Preparing for Disaster
The Emergency Management Division is responsible for ensuring that the Austin-Travis County EMS Department is prepared for and able to respond to disasters and large scale incidents at the local, regional, and state level. The division consists of a Division Chief and a District Commander. During FY 2016-2017, the division provided continuing education to field Medics, Command staff, and Cadets in the form of lecture and tabletop exercises. The division has also provided multiple Ambulance Bus orientations and training to regional hospitals and response organizations.
The division is responsible for the department’s disaster medical response (DMR) team. This team consists of 34 ATCEMS medics that can deploy to local, regional, and state events. They have bags packed and are deployable within two hours. Many members of the DMR team, along with Ambus Crew Chiefs and drivers, were deployed to multiple areas around the state due to Hurricane Harvey.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas on August 26, 2017 as a category 4 hurricane. The first major hurricane to make landfall in the United States for 12 years. In total, 31 employees from ATCEMS deployed outside of Austin in response to Hurricane Harvey. Three employees deployed as part of the Texas Emergency Medical Task Force (EMTF) Medical Incident Support Team (MIST), four employees deployed as Ambulance Staging Team Members, eighteen employees deployed on the Ambus, and seven employees deployed as part of Texas Task Force One.
The Hurricane Harvey deployment was very large for ATCEMS. The department had employees deployed for 17 days, totaling over 4500 hours. ATCEMS employees evacuated, transported, treated, and rescued a countless number of people in multiple communities in Texas. Incident command support was also provided by employees in emergency operation centers, mobile medical units, airports, and hospitals. Some of the communities’ employees deployed to were San Antonio, Houston, Victoria, Beaumont, Orange, Cypress Creek, Corpus Christi, Rockport, Robstown, Aransas Pass, and many others.
While many employees were deployed outside of Austin, just as many provided shelter services to those that were evacuated from the coast and were standing by in case the hurricane turned towards the Austin area. As part of the Capitol Area Shelter Hub Plan (CASHP), ATCEMS is responsible for providing medical coverage, logistical support, and incident management support to local shelters, CASHP shelters, and the mega shelter. ATCEMS employees volunteered to work many hours of overtime to cover shifts of those deployed, work in shelters, and to provide support to the overall mission.
Staff of the Emergency Management Division continued to implement the regional SMART triage tags into the ATCEMS System. These triage tags provide clearer information regarding the triage status of patients during a mass casualty incident (MCI). Emergency Management staff coordinates quarterly triage tag days throughout the system. Triage tag day allows field personnel and local hospitals to become familiar with the regional triage tag during normal EMS calls.
The division plans and participates in numerous local, regional, and statewide exercises and drills including full scale exercises with the Capital Area Trauma Regional Advisory Council (CATRAC), the State of Texas Emergency Medical Taskforce (EMTF), Austin-Bergstrom International Airport; and our local partners, the Austin Police Department, Austin Fire Department, and the Austin Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department. The main focus of exercises this year has been active shooter response, patient tracking, and integrating our Communications Medics into exercises.
One of the responsibilities of the division is to staff the Austin - Travis County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) during large scale incidents. There were two weather related EOC activations this year and the EOC was staffed for over a week in response to Hurricane Harvey to help coordinate response and shelter operations.
Working with regional and state partners is an important function of the division. Personnel from the Emergency Management Division attend and participate in multiple local, regional, and state workgroups and committees including the CATRAC’s executive board, pre-hospital, regional preparedness and response and medical operations center committees; and state and regional Ambulance Bus committees. The Capital Area Planning Council of Governments (CAPCOG) Homeland Security Taskforce and the Texas Disaster Medical Systems (TDMS) Steering Committee are other areas that this division participates. The department has obtained multiple items from grant funding ranging from vehicles to radios for use by the EMS Department.
Personnel of the division are part of the Texas EMTF program and Capital Area Incident Management Team. These programs provide medical and incident management resources to local, regional, and state agencies in case of a disaster. Emergency Management employees can fill the roles of task force leader, ambulance strike team leader, ambulance staging manager, medical incident support team, and multiple incident command system (ICS) positions.
- Implementation of the Ambulance Bus into the ATCEMS System
- Training and implementation of triage tag day
- Provided training for Ambulance Bus Crew Chiefs and Drivers, and Ambulance Strike Team Leaders
- Grant projects
- Staffing of the Emergency Operation Center during activations