City of Austin firefighters respond to an unprecedented snowstorm in February 2021. - Photo: Austin Disaster Preparedness Audit

City of Austin firefighters respond to an unprecedented snowstorm in February 2021.

Photo: Austin Disaster Preparedness Audit

Nearly a year after the disastrous Winter Storm Uri killed more than 200 Texans and forced much of the state off the grid, the capital city is looking at ways to prepare its fleet for future winter weather — including improving its snow plow fleet and snow chain process.

The Austin City Manager provided an update on city preparedness in response to a November 2021 audit stating the city was unprepared to respond to the storm, and that the city did not adequately anticipate or plan for a severe winter storm of that magnitude. 

The city has identified 32 out of a total of 132 recommendations as priorities because they provide a high benefit to the city. It is in the process of implementing them.

In one of its findings, the audit found that there was a severe lack of snowplows. Since the November audit, the Public Works Department has added snow removal from critical streets to their workflow and added streets and bridges for clearing or sanding that access Austin Water treatment plants; police, fire, and ambulance stations; hospitals; and more.

The Austin Transportation Department worked with the Fleet Service Department to purchase additional road traction devices. 

The Fleet Services Department also updated critical functions and policies, creating a City-wide revised snow chain process and procedure for inventorying, order management, training, and installation. Fleet supervisors have also been issued procurement cards to expand the ability of staff to respond to emergencies. 

All on-call Building Services Department vehicles will now be equipped with tire chains. 

The Combined Transportation, Emergency, and Communications Center is now identified as a priority location for fuel resupply and backup generators. 

The audit also found the city did not have equipment like water trucks or totes to distribute water quickly and effectively to residents during water outages. 

To view the full audit and its recommendations, visit City of Austin website. 

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