The City of Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) is proud to present the 2022 Annual Report.
HSEM staff has continued to support the City’s COVID-19 response and lead cost recovery throughout the year. In February 2022, HSEM led the emergency response to Winter Storm Landon which included managing shelter operations for 500 people during the three-day activation. Immediately following the storm response, a citywide boil water notice was issued. HSEM supported Austin Water by distributing approximately 1,868,000 bottles of water city-wide. Austin experienced one of the hottest summers on record in 2022, prompting the local National Weather Service (NWS) to issue a record 20 heat warnings and advisories. To connect more residents with resources and information, HSEM hosted its first Ready Central Texas Emergency Preparedness Fair on September 20, 2022, during National Preparedness Month. We partnered with 9 City departments and 12 community organizations to provide over 200 community members with emergency preparedness supplies, resources and information.
We could not support Austin without the ecosystem of emergency management within our community. Austin and Travis County’s framework for emergency management is dependent on the resources and staff each department, NGO, and external agency brings from across the area. Any of our accomplishments in FY22 are also a reflection of your contributions.
We are thankful for your partnership and collaboration.
Juan Ortiz, Director
Homeland Security and Emergency Management
The vision of the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) is to help create a disaster prepared and resilient community.
The mission of the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) is to serve as the coordination focal point for preparedness, response, recovery, mitigation and education in any emergency or disaster that disrupts the community.
Department Organizational Chart
Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
When a disaster or emergency strikes in Austin and Travis County our priority is to save lives and property. We coordinate with departments, community organizations and agencies across the region to help our local community be safe, prepared and informed. We are focused on helping everyone in need, especially the city's most vulnerable populations.
WINTER STORM LANDON
When Winter Storm Landon hit Central Texas on February 1 through February 9, 2022, Austin and Travis County issued a Local State Disaster Declaration. HSEM led emergency response to the winter storm and managed crucial sheltering operations at designated Parks and Recreation Centers. HSEM supported deliveries of much needed water and food to each shelter. Emergency shelters were open for three days housing over 500 people.
BOIL WATER EVENT
During the boil-water event in February, HSEM supported Austin Water in the distribution of approximately 1,868,000 bottles of water. Using a phased approach, HSEM set up water distribution sites based on community need, prioritizing areas with high levels of food insecurity.
SUMMER WILDFIRE RESPONSE
In August, HSEM coordinated with City partners to support Travis County’s response to the Blue Bluff Fire in east Travis County. At the request of the Austin Fire Department (AFD), HSEM managed the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on a limited activation to support Travis County in its wildfire operations. The Givens Recreation Center served as temporary shelter, providing food and water to the approximately 20 evacuated residents. Eleven pets were also evacuated to the Travis County Expo Center by Animal Services in its support of operations. Roughly 100 acres burned in the Blue Bluff Fire. Fire crews contained the fire in the early evening. Residents and pets who evacuated were able to return to their homes that same evening.
EXTREME HEAT RESPONSE
This past summer, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued 20 Heat Advisories or Excessive Heat Warnings. As a result, HSEM public outreach increased. When the NWS issued these heat warnings, HSEM updated its Alerts pages, in each of the 12 languages it supports, with specific cooling center locations and information. Cooling Centers operated during daylight hours to coincide with peak temperatures. Austin Public Libraries, Austin Parks and Recreation Centers and Senior Centers served as cooling centers during their normal operating hours during the day. The lobbies of Travis County Community Centers, as well as the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) also served as cooling centers. Capital Metro provided transportation to Cooling Centers.
EMBEDDING EQUITY INTO OUR STRATEGIC PLANS
n 2021, HSEM identified the need to incorporate an equity lens into our processes and planning efforts. In 2022, the department worked closely with the Equity Office to strengthen the relationship and established a strong partnership that provides input on the structure of their operations and communication and outreach plans. These combined efforts led to more culturally inclusive supplies being packaged in shelter supplies, which are pre-positioned at nine locations throughout the City.
HSEM supported Austin Public Health as they led MPox response. The success of vaccine efforts is evident through data. While 260 cases have been reported in Austin-Travis County since the start of this outbreak and only 14 new cases were reported in December. Three cases have been reported in January 2023. As the rate of new cases has dropped, vaccines are now being handled by APH staff.
