AUSTIN (KXAN) — Representatives from city of Austin and Travis County departments are all on standby at the emergency operations center, ready to dispatch crews at moment’s notice. From fire to parks and recreation, all are on hand and in the same room for a coordinated response whenever we start feeling the effects of Hurricane Harvey in Austin.
“We don’t know yet what the impacts are going to be in our community from a severe weather standpoint. Never, ever do we want to risk someone’s life or someone’s livelihood by not having enough staff,” Jake Dirr, with the Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said.
Staffing in disaster situations that often requires additional resources and overtime. The number one priority is public safety. KXAN asked city leaders what kind of impact the coming days could have on taxpayers.
“We have a duty to the people who live in our community to do our best to keep them safe,” Dirr said.
If there is a disaster declaration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can release what’s called public assistance. Friday night, FEMA granted Gov.Greg Abbott’s request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration in response to Harvey. The declaration can provide individual and public assistance, as well as hazard mitigation to communities impacted by Harvey to help rebuild lives in the aftermath of this storm.
“I want to thank the President and FEMA for their quick response in granting this disaster declaration. We will continue to work with our federal and local partners on all issues relating to this storm, and I encourage Texans to continue heeding all warnings from local officials,” Abbott said in a statement.
City departments say they track time specifically related to disasters.
“As you’re aware, budgets are quite tight around the city at this time,” Dirr said. “And so the city expenses are not front of mind because we are doing out best to protect the public and coordinating a response, but anything that we can do to get reimbursed for those costs, working with the federal government… makes everybody better in terms of how they can continue to serve their community.”
The city says it always “sizes up” first, meaning it gets crews ready to go and then scales back as needed – rather than go bare minimum and call staff in after the fact.
“You don’t want to risk someone’s life or their livelihood just because you’re trying to pinch pennies,” Dirr said.
The city will also be eligible for reimbursement from the state for providing shelter to coastal evacuees.