Austin EMS union proposes $800K downtown emergency units following Saturday mass shooting


AUSTIN (KXAN) — On a typical weekend night in downtown Austin, Austin Travis County Emergency Medical Services Association President Selena Xie said first responders already have a difficult time responding in the downtown corridor, between crowded streets and barriers cutting off vehicular traffic.

On Saturday, those difficulties were made all the more challenging by an early morning mass shooting that killed one person and injured 13, she said.

“I think that the response [to Saturday’s shooting] went exactly as planned,” Xie said. “It was planned that because we know that ambulances have a really hard time accessing downtown, that we might need to rely on police. And so what I’m trying to say is in the future, that should not be the plan. The plan should be that we have adequate EMS to be able to transport all patients to the hospital.”

Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services received the first 911 calls at approximately 1:25 a.m. Saturday morning. By 1:44 a.m., all patients had been transported from the scene.

During the 19 minutes that transpired in between, Austin Police Department and Austin Fire Department officials on scene assisted ATCEMS in applying tourniquets and administering CPR to victims. Massive crowd sizes and people fleeing 6th Street made for a chaotic emergency response, Chief Jasper Brown said.

Chief Jasper Brown said the department is working to staff additional ambulances approved by Austin City Council this year, and is anticipating completed staffing in late summer. Currently, ATCEMS is about 100 people short of its staffing needs.

Xie said the union will present the proposed specialized downtown corridor unit to Austin City Council as part of the city’s fiscal year 2021-22 budgeting process. The specialized units feature an estimated price tag of $800,000, which would include a rescue task force available for emergency assistance.

“And what that is, is the specialized unit that combines, EMS, police and firefighters who are specially trained to work in active attack situations,” Xie said. “And so they can actually meet victims right there where they need us, as opposed to, normally, we have to wait until the scene is completely safe, until the police have, you know, neutralize any threat or there’s no longer a threat before we can actually treat patients.”

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