Depending on the emergency event, the City of Austin could spend millions on a disaster to help get community members back on their feet. Our priority is to coordinate with state and federal governments on reimbursement funds to ensure we are being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
COVID-19 COST RECOVERY
HSEM Led COVID-19 recovery efforts by reviewing 33,969 COVID-19 related expenses and submitting $51 million for reimbursement from FEMA to date.
COST RECOVERY CONTINUES
In 2022, HSEM finalized Hurricane Laura cost recovery, continued working through Winter Storm Uri cost recovery, and began compiling and submitting projects to FEMA and other funding sources for COVID-19 recovery.
A big part of HSEM's role is to plan ahead and try to mitigate impacts from any kind of emergency or disaster that we may face. While some events are harder to predict (hello, pandemic), we are constantly using the lessons we learned to improve our emergency readiness as a department. Our priority is also to educate and inform community members about how they can help themselves; so that in a time of crisis we can focus on supporting the most vulnerable community members who need additional support.
PRESTAGED EMERGENCY SHELTER SUPPLIES
HSEM prepositioned emergency shelter supplies as Mission Ready Packages (MRP) at 9 Recreation Centers across the City. This initiative began as a result of Winter Storm Uri where road conditions prevented ease of transport of supplies to shelter locations. Having shelter kits prepositioned helps ensure supplies will be ready when needed.
GET READY CENTRAL TEXAS CAMPAIGN
HSEM, with support from the Communications and Public Information Office, launched phase one of the Get Ready Central Texas public education campaign to increase disaster preparedness reaching over 300 thousand residents in English, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Chinese Simplified, French, Hindi, Korean, Pashto, Swahili and Vietnamese.
NEIGHBORHOOD PREPAREDNESS GUIDE
he Neighborhood Preparedness Guide was developed to distribute to the public to advance HSEM’s vision of disaster-prepared and resilient communities. The guide provides tips for actions the public can take before, during, and after an emergency. All neighborhoods, including mobile home communities, apartment complexes, condominiums and high-rise buildings, are encouraged to use this guide. The public can use this guide to discover: ways to help plan for hazards (flooding, winter weather, wildfires), tools to build an emergency supply kit, resources for making an emergency plan for individual households and templates to help neighborhoods plan for emergencies. The guide is available in English with a Spanish version scheduled for release in 2023.
EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS TOOL KIT
HSEM created and distributed preparedness materials (basic emergency kit supplies, NOAA weather radios, Neighborhood Preparedness Guides) as part of the Ready Central Texas Campaign to spread awareness about the four steps to preparedness: Make a Plan, Build a Kit, Know your Neighbors, and Stay Informed. Printed Build a Kit materials are available in several languages and will continue to be distributed at community events and are also available digitally.
GET READY CENTRAL TEXAS EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS FAIR
HSEM hosted the first annual Get Ready Central Texas Emergency Preparedness Fair on September 20, 2022. The event was designed to help individuals and families prepare in advance of an emergency or disaster. Over 200 people attended to engage in emergency preparedness activities and learn about the City’s Basic Emergency Operations Plan, and other plans in place which are activated during an emergency or disaster; how government, non-governmental organizations, neighborhoods, and individual families can work together during a disaster; and guidance to create an emergency plan, supplies to help build an emergency supply kit, get to know neighbors, and learn how to stay informed during an emergency. The goal of the fair was for everyone who attended to walk away with a plan for what they will do during an emergency.
PREPAREDNESS MONTH PROCLAMATION AT CITY COUNCIL
On September 3, 2022, Austin City Council, sponsored by District 6, recognized September as Emergency Preparedness Month in Austin. This Proclamation aims to raise awareness regarding the importance of being prepared for disasters and emergencies before they strike. Director Juan Ortiz and Travis County Emergency Management Director, Eric Carter, accepted the proclamation and reinforced the mission to build a disaster-ready and resilient Austin by working together with community members.
