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Halloween flood report reveals good and bad about Austin/Travis Co. response

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The Austin/Travis County Halloween flood "After Action Report" is 86 pages of detailed information about the good and the bad.
The City Manager released the report Friday.
31 city departments, 10 county agencies and 4 regional stakeholders contributed to the report.

It highlights what worked, areas that need improving and what didn't work.
Out of the 277 points made, 62% of them either need improvement or just didn't work.
We spoke with Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Otis Latin by phone this evening.
He says the early warning system failed, there were communication issues between agencies and language barriers.
Latin says the report helps departments fix problems, improving the city's response in the future.

"We're not just putting a report together and nothing is going to happen.  We're going to make sure that the policies, procedures and things that are addressed in the report are updating policies, improved upon and make sure that we can perform even better next time," Latin said.

Kat Ames and her 2 daughters are still living in a camper in her driveway.
Thanks to a city grant, she says her house is nearly ready to move back into.
But she's still frustrated with the response the morning of the flood.

"You know the rescue crews never came and it turned out that we didn't die and so that was lucky you know," she said.

Ames says she still doesn't have gas and didn't even have water for a long time.

"And then for the city to just kind of leave us on our own all this time living outside with no amenities kind of in third world-ish conditions because it's not like we have a set up to cook outside," she said.

Many of Ames concerns are echoed by the city and county in their new After Action Report.
According to the Field Operations section of the report, water rescue equipment was fully operational.

What didn't work?

The city says some specialized resources like boats and helicopters went to low priority calls where they weren't needed.

Flood victim Mike Espinoza says he's doing pretty well.  He's almost done with his rebuild and he's thankful to the city for many things.  He just wishes they could have done more when the disaster was happening.

"I think they should have had like some sort of reverse 911 system where they call out and alert people, 'Hey get to higher ground.'  The only way we knew that there was a flood was at 5:00 in the morning...honking...honking, honking, honking," Espinoza said.

The After Action Report seems to confirm that, saying the early warning system for Onion Creek didn't work and they had trouble communicating with Spanish-speaking flood victims about worsening conditions.

Espinoza is fluent in both English and Spanish but he sees how that could have been an issue.

"A lot of the folks that came over here to help were Spanish speaking and I can see that there could have been some sort of a language barrier there," Espinoza said.

Ames says she doubts this will be the last time something like this happens to the area.

"Thank God that they are actually paying attention to it and thinking about it, figuring out what to do," she said.

At the end of this report, there is something called a Corrective Action Plan.  Every item mentioned that needs improvement or didn't work is listed there with an employee's name beside it -- it's their responsibility to have these issues fixed within 6 months.

Click here to see the entire After Action Report: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/edims/pio/document.cfm?id=208521

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