Earth Day Celebrated In Century

April 23, 2017

An Earth Day celebration was held Saturday in Century.

The event, held around the Ole Mill Pond at the Century Health and Rehabilitation Center, featured several eco-friendly vendors and exhibitors.

For more photos, click here.

Pictured top: Earth Day in Century on Saturday. Pictured: An owl on dislay from the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida. Pictured below: Handmade wood carvings for sale. photos, click to enlarge.

Jim Allen Elementary Celebrates Principal With ‘National Watts Day’

April 22, 2017

On Friday, the faculty and staff at Jim Allen Elementary showed their appreciation and love for their principal, Rachel Watts, by declaring the day “National Watts Day”.   All grades, pre-kindergarten through fifth grade were involved in honoring Watts for her surprise celebration.  All throughout the day, students and faculty showed their admiration for her.

The day began with messages posted on the school marquee and lawn signs with slogans such as “Happy National Mrs. Watts Day” , “#wattsday”, “#1 Principal” , “You’re the Best”, “We Love You!”.  Even her parking space was reserved for “The Best Principal Ever”.

The front office and Watts’ desk were decorated with her favorite flowers and balloons of her favorite color.

The faculty and staff gathered in the front hall to kick off the festivities with a proclamation that declared that this day was to honor Watts for her outstanding leadership, her love, patience, kindness and goodness.  Then she was presented with a crown to wear for the day.

A large sign in the hallway was mounted to allow students, faculty and staff to write a ‘thank you’ or simply sign their name.

The school’s “Friday Shout-Outs”, which is a weekly email highlighting faculty and staff for going above and beyond, was dedicated completely to Watts.

Every 15 minutes of the day, students arrived in the office to deliver apples and message cards to Watts with sayings like “You are the queen of our castle”, “You Rock!”, and “You are the type of leader others love to follow”.  She collected the apples in a decorated bucket and posted the cards all over her office.  Other students arrived with handwritten notes that said things like “You are my favorite principal!” and “You are the best principal ever!”.

Every 30 minutes, each school department or grade level came to give a variety of gifts such as;  baskets of goodies, gift cards, chocolate, flowers, lunch from a favorite restaurant, beach bag, t-shirt stating “Most Special Principal in the Area” (from the special area department), cleverly written poems, and even a massage.

For Jim Allen Elementary, it was a day to show Watts what a wonderful leader she is and how much she is loved and appreciated for all that she does for the school.

For a photo gallery, click here.

Photos for, click to enlarge.

Northview’s Emily Brown Places In Northwest Florida Congressional Art Competition

April 22, 2017

Emily Brown, a sophomore at Northview High School, won honorable mention Friday night in the Northwest Florida Congressional Art Competition And Show at the Pensacola Museum of art.

Each spring, a nation-wide high school arts competition is sponsored by the Members of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Northwest Florida Congressional Art Competition and Show was an opportunity to recognize and encourage the artistic talent. There were about 100 pieces of art submitted for the compeition from high schools across the 1st Congressional District.

Other winners were:

Clarissa Vidaurri, Honorable Mention Milton High School, Senior
Kana Pitts, Honorable Mention, Fort Walton Beach High School, Junior
Alyssa Payne, Third Place, Fort Walton Beach High School, Freshmen
Dakota Voyce, Second Place, Crestview High School, Senior
Carly Cromwell, First Place, Gulf Breeze High School, Senior

Cromwell’s winning artwork will be displayed for one year in the U.S. Capitol. The exhibit in Washington will include the winning artwork from all participating districts from around the country. The winning artwork is also featured on’s Congressional Art Competition page.

UWF Celebrates Inauguration Of New President

April 22, 2017

The University of West Florida formally installed Dr. Martha Saunders as its sixth president during the inauguration ceremony held on April 21 at the UWF Center for Fine and Performing Arts.

“I am truly glad to be here today the inauguration of a new president is really a celebration of the university she serves,” Saunders said.

Trustees, faculty, staff, students, board members, community leaders and delegates from institutions across the globe attended the celebration, which included a reception at UWF on the Emerald Coast on Tuesday, a distinguished guests reception on Thursday evening and an inauguration procession, ceremony and reception on Friday. Honored guests included Marshall Criser III, chancellor of the State University System of Florida, Madeline Pumariega, chancellor of the Florida College System, the Honorable Ashton Hayward, mayor of the City of Pensacola, Connie Crosby, representative of first UWF president Harold Crosby, past president Dr. John Cavanaugh, and Drs. Morris Marx and Judy Bense, presidents emeriti.