STATE DEPARTMENT INDO-PACIFIC TOUR
October 2022, the State Department hosted a tour for the IRP Cooperation on Infrastructure for the Indo-Pacific. HSEM met with group of countries invited by the State Department to tour Austin’s emergency management capabilities. The Indo-Pacific initiative is a US-led initiative that aims to strengthen economic partnership among participating countries to enhance resilience, sustainability, inclusiveness, economic growth, fairness, and competitiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
A well trained and experienced workforce is one of the best tools our community has in an emergency. HSEM invests time and effort to develop staff across departments. We use resources from the state, federal, and even international governments to help ensure Austin remains the industry standard for emergency response.
CITYWIDE EMERGENCY OPERATION CENTER TRAINING
HSEM hosts virtual Emergency Center Operations trainings monthly for all department staff who are assigned to represent their department in EOC operations. This course is an introduction to emergency management principals and the EOC. In FY22, 120 staff attended the training.
SHELTER MANAGEMENT TRAINING REDESIGN
In 2021, HSEM began a process to redesign the shelter management program and training. More than 40 shelter managers engaged in both discussion-based exercises and surveys in order gather shelter experiences and identify best practices. Continuing in 2022, HSEM connected with the City's Learning Management System (LMS) team to collaborate with the program’s rollout. The goal is for updated emergency shelter trainings and resources to be available all year through LMS in multiple virtual formats to cover the training needs for the various seasonal shelter scenarios. The goal is for this self-paced virtual training to be available in FY23.
MANAGEMENT 312 COURSE FOR ELECTED OFFICIALS
On May 24, 2022, City of Austin elected officials and executive leadership attended the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Services (TEEX) Senior Officials Workshop for all-hazards preparedness. The workshop provided a forum for local and regional executives to share strategies and coordinate plans for emergency preparedness. During this six-hour course, topics discussed included domestic preparedness resources, Homeland Security planning as it relates to risk and needs assessment, and Emergency Operations Plan (EOP) planning. The goal was for executive and administrative staff, responder chiefs/department heads and infrastructure and resource leaders to share a common perspective and understanding of the challenges faced in times of crises.
NAVAL POST-GRAD SCHOOL EXECUTIVE TRAINING
Austin and Travis County Emergency Management hosted the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) Center for Homeland Defense and Security (CHDS). The training was a scenario-based interactive session for decision-makers depicting wildland fires and evacuation exercises. In its 20th year, this well-regarded crisis leadership program sought to assist to further strengthen Austin and Travis County’s capacity to prepare for, respond to and recover from complex, multi-pronged disasters. Facilitated by the CHDS Executive Education Team, this operations-focused seminar was comprised of nationally recognized subject matter experts. The two-hour seminar was conducted in a non-attributive and neutral forum where participants could collectively identify and address dynamic homeland security, public safety, and emergency management issues.
REGIONAL WILDFIRE EVACUATION TRAINING
Austin and Travis County Emergency Management led a Regional Wildfire Evacuation Seminar. In this scenario-based seminar, the focus was on wildfire evacuation and understanding regional resources. Leaders provided comment on their organization’s responsibilities and capabilities relative to community evacuations due to wildfires.
ADVANCED ACTIVE SHOOTER TRAINING
In August 2022, HSEM participated in an Active Shooter Incident Management (ASIM) training, led by the Austin Police Department (APD). This advanced, three-day comprehensive course used an integrated response technique with 11 hands-on scenario exercises. Participants practiced scenarios such as first-arriving law enforcement officer, casualty collection point, active shooter event with hostage barricade, among many others. They learned to integrate and manage a multi-discipline response to a full range of active shooter and hostile threats, including a Complex Coordinated Attack (CCA), with the primary goal to decrease the time to stop an attack and transport the injured to a hospital.
SALTILLO VISITS AUSTIN: CELEBRATES 5O YEARS OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CULTURAL EXCHANGE
On October 28, 2022, HSEM welcomed a visit with delegates from Sister City, Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico. A sister cities relationship is a broad-based, long-term partnership between two cities. The three-day visit marked the 50th anniversary of the public safety partnership between Austin and Saltillo. Austin’s public safety agencies shared demonstrations including Austin Police Department’s K-9 Unit and Bomb Squad; Austin Fire Department fire detection technology; Austin-Travis County EMS field safety medical training; and HSEM displayed supplies needed in mass care and sheltering operations. In July 2022, Austin’s public safety departments visited Saltillo for similar public safety training and cultural exchanges. This relationship fosters friendly relations and understanding of the educational, cultural, and economic impacts between the cities.
