Multiple City departments worked around clock to keep Austinites safe
Emergency Operations Center
On Sunday, January 13, the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management activated the Emergency Operations Center in partnership with Travis County Office of Emergency Management. HSEM staff has worked 12-hour shifts covering 24/7 in the EOC to ensure coordination between departments and agencies. The focus is on life safety, ensuring transportation access to hospitals and for emergency responders, and shelter support for people experiencing homelessness. HSEM also coordinates with NGOs and community organizations to support emergency response. HSEM also led coordination for four press conferences related to the storm, posted to social media accounts 58 times and pushed emergency messages to Warn Central Texas twice. HSEM led transportation coordination in partnership with CapMetro to improve operations and logistics for moving people to shelter, worked to open libraries early and oversaw food distribution for record numbers of shelter guests.
Ahead of the storm Austin’s Transportation and Public Works Department pre-treated more than 30 bridges and elevated roadways to reduce ice accumulation. TxDOT also pre-treated all major highways and roads that receive high amounts of traffic.
Pre-treating roads reduced the risk of vehicle accidents but can’t eliminate the risk completely. Austin Police Department, Austin Fire Department and Austin/Travis County EMS all responded to vehicle crashes during the storm, but none were considered to have life-threatening injuries. ACTEMS did respond to four rollover crashes during morning rush hour traffic on Monday.
Even during the coldest moments of the storm, Austin Energy experienced minimal outages, maintaining a relatively stable power supply. Austin Water systems remained healthy and operational throughout the storm.
Austin Police Department
The Austin Police Department would like to thank all the first responders and City departments that worked tirelessly during the winter storm. APD was able to assist shelters and warming centers with patrol to help ensure safety of guests. In addition, APD responded to various crashes and checked roadways to make sure they were drivable and didn’t need treatment. Most importantly, APD would like to give a huge thank you to our community for following all recommendations provided prior and during the winter storm over the five-day period.
Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services
Before the arrival of winter weather, ATCEMS Community Health Paramedics (CHP) focused outreach efforts on vulnerable individuals in 38 locations throughout central and east Austin. CHPs made contact with 78 people and relocated two to shelters. All who remained were offered transportation to shelters, and provided with shelter information, blankets, warmers, socks, hats, gloves, and fire extinguishers. The ATCEMS SPARTAN drone program assisted the effort by locating individuals and providing overwatch for the CHPs on the ground, logging 10 flights and over 2.5 flight hours.
During the height of the storm, an increase in call volume saw ATCEMS Medics respond to a total of 1,323 incidents of all types from the 911 system. Included in that number were:
19 traffic injuries, of which seven were rollovers.
32 Environmental Exposures, resulting in transport of 10 patients. Some who remained were provided transport to shelters, while those electing to remain in place were given shelter information and warming gear.
ATCEMS Integrated Services, made up of the Collaborative Care Communications Center (C4), Paramedic Response Units (PRU), and CHP, handled 211 calls for service.
CHPs revisited 29 of the original 38 locations to follow up with individuals for any unmet needs or transport to a shelter. One new location, with an additional 20 individuals was visited and additional warming gear was distributed.
Austin Fire Department
From midnight January 13 through January 18, AFD responded to multiple incidents related to the weather event. AFD received more than 3,600 unique requests for service ranging from helping citizens find their water shut off valves to assisting with fire extinguishers to issues with smoke detectors, and much more. The department responded to over 130 calls for fires, which included grass and brush fires, trash fires, residential fires, and more; 43 of these were structure fires which involved commercial buildings and apartment complexes. While not all were specifically related to the winter weather, more than 1000 calls were dispatched for issues with frozen water pipes, water pressure issues, system malfunctions, etc. In these instances, an alarm is activated triggering a call for service; these include non-residential buildings such as apartment complexes and commercial buildings. Lastly, more than 180 calls were dispatched for broken water pipes, over 140 for odor investigations where a resident might smell a strange odor in their home, 50 for where a carbon monoxide alarm was activated triggering a response, and 25 instances where we were dispatched for someone seeing or smelling smoke.
Additionally, AFD received more than 100 reports of fire protection systems impairments during this weather event. If a fire protection system is impaired, a fire watch will need to be conducted until the system is restored. Fire watch must be conducted by a person(s) responsible for making early notification to 911 in the event of a fire. The Fire Marshal’s Office is working to ensure all fire protection systems have been properly repaired and placed back in-service before releasing responsible property owners/managers from their fire watch responsibilities.
As of 12 p.m. today, the City is deactivating the EOC media line in response to Winter Storm Heather. The Emergency Operation Center remains open through Sunday to complete administrative functions.