AUSTIN (KXAN) — When the Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG) scheduled to hold a news conference Wednesday to remind people about signing up for emergency alerts via their phone, it ended up being perfect timing since the threat of Harvey is looming.
CAPCOG is hoping for more people to register with WarnCentralTexas.org, especially during September, which is National Preparedness Month. The campaign is part of a first-ever push to increase awareness for the 10-county area (Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis and Williamson counties).
Registering on the website gives emergency personnel the ability to text, call or email people who will be affected by a natural disaster or public safety concern.
Juan Ortiz, the City of Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director, says “Emergencies are going to occur after hours, on weekends and on holidays. So if it’s Friday night at 2 o’clock in the morning, you know, maybe sending you a text is going to be the only way that you’re going to get the message.”
The press conference comes on the same morning that Harvey has reformed into a tropical depression, triggering a rare Tropical Storm Watch in Fayette County. CAPCOG alerts include information about extreme weather events. San Marcos/Hays County EMS Chief David G. Smith, Jr., says, “Harvey could show the first potential use of the system, if people were to get on now. Then if there are impacts that are going effect somewhere in this region, people can start getting those notifications immediately. So the stress of today is go now, sign up now, get online, get it done.”
CAPCOG hopes to double or triple the number of people registered with WarnCentralTexas.org. Right now, roughly 60,000 people have signed up. The goal is for 120,000 to 180,000 people to join by the end of September.
Ortiz notes that CAPCOG would ideally like everyone subscribed — in a coverage area of 2 million people, that’s a tall order. He calls the current goal “baby steps. One step at a time, we want to keep moving forward.”
CAPCOG has been a regional head of communications, collaboration and development for 46 years in the Austin metro area.