Every planned special event and unplanned incident requires emergency personnel to be able to communicate with each other in person and on radio. Our priority is to manage the radio system each team uses to coordinate communications during an event, and to help ensure special events in the city have access to public safety resources when needed.
In FY22, HSEM supported emergency planning for Austin’s major events including the development of 247 Interoperability Incident Radio Communications Plans covering 472 days of overlapping planned special events and spontaneous incidents.
HSEM provides information about special events to the US Department of Homeland Security. A Special Event Assessment Rating (SEAR) is used to determine a level of threat for a special event. These ratings provide federal support and funding opportunities at the local level.
HSEM also provides a combination of staffing for special event services including EOC, Incident Command and Public Information. Additionally, HSEM supports special events tabletop exercises.
A tabletop exercise is a discussion-based training and development session where team members meet in an informal, classroom setting to discuss roles and responses during an emergency situation. HSEM's role is to facilitate discussions with community partners and emergency response teams to ensure our plans and procedures are vetted and well-coordinated when needed during an emergency event.
SPECIAL EVENTS AND PUBLIC SAFETY
HSEM regularly coordinates with public safety partners for special events in Austin and Travis County. In addition to radio and Emergency Operation Center support an Event Operations Center (EVOC) is set up for multi-day events such as South by Southwest (SXSW), Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) and Formula 1 Races (F1). The goal of these special events tabletop exercises is to ensure that everyone understands their role and can appropriately respond in the event of an emergency.
WINTER WEATHER TABLETOP
In advance of winter weather, HSEM coordinates departments and agencies through a tabletop exercise to plan for winter weather impacts. In winter 2021, HSEM facilitated a training with 147 individuals from City departments and external agencies.
COBALT MAGNET 22 FEDERAL TABLETOP EXERCISE
The week of May 16-20, 2022 the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) held a radiological incident exercise with numerous agencies to ensure preparedness against radiological threats. More than 30 local, state, and federal governmental agencies worked together to train on how to respond to the exercise which involved searching for the radiological device, treating the wounded, identifying and capturing the suspects, protecting and communicating with the public. From this training exercise, all agencies involved learned valuable lessons of their strengths and weaknesses.
From kindergarten to 100 years of age, we all have a responsibility to be prepared before an emergency and support our family, friends, and community. Our priority is to educate community members of all ages and abilities about emergency preparedness so that it can be everyone’s superpower.
After a pause of community engagement events due to the pandemic, HSEM started the summer with an in-person Juneteenth Celebration. This celebration brought over 300 people together to celebrate the holiday at the African American Cultural Center at the Austin Community College Eastview campus on June 16, 2022. The celebration attracted many community members and youth camps. HSEM tabled the event and distributed disaster preparedness information and activity books for those in attendance.
CUB SCOUTS EVENT
HSEM arranged a tour and presentation of an Austin Fire Department and Autin Travis County EMS station for a group of Cub Scouts. The Cub Scouts learned about the different safety tools and vehicles first responders use, the four steps to emergency preparedness and safety and hazard mitigation efforts they can take at home. A special thanks to Stations 14 and 33 and all the first responders involved!
COMMUNITY CALENDAR WITH SAFETY AND PREPAREDNESS
For several years, HSEM has created an Emergency Preparedness calendar with emergency preparedness information and tips. In preparation for the 2023 Emergency Preparedness Calendar, HSEM engaged Kindergarten through 8th graders across Central Texas with an art contest to create artwork of what they believed to be the most important emergency preparedness information. Each month will highlight student's artwork related to emergency preparedness. The overall theme focuses on making a plan and discussing as a family the importance in preparing for emergencies.
AUSTIN CORPS TOUR
HSEM hosted a group of 35 local high school students for a tour of CTECC and the Austin and Travis County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) through the Austin Corps program. This tour and presentation focused on the role HSEM plays during emergencies and how youth can get involved by encouraging their families to prepare before an emergency.
