Photos: Austin prepares for the worst

Published 8:27 am Thursday, July 18, 2013

Emergency training highlights communication

Five firefighters, several local authorities and ambulance crews teamed up with the Austin Utilities for some hands-on emergency training Wednesday morning.

Austin Utilities simulated a chlorine leak with one person injured and on the ground. Emergency crews put on hazmat suits, cleared the mock scene and figured out where they were efficient and where they need to improve. According to Austin Fire Department Commander Tom Schulte, the fire department has had classroom training with Austin Utiliites to review the dangers of natural gas. However, he and many of the participants had never worked hands-on with the utilities company. Disaster scenarios like Wednesday’s, he said, allow emergency crews to find out how well they communicate across departments.

“Communication is always an issue,” he said. “That’s always the key, that we learn what worked well with communication and what didn’t work well.”

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Austin Police Chief Brian Krueger said the same thing.

“I think we learn from these that communication is key,” Krueger said. “… Again, it just shows you that if you have a breakdown in communication, it can make things a little more difficult.”

The police department was continuously in contact with the street department to keep people off of the nearby bike path and out of the area, which could be an essential partnership in future scenarios.

After the training session, Schulte was happy with the response time. Krueger was also satisfied.

“Overall, it went quite well,” Krueger said. “Obviously, it’s a good learning experience for all of us.”