The city of Austin and the University have launched mobile apps to help citizens prepare for emergencies.
The mobile app Ready Central Texas, launched Sept. 30, is designed to keep residents in Travis County informed and prepared for a variety of emergencies, including natural disasters and the coronavirus pandemic. It was the result of a partnership between Austin’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Travis County Office of Emergency Management.
Bryce Bencivengo, spokesperson for the city’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the resources on the app can be used to build an emergency kit and include the latest news updates on public safety and health.
“We've been working on it since the beginning of the year between our two offices,” Bencivengo said. “It just so happens that COVID-19 pretty much dominated this year … so we thought it was reasonable to put COVID-19 resources in the app considering all that we're going through right now.”
Bencivengo said other types of emergencies on the app include flooding, wildfires and extreme weather — events that are commonplace in Central Texas. The app does not give notifications of incoming disasters but can be used in tandem with the WarnCentralTexas emergency notification system, Bencivengo said.
Noelle Newton, UT Police Department spokesperson, said the University regularly meets with the city’s public safety personnel throughout the year to plan for different types of emergencies.
“We have a strong working relationship and collaborate on emergency preparedness plans to continue to ensure the health and safety of our community,” Newton said.
After all emergency incidents, UT’s Emergency Preparedness office reviews and revises current protocols based on lessons learned, Emergency Preparedness Director Jonathan Robb said.
“Our Emergency Operations Plan is based on an ‘all hazards’ approach that we can modify based on the circumstances of an emergency situation, whether it be an event such as a pandemic, violence-related threat or weather-related event,” Robb said.
In response to the pandemic, UT has updated their Infectious Disease Response Plan and special event emergency planning, Robb said. The main focus during special events, such as stadium events, is prioritizing immediate threats to safety, Robb said.
“We encourage everyone at the event to maintain social distancing as much as possible if there is a need to evacuate,” Robb said. “However, the importance of evacuation is priority to avoid any immediate threat.”
Robb said they’ve been sharing emergency preparedness tips and their pocket guide with students through social media. Robb said he encourages students and faculty to be familiar with the resources.
“You are your (own) best first responder, so we always encourage students and campus community members to be prepared for emergencies by making their own emergency plans,” Robb said