AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin emergency preparedness officials are taking newer steps to keep residents informed on what to do in the event of a weather-related emergency event.
The City of Austin’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management launched emergency preparedness events this year. HSEM will host 10 pop-up events at Austin Public Library branches across the city, said Billy Callis, public information officer with HSEM.
“The intention is really to help get people prepared and aware, and thinking about how to prepare themselves, their home, their family, their pets and their community for emergencies,” Callis said.
Why the City of Austin began offering emergency preparedness events
The events feature HSEM staff alongside officials from Austin-Travis County EMS, the Austin Fire Department, Austin Energy and the Austin Watershed Department, among others. Callis said the need for these publicly accessible events is especially important, given the onslaught of weather-related emergencies in recent years.
“In the last few years, we’ve had winter storms, extreme heat and we’ve had droughts. We’ve had floods, we’ve had wildfires going on even more recently,” he said. “The more these things happen, I think the more important it is for everyone to stay aware, to have a plan.”
HSEM’s pop-up events teach four key safety pillars: making a plan, building a kit, knowing your neighbors and staying informed.
“We can help you stay informed with informational materials, or we can help you make a plan with things that can help you walk through that process with your family, your neighbors, your community,” he added.
How the City of Austin tracks progress with emergency preparedness pop-up events
To help gauge the coverage scope of the events, Callis said HSEM tracks attendance at each pop-up. He added the programs also cover each city council district and are hosted in publicly accessible facilities to try and attract as many residents as possible.
Most individual events attract between 40 and 90 attendees. Alongside the raw attendance numbers, Callis said HSEM staff often hear anecdotal stories on past emergency situations that help contextualize the need for these kinds of services.
“What I think is really, really powerful is people telling us how much they appreciate getting to talk to people face to face, getting this information, getting the free items to get them started with their kit,” he said. “On many occasions, we’ve had people talk about how important they feel this is and how appreciative they are that we’re here to connect them with these resources and talk with them.”
What are some of the upcoming emergency preparedness events?
Next month, HSEM will expand its emergency preparedness events to a larger scale, hosting its Get Ready Central Texas Emergency Preparedness Fair on Sept. 22. The free event runs from 3-7 p.m. and will be held at Austin Community College Eastview Campus, located at 3101 Webberville Road in Austin.
That event will include representatives from different emergency services organizations, as well as include Spanish and American Sign Language interpretations for those needing those services. Other language interpreters can be requested by calling 3-1-1, Callis said.
Other opportunities include pop-up events on Wednesday, Oct. 18 from 4-7 p.m. at the Austin Public Library’s Twin Oaks branch, and on Wednesday, Nov. 15 from 4-7 p.m. at the Austin Public Library’s University Hills branch.
“I think an important thing to remember is that safety isn’t a matter of luck, that you have to have a plan,” he said. “It’s up to everybody to get prepared. And we hope that when people attend these events, they’ll have some fun and learn and get some supplies to help them get started on that.”