SXSW presents challenge to emergency crews


by JADE MINGUS / KVUE NEWS and photojournalist DATHAN HULL

Bio | Email | Follow: @JadeM_KVUE

Posted on March 11, 2013 at 10:17 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 11 at 10:21 PM

AUSTIN -- One of the most popular festivals in the world takes place on the streets of downtown Austin. While South by Southwest attracts tens of thousands of visitors, it also presents challenges to the men and women who work to keep Austin safe.

At Fire Station Number One, located near the Austin Convention Center, crews are used to handling crowds that converge in downtown every weekend. They have several plans in place to help with response times when getting around proves difficult.

"We worry about the sheer population you bring down here. With all the additional people, your chances go up for things to happen," said Fire Specialist Jeffrey Deane. 

Fire crews use high-tech maps that include current street closures and alternate routes. They also use ATVs instead of bulky fire trucks when they respond to certain medical calls, which makes access to sidewalks and alleys much easier.

Dispatch also relies on stations near the downtown area to take more calls so Station One's response area can potentially shrink.

According to the fire department, last year response times slowed down by 40 seconds on average in downtown during SXSW.

"We have designated routes we can take to deal with these crowds, but occasionally we may come across something unexpected, like a truck blocking our lane," said Deane. "So a lot of decisions, we have to make on the fly."


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