Maj. Craig Smith of the Travis County Sheriff’s Office said at a Feb. 19 Travis County Commissioners Court meeting that Travis County Emergency Dispatch received 7,015 emergency 911 calls while the severe winter weather conditions persisted, compared to 3,700 calls during the same dates in January. Dispatch also received 4,460 calls to its nonemergency line.
Smith did not specify the exact dates he was using as a time frame.
Due to heightened need, Smith said the sheriff's office redeployed all its units to patrol duty to respond to calls for service—including regular patrol staff, traffic staff, the stray-livestock unit and even some of the county’s SWAT team.
“We were able to double up our numbers on patrol to take care of calls for service. That’s been going on since this weather event started and will continue probably throughout the weekend,” Smith said.
To serve residents that had lost phone service, the sheriff's office kept a number of law enforcement buildings open and staffed so people could walk or drive up to seek help for emergencies. That option will continue for the time being, he said.
“That did work out well for us because we did have some people that completely lost power, lost water, phones died, so they drove to the nearest police station. Then we helped them with transport to cold-weather shelters,” Smith said.
Other types of service calls also increased during the week’s inclement weather: According to Smith, sheriff's office staff responded to 210 road collisions, compared to fewer than 100 during the same time frame in January. That number does not include a number of minor collisions without any resulting injuries, Smith said. Additionally, the sheriff's office responded to 191 traffic hazards and 262 “assist motorist” calls.
The sheriff's office also answered 65 calls relating to cruelty to animals—which can include leaving pets outside in freezing weather.