During the Austin City Council meeting on March 24, 2016, the City Council approved a resolution to begin the process of exploring methods to improve fire response times in the highest needs areas in the City. The resolution was sponsored by Council Member Delia Garza and cosponsored by Council Members Ann Kitchen, Sabino “Pio” Renteria, Leslie Pool, and Sheri Gallo.
“As we looked at the data from previous years, we realized that response times to fire calls vary depending on where you live in the City of Austin,” said Council Member Delia Garza. “A lot of this variation has to do with population growth and increased development. I’m glad we took the initial step today to ensure that all Austinites can depend on the same high level of services no matter where they live.”
After extensive research resulting from collaboration between the Austin Fire Department and the Austin Firefighters Association, five areas of immediate need for new fire stations were identified which include the Travis Country area, the Loop 360 area, the Goodnight Ranch area, the Moore’s Crossing area, and the Canyon Creek area. This resolution asks the City Manager to develop a strategic plan with proposed funding mechanisms and a timeline to meet this need.
“Many neighborhoods within the City of Austin suffer from emergency response time deficiencies. This proposed Council resolution contemplates a plan or methodology for reducing emergency response time deficiencies,” said Bob Nicks, President of the Austin Firefighters Association. “This plan is holistic in that it examines a broad range of emergency response time deficiency causes and the resolution contains a practical solution for each deficiency cause. This plan will provide to the City Council, in open session each year, a data driven tool to reach informed decisions on new fire station location and construction timing.”
The resolution also calls for exploration of new technology that could potentially be used to improve traffic signal control for emergency response vehicles. The City of Austin currently uses a light-based system that was installed in the mid-1990s, and updating the system to utilize a GPS-based system could be an affordable and viable option for reducing emergency response times.
“I’m grateful to the Austin Fire Department, the Austin Firefighters Association, and the Public Safety Commission for their recommendations that helped us reach this point,” said Council Member Delia Garza. “This item is an important step forward to ensure that we are providing reliable public safety services equitably across the city.”