BLACK ARTS FESTIVAL PREPAREDNESS OUTREACH
The 2nd Annual Black Arts Health & Wellness Festival at the Victor R. Garza Community Center was a great opportunity to connect with 100 community members about emergency preparedness. HSEM shared information about warncentraltexas.org and encouraged attendees to sign-up for emergency alerts.
RUNDBURG HEAT MAPPING EVENT
HSEM distributed emergency preparedness materials to over 50 community members with an emphasis on extreme heat in multiple languages at a Heat Mapping event held by Go Austin / Vamos Austin at the Gus Garcia Recreation Center.
Part of Austin's rating as a top city to live in is the quality of life many in our community enjoy. Austin is a great place to live, work, and play. However, not everyone in our community has access to the same resources so our priority is to help bridge the gap to support our most vulnerable populations.
CRISP: A NEW AFTER ACTION REPORT TRACKER
The Community Resiliency Improvement Status Portal (CRISP) was developed by Austin and Travis County Emergency Management Offices to enhance the way after-action reports (AAR)s and corrective actions are tracked and progress is shared with the community. The new system features AARs from significant emergencies dating back to 2013 to present day. The system outlines key information from disaster responses and tracks progress towards AAR recommendations. City staff have been actively working to update AARs in this system since February 2022. The program launched in August 2022, with ongoing status updates and fine-tuning the user experience. Since the development of this system, the City has completed or closed more than 900 recommendations.
WARN CENTRAL TEXAS
The Capital Area Council of Governments represents the people of a 10-county region including Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis and Williamson Counties, and supports the emergency notification system to residents of Central Texas.
Registering with Warn Central Texas allows local officials to contact their communities by phone, email and text during times of disasters or public safety events.
Register at warncentraltexas.org for emergency alerts in English and Spanish right to your phone or email.
READY CENTRAL TEXAS APP & WEBPAGE: A PREPAREDNESS HUB
HSEM launched the Ready Central Texas phone application where residents can get early warning push notifications directly to their phone. Additionally, the app stores presentations, videos, and other safety information including the US Department of Homeland Security Bomb-Making Materials Awareness Program (BMAP). This program helps educated retail employees on common bomb-making materials and increases the awareness of businesses that sell Explosive Precursor Chemicals (EPCs), explosive powders, and other BMM on the risks and how they can voluntarily contribute to security. Find out more about BMAP and other safety tips by downloading the Ready Central Texas app on Google Play or the App Store.
Readycentraltexas.org also launched as a hub for emergency preparedness information. Check out the page to learn about Emergency Preparedness Pop-Up events, build emergency supply kits, and download the Neighborhood Preparedness Guide.
EMERGENCY ALERTS IN PRIORITY LANGUAGES
During a disaster or emergency, visit this page to get up-to-date official information from the City of Austin and Travis County about the hazard impacting our community and immediate actions you should take to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Consider bookmarking austintexas.gov/alerts so you can quickly find it during a crisis.
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CONTINUED ACCESSIBLE HAZARD ALERT SYSTEM (AHAS)
Austin and Travis County have partnered with Deaf Link to provide the Accessible Hazard Alert System (AHAS) which will send accessible alert messages to registered residents who are Deaf, Blind, Hard of Hearing, or Deaf/Blind before, during, and after an emergency or disaster in Austin and Travis County.
Sign up for alerts to your phone or email or for quick SMS Registration text AHAS to (737) 241-3710.
As we look to FY23, our department will be undergoing big changes. With 19 new positions approved in the FY23 budget, and funding for dedicated warehousing space, our department footprint will grow to twice the current size. This critical structural transformation will allow us to better support ongoing and emerging needs of the community. We will also launch a new community engagement initiative to help every Council District be better prepared before an emergency, and increase our logistics capabilities so that we can continue to stock and maintain 9 + pre-staged emergency shelter locations. With the new positions we will also increase capacity to support the community resilience network, mass care coordination and response, and ongoing cost recovery needs.
In FY23, we look forward to making emergency preparedness your SUPERPOWER!