WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Medical emergencies didn’t stop for first responders during last February’s winter storm.
Williamson County EMS says they had a woman go into labor and another resident suffering from a cardiac arrest during the storm, but as the ice thickened and the snow piled on, it became increasingly difficult to get to them.
On Wednesday, Williamson County leaders discussed what changes they have made to their emergency response plan.
“There are places we simply could not get to for 2-3 days,” said Ed Tydings, with Williamson County EMS’ Emergency Operations Division.
Tydings explained that the geography of the area made getting around town during the winter storm their biggest challenge.
“On the other side, there are hills where quite frankly, you can’t get up without an ATV,” said Tydings. “EMS has positioned supplies on the West Side of the County (towards Leander) where it’s tough to get to.”
Williamson County commissioners also approved the purchase of “snow socks” for each of the EMS units to help build up traction. They’re nylon socks that go around the wheels.
You’ll find the “socks” on all 21 ambulances and three command units which costs about $100 per unit. The county has also spent $20,000 on supply kits that will be positioned throughout the county.
The Williamson County Road and Bridge rigs will also get these new “socks” in addition to a new piece of equipment to assist with sanding efforts.
“We’re trying out a new piece of equipment that goes in the bed of the dump truck that funnels the sand a little bit more efficiently, where we can get more sand on the roads,” said Terron Evertson, with Williamson County Road and Bridge.
The second biggest challenge to getting around was coordination efforts, according to Williamson County’s Department of Emergency Management.
“So that’s led to reaching out to utility providers and reaching out to dialysis centers,” said Michael Shoe, with the Department of Emergency Management.
The county has put together a list of go-to contacts which includes the utility districts across Williamson County. Shoe pointed out during Wednesday’s meeting that a lot of this comes down to individual preparedness.
“I only have so many first responders,” said Shoe. “We burn them out as the duration goes on. They’re already working 12- to 24-hour shifts.”
Williamson County Road and Bridge Recommendations
- Have materials handy to create traction on walkways. This includes sandbox sand, kitty litter, sawdust or salt
- Have the proper equipment. You will want an ice scraper for car windows and a shovel to spread material for traction
- Keep your gas tanks filled
- If road conditions are icy or dangerous, stay at home
From Emergency Management
- Sign up for emergency alerts at warncentraltexas.org
- Make a plan. Go to the website for details on how to make a plan and build a kit with essential supplies like food, water and medicine for seven days. Include your pets in your plan
- Protect your vehicle. Catch up on any needed maintenance now. Have an emergency kit for your car with jumper cables, flashlight, ice scraper for windows, blanket, bottled water and snacks
- If you own a business, check your insurance coverage. Establish an emergency communications plan for employees
- If you use oxygen, are on dialysis, or take medications crucial to survival, have a plan to ensure an adequate supply for seven days
- Stay off the roads if possible during inclement weather
- Avoid walking on ice where you can slip and fall. Best to stay inside
- Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Anything that uses fire to make heat in your home without proper ventilation replaces the oxygen in your body with deadly carbon monoxide. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven. The early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning are headache, dizziness and nausea