“This is an extraordinary day for the University of West Florida and I am thrilled to install Dr. Saunders as the sixth president of this remarkable institution,” said Mort O’Sullivan, chair of the UWF Board of Trustees. “She is the leader we need to take the University to the next level and help us grow our impact on our community, region, state and beyond.”

Saunders was selected as the sixth UWF president in September 2016, following a unanimous resolution passed by the Board of Trustees and confirmation by the Board of Governors in November. She assumed the role on Jan. 1, as the University launched its 50th Anniversary milestone celebration.

Saunders’ career in higher education began in 1984 at UWF, where she served as an instructor in the communication arts department. She quickly rose through the ranks, taking on roles including public relations program coordinator, director of the University Honors Program and dean for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Saunders also served as vice president for academic affairs at Columbus State University and as the first female chancellor for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She then led the University of Southern Mississippi as its first female president, before returning to UWF in 2013 as provost. In 2014, Saunders was appointed executive vice president at UWF, assuming the role as chief operating officer, in addition to chief academic officer and vice president for the Division of Academic Affairs.

Growth in enrollment, fundraising and campus structures were hallmarks of her previous leadership at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and the University of Southern Mississippi. Saunders envisions similar growth in those areas at UWF by increasing its physical presence in downtown Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach, investing in programs such as global online, cybersecurity and supply chain logistics and visiting local high schools to recruit talented students.

“I foresee a future when people arriving in this area will know they are in a university town because they can see it, hear it, feel it, experience it,” Saunders said. “ Our students will come to us fully confident in their choice because we will take them where they want to be.”

Saunders received a doctorate in communication theory and research from Florida State University. She earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Southern Mississippi.

Federal Report Released In Deadly Airgas Explosion (With Photos)

April 21, 2017

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) released its final report into the August 28, 2016, nitrous oxide explosion at the Airgas manufacturing facility in Cantonment. The blast killed the only Airgas employee working at the facility that day and heavily damaged the plant, halting its manufacturing of nitrous oxide indefinitely.

The CSB investigation found that federal regulations require some chemical facilities that manufacture hazardous substances to have process safety management systems in place to protect their workforce and the public.  The CSB discovered, however, that a majority of these specialized rules are not required for nitrous oxide facilities.

Chairperson Vanessa Allen Sutherland said, “Nitrous oxide is a hazardous substance – facilities should have good safety management systems to mitigate the risks that exist.  Safety management systems standards are critical to identify, evaluate, and control process safety hazards. This tragedy in Cantonment should not be repeated.”

Earlier this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined the company $12,000 saying it failed to provide a safe workplace.

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For more photos, click here.

In its final report, the CSB notes that the contributing causes of the explosion all stemmed from the lack of an effective process safety management system. For example:

-       Even though heat from the pump was a known hazard, Airgas did not evaluate safer design options that could have eliminated the need for the pump altogether;

-       The company did not perform a management of change review or hazard analysis before installing the pump to identify and control hazards; and

-       Safeguards installed by the company, including the safety interlock to automatically shut down the pump, and flame arrestors were likely ineffective, and failed to prevent the incident.

The Airgas Cantonment facility is one of four manufacturing plants in the United States producing nitrous oxide for industrial facilities, hospitals, and universities. The Airgas process includes pumping liquid nitrous oxide from storage  tanks into trailer trucks or shipping containers, which deliver the product nationwide.

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On the day of the explosion, the Airgas operator likely began the transfer process. Under normal operating conditions, nitrous oxide is stable and can be safely handled; however, under certain conditions it can decompose explosively.  CSB investigators found that a pump used to transfer nitrous oxide into a trailer heated the gas above its safe operating limit and triggered a violent decomposition reaction.  The reaction migrated from the pump into the trailer causing the explosion. The explosion scattered large metal fragments for hundreds of feet, damaged the facility, and killed the Airgas operator, 32-year old Jesse Folmar. Investigators below Folmar was standing in the approximate location indicated by the yellow star in the photo above.

