Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Temporary Assembly Points: Understanding Wildfire Evacuation Process

Prolonged drought and excessive heat throughout the summer has placed the Central Texas area at an extreme risk for wildfire. The Austin Fire Department (AFD) Wildfire Division and Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) urge community members to not only build a wildfire plan for their households but to also be familiar with the City’s evacuation process should their neighborhood require such. 

First, evacuations work best when there is a plan. Community members can build an evacuation plan and prepare their homes for wildfire using the Ready, Set, Go! Personal Wildfire Action Guide. Knowing what to take and how to get out of your home and neighborhood are the first steps of building a successful evacuation plan.  

During an evacuation, seconds count. Do not hesitate to begin your evacuation plan early and GO if you feel unsafe where you are.

But what do you do once you leave your home? That is where the combined efforts of AFD, HSEM, Austin/Travis County EMS, Austin Police and many more governmental and non-government partner organizations come into play.

When a neighborhood receives an evacuation notice, the first instructions will likely come from first responders on-scene. Door-to-door notices and loudspeaker announcements followed by automated messaging through Warn Central Texas will provide the directive to evacuate.

From there, listen to the instructions from first responders on-site directing evacuees to a Temporary Assembly Point, or TAP. 

“It is very important that everyone evacuated during a wildfire go to the Temporary Assembly Point to check in,” said Ken Snipes, Director for the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. “The Temporary Assembly Point serves the purpose to allow Austin Fire Department to account for all individuals evacuated. If you do not check in, it could cause first responders a delay in providing evacuation assistance to those who need it.”

The Temporary Assembly Point will vary depending on the location of the wildfire and available locations that could be used for services provided by a Temporary Assembly Point.

Upon arrival to a Temporary Assembly Point, community members check in, provide important data to help address their immediate needs, and move on. If you have someplace safe to relocate, like the home of a family member or friend, and have no further needs, you are free to leave the Temporary Assembly Point and travel to your destination after checking in at the Temporary Assembly Point. If you or someone in your household requires medical attention, Austin/Travis County EMS will be on-hand at the Temporary Assembly Point to provide triage care. For those who have nowhere to go after evacuation directions to a shelter will be provided upon checking in at the Temporary Assembly Point.

During an emergency evacuation, updates on the situation, Temporary Assembly Point locations, and a digital check-in option will be provided at austintexas.gov/alerts as well.

“It is important to note that the Temporary Assembly Point is not a shelter. It is meant to be a check-in location for residents to indicate they are safe or need additional services." Austin Fire Division Chief Carrie Stewart said. "Personnel at the Temporary Assembly Point can assess the needs of community members impacted by a wildfire evacuation and next steps for those needing additional assistance. But we can only do this if everyone checks in at or with the Temporary Assembly Point when directed. So, please, check in physically at the Temporary Assembly Point or virtually from the austintexas.gov/alerts page.”

AFD Wildfire Division and HSEM encourage all Austinites to sign up for Warn Central Texas emergency messaging. Learn more about building a wildfire plan through the Ready, Set, Go! program at ReadyCentralTexas.org and clicking on the Wildfire Preparedness menu.

Austin Fire Department Wildfire Hub: https://wildfire-austin.hub.arcgis.com/  
Emergency Alerts in 14 Languages: austintexas.gov/alerts
Warn Central Texas Emergency Messaging: WarnCentralTexas.org 
Ready Central Texas Emergency Preparedness Hub: ReadyCentralTexas.org  

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