Home Safety Commentary: Fire chief outlines steps aimed at reducing risk in Lake Travis

Commentary: Fire chief outlines steps aimed at reducing risk in Lake Travis

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Lake Travis Fire Chief Robert Abbott

By Robert Abbott Special to the View
Austin American-Statesman

When it comes to keeping the community safe, it’s not just about the fire engines carrying firefighters, hoses, ladders and water to an incident. It is also about reducing and preventing an incident from occurring in the first place. Everything Lake Travis Fire Rescue is designed to do focuses on reducing the risks for the community and is termed community risk reduction (CRR). The five Es of CRR are education, engineering, enforcement, economic incentives and emergency response.

Education is about educating our community to prevent emergencies or to reduce their impact. LTFR offers free educational programs that include:

— Stop the Bleed®, training to help save lives of the severely injured.

— Take 10® training to learn hands only CPR in 10 minutes.

— Annual safety squad shows tailored to current issues elementary school kids are experiencing and delivered by LTFR firefighters in Lake Travis and some Leander schools.

— Wildfire education and defensible space: LTFR meets with community groups on ways they can better prepare for wildfires around their homes and conducts free Home Risk Assessments and consultation.

— Community advisory council and community educational forums provide an opportunity to connect with community leaders and local influencers to receive feedback on LTFR’s programming and hear what about emerging issues.

— Hosting free community events to discuss community emergency planning, sheltering in- place and evacuation concerns.

— Firefighters serve in advisory roles within grades nine through 12 to promote their profession to young aspiring firefighters and paramedics.

Engineering refers to the technological and mechanical solutions we can promote or mandate to help improve public safety:

— Promoting the use of telemedicine for minor illnesses or injuries and reducing the demand for non-emergent calls to 911 thus freeing up crews for emergencies.

— Promoting the use of residential fire sprinklers in home during new construction or remodels to reduce loss of life and property damage while also reducing home owner insurance rates.

— Promoting the use of new technologies in smoke alarms, emergency planning, geographic information systems and the use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

— The operation of the fuel mitigation program to mechanically reduce the wildfire load in targeted areas through prescribed burning, clearing of dead and overgrown vegetation, and creating shaded fuel breaks.

Enforcement works to ensure buildings and communities are being built and maintained to code in addition to investigating fires and emergency scenes:

— Enforcing the international fire codes in the cities of Bee Cave, Lakeway and The Hills in addition to the unincorporated areas of Travis County.

— Working in concert with the Travis County Fire Marshal’s Office to investigate complaints and fires.

What falls under the fire code: new and existing businesses; public and private schools; industrial, commercial and retail; new developments; religious facilities; marinas; firework stands and shows; tent membrane structures; outdoor burning; and hazardous materials use and storage.

What requires a plan review (most common, but not all):

Any change in use of any occupancy type of a business or operation in a given location.

— Construction of any building or dwelling for human use or occupation, other than a single-family residence or structure used for residential purposes and comprised of fewer than three separate living units.

— Subdivision of land affected by the filing of an application for subdivision with Travis County and/or a combination of Travis County or a municipality located within Travis County ESD No. 6.

Economic incentive refers to the concept of using economics to improve the community’s safety.

— Lower insurance rates though the reduction of residential property insurance premiums with the addition fire station, firefighters and programs (also known as the Insurance Services Office class ratings).

— Financial incentive to property owners for the installation of residential fire sprinklers.

The district maintains a transparent system of illustrating how the funding it receives from ad valorem property tax and sales tax is invested in capital improvement projects and community-centered programs resulting in more lives saved and a reduction in property loss.

Emergency response serves the community in many ways including the operation of local fire stations staffed with firefighters and paramedics to respond to emergencies:

Each of the six LTFR fire stations is equipped with a minimum of a fire engine or ladder truck with at least four and advanced life support trained firefighters. Some stations also cross-staff specialty units, including fire and rescue boats; command vehicles; research and rescue units; mass casualty unit; hazardous spill response; on-scene firefighter rehabilitation; emergency water purification; and tours and safety education.

Emergency planning for emergencies that are multi-agency requires communication between a number of government organizations.

For more information, call 512-266-2533 or email info@ltfr.org. Based on current COVID-19 policies, some programs may be temporarily suspended or offered via a remote video platform.

Robert Abbott is the Lake Travis Fire Rescue chief.

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