Emergency Management

Emergencies occur, but the timing and severity depends on a variety of almost incidental factors. In the last few years Travis County has experienced ice storms, floods, tornadoes, brush fires, security threats, power outages, lightning strikes, plane crashes etc. Thus, it is important for communities to have plans to deal with a wide variety of events. Experience has shown that successful responses to emergencies depend on having comprehensive plans, resources and training, close cooperation between multiple responding agencies, good communications, including those with the public and a common management process (incident command and NIMS - National Incident Management System).

There is a national plan that extends from the President and FEMA to the states (in Texas, the Governor and Department of Public Safety), Counties (Travis County Commissioners) and to Cities. Under State law the Mayor is the Emergency Management Director and designated City staff provides the Emergency Management organization. An Emergency Management Coordinator assists in planning, communicating with other agencies and ensuring that all relevant issues are addressed.

Who Responds to an Emergency

Most emergencies are managed by one of the responding agencies. These include the Fire Department (Travis County Fire Rescue ESD#6), Austin-Travis County EMS, or the Police (Lakeway Police Department, Travis County Sheriff's Office, Texas Department of Public Safety) . If additional resources are required, there are mutual aid agreements between agencies and jurisdictions. The City of Lakeway can call on the County for assistance. Lakeway may be asked for assistance such as the provision of temporary shelters for hurricane victims. Austin/Travis County have a large shared Emergency Operations Center that can bring together staff from all the relevant agencies, ensuring that large-scale emergencies are managed with the full cooperation of all parties. This Center is typically activated for some emergencies every year. Details of the county emergency management plan can be seen at Travis County Emergency Operations in a PDF file.

Emergency Preparedness

Emergency management is concerned with hazard mitigation, incident management and remediation. The potential for emergencies can be reduced by building codes, clearing brush and garbage, road design, hydrant placement, providing AED (Automatic External Defibrillator) and CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) training etc. These can impact an emergency outcome. The events of September 4th, 2012, demonstrated that multiple factors can be in play – high winds, low humidity (“Red Flag”), power lines down or sparking, high density brush/trees, wooden decks or fences attached to houses, difficult terrain, multiple concurrent incidents etc. The high degree of agency cooperation is recognized as playing an important role in reducing the scale of the Bastrop catastrophe. Residents are encouraged to study the Ready, Set, Go!' program and reduce the combustible material around their houses as well as pre-planning what they need to do when an emergency occurs. Ready, Set, Go! pamphlets are available at City Hall.

Emergency Communications

In an emergency communications are particularly important. Much progress has been made in this respect for first responders. For the public, there are multiple sources of information including an automated emergency notification system (requires prior registration), emergency alerts on TV, weather radios and web-sites such as the City of Lakeway. It is not uncommon for the cell phone capacity to be exceeded and there is an increasing use of social networking sites. However, the downside to these is that ‘facts’ may be wrong or misleading, so that it becomes very important to verify information or go to official information sites.

For further information of wildland-urban fires, go to the website of the Lakeway City Forester or that of Lake Travis Fire Rescue ESD #6.

For additional information on Emergency Management, contact Lakeway Police Captain David Crowder at 512-314-7574 or davidcrowder@lakeway-tx.gov.