CSB Lead Investigator Dan Tillema said, “We looked at other possible causes such as static electricity, but the available evidence, it appears that the bypass of the safety interlock on the pump during startup likely allowed the pump to overheat and trigger a decomposition reaction.”

As a result of its investigation, the CSB issued safety recommendations to Airgas, the Compressed Gas Association, and to two nitrous oxide pump manufacturers. The recommendations include the development and implementation of a safety management system standard for nitrous oxide manufacturing as well as the distribution of increased warnings about nitrous oxide decomposition hazards.

Chairperson Sutherland said, “Our recommendations reiterate the importance of safety management systems as critical to control hazards during the manufacturing, transferring, and shipping of nitrous oxide.  Strong safety management systems are good business practices, which also save lives.”

The CSB’s 146-page report was dedicated to Folmer.

For more photos, click here.

The CSB is an independent, non-regulatory federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical incidents. The agency’s board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.

The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA.

Courtesy photos for, click to enlarge.

Road Prison Officer Finds Perfect Partner In Animal Shelter Rescue Dog

April 21, 2017

Road Prison Officer Robert Oliver was looking for the perfect dog for Narcotic Detection Handler’s School. While he was anxious to begin the training, he knew that finding the right dog was worth the wait.

Britt, a 4-year-old German Shepherd, was picked up by Escambia County Animal Control as a stray. After being adopted from the shelter, she was returned because her adopters thought she was “too much dog.”

On Nov. 4, 2015 Oliver rescued Britt from the Escambia County Animal Shelter after spotting her during a random checkup on a work squad.

“She stood out from the rest of the dogs,” Oliver said. “We were checking on a squad and we walked through the kennels and saw her. We got a ball and took her out to a pen and threw the ball to see if she had toy drive.”

At that point, Oliver knew he had found something special in Britt.

“We asked if we could borrow her, and I contacted the trainers from the sheriff’s department,” he said. “They tested her and said if we didn’t want her, they did.”

Britt was tested by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office K-9 instructors and recommended for narcotic detection. On Nov. 17, 2015 Officer Oliver and K-9 Britt began Narcotic Detection Handlers’ School. After 200 hours of training, both handler and K-9 received their Certification in Narcotic Detection.

The first week of March, the pair attended a testing seminar put on by The United States Police Canine Association. Testing was conducted on room searches as well as vehicle searches. Officer Oliver and K-9 Britt were both certified through USPCA in narcotics detection. They have since re-certified.

As the Road Prison’s only narcotics dog, K-9 Britt and Oliver have made numerous narcotic “finds.” They routinely search the Road Prison, crew trucks and job sites where road crews are working. They also search the Work Release center and the Main Jail.

The pair have also trained and competed at the Southern States Manhunt and Field Trials. In 2016, just after becoming certified, they took fourth place out of nearly 20 teams in the Drug Detection Division. This year they fared even better, winning second place out of 14 teams.

“I’ve had several other institutions ask me to keep an eye out for a dog at the pound,” Oliver said. “We’ve even connected a few dogs.”

While Oliver’s demeanor is stoic, he recognizes how lucky a find K-9 Britt was.

“She’s a great dog,” Oliver said. “She’s loveable, she’s wired up. She checks on you all the time. If you move she thinks you want to go throw the ball.”

Courtesy photos for, click to enlarge.

Century Correctonal To Host Hiring Event Friday

April 20, 2017

The Florida Department of Corrections will host a hiring event Friday at Century Correctional Institution.

The FDOC is seeking certified or non-certified correctional officer applicants. Attendees should bring the following to the event: driver’s license, legible copy of birth certificate, social security card, high school diploma, GED or college transcripts and any name change documents (if applicable), such as a marriage certificate. Veterans and current reservists/Guardsmen should bring a copy of their DD-214 or military ID, respectively.

In order to take the Criminal Justice Abilities Test (required for employment), a money order is required in the amount of $12 made payable to the Florida Department of Corrections.

The event will take place at 9 a.m. Friday  attendees should arrive no later than 8:30 a.m.) at the Century Correctional Institution Training Building at 400 Tedder Road in Century.

For more employment information, contact Recruitment Officer Joseph deGraaf at (850) 256-6411 or email photo, click to enlarge.