AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a newly released memo to Mayor Steve Adler and the Austin City Council, city staff members are providing an update on actions taken to prepare for another disaster like last February’s winter storm.
A series of after-action reports were created late last year to ensure the community is better prepared and better served for the next major emergency.
A total of 132 recommendations were made and the city says it has identified about 32 of those as priority recommendations. To date, of the 32 recommendations:
- five have already been completed
- 12 are in progress
- 15 are awaiting updates from other departments
“While addressing all the recommendations made since Winter Storm Uri is a tremendous undertaking, critical work is underway,” said Rey Arellano, Assistant City Manager for Safety. “With each day, the City of Austin is more prepared to respond in the face of disasters and is committed to supporting this community.”
Officials say it could take a few years to implement all 132 recommendations because of funding and infrastructure needs. Those recommendations will cover all natural disasters, not just winter storms.
Here are some of the tasks that have been completed by certain departments, according to city leaders:
- Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) has conducted monthly emergency management meetings on responses to future emergency events such as ice storms. HSEM launched a new alert system for people who are hard of hearing, deaf or blind and updated their cold weather sheltering plan for people experiencing homelessness.
- Austin Energy (AE) is working to increase the overall capacity of its energy portfolio to increase the probability that circuits can be rotated during a high magnitude event.
- Austin Water (AW) has completed actions to increase overall utility resiliency and the ability to respond to complex, cascading events.
- Community and Technology Management (CTM) has purchased a mobile generator that can be deployed to serve as a critical network hub. Three additional generators are being acquired and will be placed at critical sites for added fuel support in an extended power outage.
- The Combined Transportation, Emergency, & Communications Center (CTECC) is now storing four days of meals and drinking water on site.
- Public Works Department (PWD) added snow removal from critical streets to their workflow and added streets and bridges for clearing or sanding that access Austin Water treatment plants, APD/Fire/EMS stations, hospitals, and more.
- Fleet Services created a City-wide revised snow chain process and procedure for inventorying, order management, training, and installation.
- Austin Transportation Department (ATD) worked with Fleet Services to purchase additional road traction devices.
- Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) stationed containers with emergency management supplies in strategic locations for immediate shelter activation.
- Homeless Strategy Division of Austin Public Health allocated funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to fund a temporary Emergency Plans Officer focused on implementation of recommendations related to mass sheltering and other services.
Bryce Bencivengo with the city’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management says one of the biggest challenges they identified is mobility and connectivity for staff.
“We are looking at what kind of services we can provide, what kind of facilities need to be activated, what kind of infrastructure needs to be activated, do we need to salt roads,” Bencivengo explained. “The mobility issue around our fleet using city vehicles to get around so we did undertake a lot of upgrades.”
As city leaders continue to prepare for all natural disasters, they are urging the public to be better prepared. Visit ReadyCentralTexas.org to find out how.