At the city’s first council meeting since the winter storm hit, Sunset Valley City Council retroactively approved a disaster declaration signed by Mayor Marc Bruner during the event. Through the declaration, the city was permitted to provide mutual aid to surrounding entities and to create an emergency shelter at city facilities.
City Administrator Sylvia Carrillo shared a review of the emergency operations in the city from Feb. 15-22 and said there were lessons learned from the winter storm that the city can use to improve future responses.
She said Sunset Valley Police Chief Lenn Carter led the city’s staff and police while the emergency was active, which is in alignment with city protocol.
“I've been grateful for all the assistance that was provided, especially to those that are most vulnerable,” Bruner said. “I really want to especially call out the excellent and outstanding performance of the police department during this time. Chief Carter, under his leadership, the staff and officers did a superb job.”
City staff did, however, face challenges, especially as the winter weather prevented some from traveling to the city from their homes early on. Carrillo said that emergency response protocol usually requires essential staff to be present at City Hall and that the city should better outline specific requirements of staff in employee documents to help clarify needs in the future.
The winter storm also highlighted a need to purchase emergency power generators to run city facilities. While a generator maintained power to the city’s police building, Carrillo said City Hall and the city’s public works buildings were offline at times during the week due to Austin Energy power outages. Generators would allow city hall to be set up as a staging area or a shelter during future power outages if needed.
She said the city should also consider purchasing a tank that would allow Sunset Valley to maintain a supply of fuel on-site in case of disasters. The tank could be filled in advance of forecast events or as needed during an ongoing incident to fuel city vehicles, equipment or generators.
City communication during the winter storm and aftermath took place through posts on the city’s website and an email newsletter. Carrillo said the city should create social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which could get information out to residents more quickly during active emergencies.
The city is currently seeking feedback from residents about the staff’s response to winter weather. Residents can submit personal feedback here. The city has also provided a list of resources for residents and businesses that still need aid or help with recovery efforts.