Austin residents working together for emergency preparedness drill

A natural disaster can strike at any time, and Austin residents are working to improve public safety with an upcoming disaster preparedness drill. On December 1, 2012, the City of Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Austin Urban Area will host the region's first-ever full-scale emergency preparedness exercise. Local residents and people who are currently checking out some of the homes for sale in Austin might notice dramatic changes when the temporary drill takes place, and it will provide long-term support to community members.

The event will put first responders' skills to the test, as these people will need to safely handle an incident that involves contamination, casualties and mass injuries. The exercise will feature representatives from numerous local agencies, including emergency management, hospital personnel, law enforcement, EMS and hazmat responders.

Additionally, Austin officials are encouraging city residents to get involved. Volunteer opportunities are available for citizens, and these people will experience what it's like to be involved in the real-world response to a dangerous situation. Many local residents are playing "victims" who have suffered injuries, experienced "decontamination" or need to be taken to nearby hospitals for care during the drill.

The goals of the exercise
Through the exercise, city officials noted that they will be able to better gauge the area's ability to manage several critical incidents that are occurring over an extended period of time. The disaster preparedness training involves various local agencies, and participants can test their current skills and learn new procedures to become valuable contributors to their respective organizations. First responders have a tremendous amount of responsibility, especially in critical situations, and this exercise provides a hands-on experience they can use to enhance their talents.

The drill also allows the city to expand its regional collaboration and build positive relationships. Austin residents and local agencies are involved, which gives many people the opportunity to collaboratively develop emergency management solutions that could help the city thrive in dangerous scenarios.

Data will be collected during the exercise that could prove useful for city officials. New programs could be created to further safeguard Austin residents during emergencies based on the performance of those involved in the drill. 

Austin prioritizes public safety
Keeping Austin safe is a priority for local officials, which is reflected in the recent growth of the city's police department.

After a 32-week training program that totaled over 1,282 hours, 64 new officers will be welcomed into the department during a ceremony on November 30, 2012. The department heavily emphasizes characteristics such as accountability, courage and integrity with its officers, and these newcomers could prove to be valuable additions to the force.

Austin firefighters also continue to help community members, and provided advice about fire safety to local residents throughout Fire Safety Month. In October 2012, city firefighters celebrated the month-long event by encouraging residents to install working smoke alarms in their homes.

"A working smoke alarm is the cheapest life insurance money can buy," Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr said. "People don't realize just how quickly a fire can spread. A working smoke alarm can buy you and your family precious time to escape. That's a sobering reminder that it only takes a few minutes to check and change the batteries, but it could save your life."

The Austin Fire Department is among the 20 largest in the country and is one of several local agencies that continues to support city residents.