equipment, and coordinate communications between local and state organizations and the Federal government.

With such a large and complex mission and scope of responsibility, in comparison to a relatively small base of FEMA’s employees, FEMA needs additional manpower in times of crisis. To meet this need, FEMA has engaged the community to create the Citizen Emergency Response Team program (CERT).

Through CERT, FEMA trains volunteers in local communities on the types of disaster response skills they are most likely to need in their area. Once a year, CERT volunteers go though simulation training, which includes topics such as emergency medical triage, crowd management, communications when power is out, survival provisioning, and small-scale search and rescue. Community volunteers become CERT certified, and can then act as first-response in the event of a natural disaster in their area of the town or city in which they live. Through the CERT program, FEMA greatly extends its reach and capacity.

CERT teams are active in 28 states and Puerto Rico. The innovative, proactive program, has improved FEMA’s response times, organization, and effectiveness, all through the power of community volunteer engagement. In times of crisis, FEMA help may be no further than your next door neighbor – or your own house!  Learn more about becoming CERT certified here!



Learning from Kazahkstan’s World-Winning e-Government App

View the Link to the Article Here

At the 2017 World Government Summit in Dubai, Kazakhstan’s mobile app was named the best “one stop shop app.” With more than 1.6 million users as of the end of last year, the app allows citizens access to his/her personal data located on national databases. “It also offers a map of government services, such as notaries, kindergartens, and allows users to make suggestions to improve public services.” What made this tool exceed above and beyond the others in the running was how it combines services offered by other apps.

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The image is a screen shot of the website associated with the app that went through a Google Translator. Compared to other tools, which just offer singular services, this one provides all the necessary information utilizing government records as its informational source. I’m surprised that many cities and counties in America don’t have a similar app for their local city our county; with information about all government services and places for feedback and two-way communication with municipal representatives. The categorizations are helpful over typical methods of social media, like Facebook, because you will be able to communicate directly with the department that your praise, quandary, or concern deals with directly.

Max Taintor

Mecklenburg County NC – GeoPortal Potential

Mecklenburg County, NC, recently utilized their GIS (Geographical Information System) as an open data source for a new website called GeoPortal. Normally a GIS organizes and manages geographical data within a region: property values, districting, zoning designations, property owners, etc. However, a county’s GIS also contains a variety of raw data that has more potential than merely a basic mapping system – and Mecklenburg County created this new tool based on that philosophy.

By visiting, you will arrive at a website that includes an address bar at the top, a video explaining what GeoPortal is, a variety of search options on the left-hand side of the screen, and a map/viewer on the right-hand side of the screen. The goal of GeoPortal is for the user to discover new things about their community. They will type in their address at the top, then simply select through the data they are interesting in knowing more about from the left-hand side of the screen. For example, type in “700 North Summit Avenue” in the “Tell me about…” box at the top of the page and the GeoPortal locates it on a map (visible on the right-hand side of the screen). From there, you can click “Schools” on the left-hand side of the screen. It will tell you what elementary, middle, and high school is within the district, with locations, and distances from the user’s current location. From there you can click on the school name and the interactive map on the right-hand side of the screen will show you the best directions to get there.

Schools are just one option to discover through the GeoPortal. Users can look up more information about their property, trash and recycling information and schedules, whether or not they are in a floodplain, water quality information and usage restrictions, voting districts, parks that are nearby, closest libraries, and much more. It is a great tool for someone who is new to the area. By typing in their address they can find out where everything is in relation to them, with directions. It is also good for seasoned residents who need reminders of all the activities nearby, or who want to explore parts of their community they don’t think, or know about. It’s basically a Google Map function with a government-based GIS data source at its root.

This technology is somewhat innovative. You can already accomplish some of this on Google Maps, but with GeoPortal it’s all in one convenient web tool. The best part about the GeoPortal is its potential. The possibilities of using GIS data in collaboration with other municipal departments are vast. For example, a county can partner Environmental Health with this GIS tool to look up restaurants nearby with information on their sanitation grades. Counties can partner the Sheriff’s Office with this GIS tool for interactive crime mapping. Users could discover what crimes have taken place close to their address, where sex offenders live, and what part of the community have the highest crime rate. Municipalities can also utilize the data sets for voting locations, tax information, capital project locations and updates, and in the future, even as a way for citizens to get involved with reporting inaccuracies. Citizens could even add hiking or biking trails as a future use of this tool. The GeoPortal’s uses and potential not only make it easier for citizens to get detailed county information customized to their address, but it can also have transparency applications. By including project information, county-supported non-profit details, and even location potentials for futures projects and funding, citizens will get an inside look at the future of government, discover where it is in relation to their address, and even prepare and provide input or feedback to elected officials.

Max Taintor