At a gathering Monday to debate town’s response to Winter Storm Uri, Metropolis Council highlighted one in every of its greatest priorities to organize for future disasters: strengthening Austin’s community of catastrophe shelters. 

Although Council members praised the group and metropolis staffers for his or her “all arms on deck” effort to assist fellow Austinites discover a heat place with operating water through the storm, they emphasised that higher coordination of assets may have made the expertise much less harrowing. 

“One of many actual alternatives we’ve got right here is determining how it’s that we manage and broaden and facilitate the group response,” Mayor Steve Adler mentioned.

Within the absence of a concerted response, some residents in want of shelter reached out to particular person Council members. However members and their workers typically couldn’t discover shelters, and of the shelters they did discover, many had been poorly staffed, had little meals or lacked energy and water.

“I don’t need to ever be in a state of affairs like that once more,” Council Member Kathie Tovo mentioned.

Juan Ortiz, director of Homeland Safety and Emergency Administration, mentioned that with out a longtime listing of designated shelters (Austin’s catastrophe preparedness plans hardly point out winter storms in any respect), the division needed to open shelters and help areas the group had arrange on the fly.

“We welcomed anyone that would open their doorways and open up a shelter,” Ortiz mentioned. “We’d attain out to them and see what they wanted from us. Have they got cots, pillows, blankets? Do they want water? Do they want us to try to get them meals?” 

Council hopes to offer extra organized shelters by means of its resilience hub initiative, which it unveiled final month. 

The initiative will designate shelters at colleges, libraries and different group areas inside strolling distance of each neighborhood. The shelters might be operated by a community of educated group members and metropolis staffers who know the way to coordinate provides, transportation, safety, and different companies with town. Ideally, resilience hub volunteers would work of their neighborhood’s hub.

Tovo mentioned that past coaching group members and metropolis workers on catastrophe preparedness, town should work out, by means of group engagement and stable public messaging, the way to create “a local weather and a tradition right here in Austin of group resilience.”

Council members acknowledged the accountability of different authorities businesses in addition to people to create such a tradition. “With the storm, as with the pandemic, town is … an essential participant in our group’s response,” Council Member Alison Alter mentioned. “However we can’t be the one one.”

“The town must be concerned in all of the areas, however we don’t essentially want to steer all the things,” Ortiz mentioned. “We simply have to determine the way to help our group to make sure that we are able to recuperate from these disasters as quick as we probably can … and save as many lives as we are able to.”

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