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Winter weather proving dangerous for first responders

Conditions are making it difficult for some first responders to get to some of the areas they serve, and it's been life-threatening for some.

AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin Police Department said its officers responded to at least 215 crashes on Tuesday, averaging out to around nine crashes every hour.

One person died in those wrecks and many more were hurt, including a Travis County deputy.

North of Austin, a DPS trooper near Dallas was also severely injured from responding to accidents on Tuesday. It's one of the reasons first responders continue to urge people to stay home.

"We'll be doing 12-hour shifts because we anticipate that we'll have, you know, another hike in call volume like we saw during Uri," said Cpt. Christa Stedman, a spokesperson for Austin-Travis County EMS.

"It's been a long day. We started early this morning with crashes as early as 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. So for law enforcement, it's been a very busy day," said Sgt. Deon Cockrell with the Texas Department of Public Safety.

More than 200 wrecks were reported across the Austin area on Tuesday.

Cpt. Sedman with ATCEMS said it's also important that medics' safety stays top of mind.

"When they get to work and get on the ambulance, they're going to be out in the weather driving. So we want to make sure that they're getting to the station so that they're here and safe and ready to start shift," Stedman said.

Sgt. Cockrell with Texas DPS said a trooper's safety is threatened any time they respond.

"That's why we have the 'Move Over, Slow Down' law. And this is one of the effects where people can go out and really take caution when they're passing emergency vehicles – but not only law enforcement; we still have tow trucks, EMS and fire trucks we also need to look out for," Cockrell said.

Should you find yourself in an accident, Cockrell said you should stay in your car until help arrives. He said if you need to get out for some reason, check your surroundings and make sure you can safely get away from the road.

These conditions are also making it difficult for some first responders to get to some of the areas they serve.

"Some of these counties have so much ice that we can't even get to them. Where we have to travel is such a slow rate for us to even get to some of these crashes. We have to do so safely also. So we have to travel at safe speeds," Cockrell said.

Stedman said ATCEMS is going to do whatever it takes to make sure people are safe, but she hopes you exercise caution when it comes to whether you need to drive.

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