AUSTIN (KXAN) — As people flock downtown this week for South by Southwest, a joint effort between City of Austin and public safety staff monitors the crowds, ready to take action if need be.
“We have all of the public safety departments here in one location,” said Brydan Summers, the consumer services manager for the Austin Center for Events. “We want to make sure we have all the right people in the room if we need to make decisions.”
The Emergency Operations Center is located on Barton Springs Road, about a block south of the river. There are also various mobile command centers set up downtown by the city’s public safety departments.
The Austin Police Department also has designated officers patrolling inside the street enclosures on Sixth, Rainey and Red River Streets.
“We’re right here in the center of it all, so it’s really awesome to see everything come back to life,” said Matthew Carneiro, kitchen manager at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que downtown, adding that it looks like South by Southwest crowds are back to pre-pandemic levels.
He said he feels better about keeping his customers safe knowing police are nearby.
“Knowing that, if something God forbid happens, they can literally be here on a dime,” he said.
Heather Buffo also works downtown. It’s her first time operating a pedicab during South by Southwest.
“Certainly the roads are blocked off, and there’s a lot of things going on,” she said.
While it’s her first time working SXSW, she said she has run into dicey situations on regular weekend nights – and hopes extra officers downtown this week deter that.
“On like a Friday night, and people are getting beat up and there’s no one around and it just keeps happening,” she explained. “So I’d rather there be police there when something like that happens, because I don’t know how I’m going to get roped into it.”
First responders treat downtown like a city within a city during the spring festival season. That means there are dedicated police, fire, EMS and dispatch employees that handle calls that occur downtown. This frees up remaining staff to stay focused on emergencies in other parts of the city.
The Emergency Operations Center serves as a hub for transportation operations as well.
You can view a full presentation of safety efforts, road closures and transportation plans here.