Austin-Travis County EMS Emergency Management Division plans and manages the Department’s resources and responsibilities to prepare for, respond to, and lessen the impact of emergencies or disasters.   All aspects of emergency management deal with the planning and operational procedures used to protect the public from the consequences of both man-made and natural disasters.  Some examples include disease outbreaks, including pandemic flu occurrences, mass casualty situations, acts of terrorism, transportation accidents, severe weather events, large scale pre-planned events, and local threats.  The ATCEMS Emergency Management division participates in preparedness training, exercises and drills conducted by the US Government, State of Texas, FEMA, and regional emergency management and response agencies.

Flu Season Planning

Background and summary of human infection with avian influenza A(H7N9) virus:

The influenza A(H7N9) virus is one subgroup among the larger group of H7 viruses, which normally circulate among birds.  Human infections with other subgroups of H7 influenza viruses (H7N2, H7N3, and H7N7) have previously been reported in Australia, Canada, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Most of these infections occurred in association with poultry outbreaks. The infections mainly resulted in conjunctivitis and mild upper respiratory symptoms, with the exception of one death, which occurred in the Netherlands.  Since the first notification at the end of March 2013, China has been reporting to WHO cases of human infection with H7N9 virus. This is the first time infection with this virus has been found in humans. 

The laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported from 13 provinces/municipalities in eastern mainland China, Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region, China, and the Taipei Centers for Disease Control (Taipei CDC). Most cases are presumed to have contracted the infection directly from infected animals or their environment, particularly as a result of visiting live animal markets. Only a few small clusters with possible human-to-human transmission have occurred among family members, but there has been no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission to date.

At this time, neither the World Health Organization (WHO) nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued any warnings or advisory’s due to this virus.  Additionally, there have been no recommendations related to travel restrictions or screenings at points of entry.

All strains of the Flu virus are extremely contagious.  If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms here are some important considerations:

1. If you are ill you should not report to work.

2. Consider wearing a surgical mask if you aren’t sure if you have flu symptoms but are coughing or sneezing.

3. Keep tissues and hand sanitizer handy for coming into contact with coworkers  and members of the public.

4. Continue to encourage and recognize good cough and sneeze etiquette (cough/sneeze in your sleeve).

5. It’s important to have your own preparedness plans in place.  This could include, but would not be limited to, plans to care for ill family members.  It could also include caring for children if schools were to close.

The World Health Organization has established a webpage located at:  http://www.who.int/influenza/human_animal_interface/influenza_h7n9/en/index.html

Emergency Preparedness:  Extreme Weather

The Central Texas Region is subject to every type of weather condition including hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.  If you don’t already have a family plan in place in the event you are subjected to extreme weather conditions you can visit www.texasprepares.org to get started.  Click on “Start Your Plan Here” to build your emergency plan including family strategies for communication and meeting locations in the event you become separated, handy supply checklists and Texas evacuation routes.  Learn how to keep your important documents safe and what to keep in an emergency disaster kit.  There are special considerations for people with disabilities, the elderly and pets so make sure you know how to take care of them before extreme weather hits.

Flash Flooding

The Central Texas Region is prone to flash flooding that is usually caused by heavy rain associated with severe thunderstorms, hurricanes, tropical storms, or collapse of a structure such as a man-made dam.  Flash flooding occurs when precipitation falls rapidly on saturated soil or dry soil that has poor absorption ability. The runoff collects in gullies, streams and creeks as they join to form larger volumes, often formimg a fast flowing front of water and debris. Flash floods most often occur in normally dry areas that have recently received precipitation, but may be seen anywhere downstream from the source of the precipitation, even many miles from the source.

The "Turn Around, Don't Drown" campaign recommends that people stay out of flash flood prone areas and NEVER try to cross flooded roadways.  Do not try to go around barricades and never underestimate the power of fast moving water. A vehicle provides little to no protection against being swept away and loss of vehicle control can be instantaneous when coming into contact with fast moving water. More than half of the fatalities attributed to flash floods are people swept away in vehicles when trying to cross flooded intersections and low lying areas.  As little as 2 feet (0.61 m) of water is enough to carry away most SUV-sized vehicles.  Flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities, more than 140 annually, than any other storm-associated hazard.

Recently flooded areas and disaster sites pose many health and safety concerns. Serious injury and illness can occur from sharp, jagged debris, electrical hazards, slick, unstable and contaminated surfaces and contact with blood/body fluids from animals or humans.  Do not return to recently flooded areas until local authorities deem it safe!  Bring a first aid kit with you to self-treat any injuries if medical attention can't be obtained.  Wear heavy, dry gloves when handling debris and wounds, cuts, or animal bites should be immediately cleansed with soap and clean water. Tetanus is a potential health threat for persons who sustain wound injuries and any wound has the potential for becoming infected from contaminated floodwater exposure.

Hurricane Season

Hurricane Season is June 1- November 30.  You can view current Atlantic hurricane activity on the National Hurricane Center’s website at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

A hurricane usually weakens when it makes landfall and becomes a tropical storm or depression.  A tropical depression can stall over our Central Texas region and produce massive amounts of rainfall over a short period of time, creating flash flooding.  Tropical storms still have the potential for strong winds that can damage roofs and create flying debris hazards.

Before a hurricane hits you should make plans to secure your property and take steps to stay safe during the storm:  http://www.texasprepares.org/English/information-hurricanes.shtml

Wildfires

Wildfires are common in Texas, especially after long periods of drought. They can spread quickly and produce dangerous smoke threatening property, lives and health. Help reduce your risks by learning how to react and respond when a wildfire is approaching:  http://www.texasprepares.org/English/Information-wildfires.shtml

Severe Thunderstorms

All thunderstorms are dangerous and every thunderstorm produces lightning. In the United States, an average of 300 people are injured and 80 people are killed each year by lightning strikes. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms. Learn about the associated dangers of thunderstorms including tornadoes, strong winds, hail, flooding, and flash flooding:  http://www.texasprepares.org/English/information-t-storms.shtml

Tornadoes

A tornado can strike without warning and cause devastating damage to personal property and the potential for loss of life.  If your home does not have a basement, interior rooms and closets offer the best protection.   A bathroom, closet or under stairwell storage area nearest the center of your home reinforced by several interior walls is the safest place to hide from a tornado.  When a tornado is approaching, get into the bathtub or corner of the closet and shield yourself from flying debris with a mattress or pillows.  After the storm passes, get out of the affected area quickly as electrical and gas lines have likely been damaged and the potential for explosions and fires is high.