January 28, 2022
(Austin) – The Austin City Council unanimously approved on Jan. 27 the Central Health Equity Policy Council’s recommendations to address equity-centered disaster planning, response, and recovery efforts.
Sponsored by City Council Member Mackenzie Kelly and co-sponsored by Council Members Vanessa Fuentes, Ann Kitchen, and Leslie Pool, the resolution directs city staff to incorporate the City Equity Office into the Incident Command Structure and develop a model for a community advisory panel in the next 90 days. These recommendations were created by the Pandemic Equity Committee (PEC), part of the Central Health Equity Policy (CHEP) Council.
“Within the first few months of the pandemic, it was clear there were significant disparities in health outcomes for people of color that could have been avoided. The winter storm only made those disparities even more painfully obvious. This is particularly evident among Austin’s Latino and Black populations,” Pandemic Equity Committee Member Nora Comstock said. “This approval represents a dramatic shift in the city’s approach to emergency preparedness, allowing us to more effectively care for our most vulnerable communities.”
The Pandemic Equity Committee (PEC), part of the all-volunteer Central Health Equity Policy Council, began meeting in December 2020 to assess pandemic-related health outcomes and develop recommendations that would lead to more equitable outcomes for historically marginalized populations.
Winter storm Uri in February 2021 brought sharper focus to the lack of equitable planning and response to community-wide disasters, when thousands of Travis County residents were left without electricity, water, and transportation for days. The CHEP Council PEC worked to include planning and response measures for extreme weather events into the recommendations.
The full CHEP Council Pandemic Equity Committee recommendations include:
- Addressing disaster preparedness by centering equity in the City of Austin Emergency Operations Plan, making it an evergreen document and improving data collection
- Developing a standard operating procedure (SOP) to ensure funds are allocated towards stipends and training that helps the community better understand how the
- Emergency Operations Center (EOC) works
- Developing an SOP for communications to be translated into Spanish, the five most spoken Asian languages and any additional languages that may be required
- Updating the Hazard Risk Index
- Considering a long-term goal to establish a dedicated emergency funding stream for providers during a disaster
- Developing and reviewing after-action reports about previous Central Texas disasters to determine what lessons can be collected, including civil unrest.
- Including an SOP that uses Social Vulnerability Index and 211 data as baseline data
- Developing localized emergency response plans for impacted neighborhoods/areas including working cooperatively with stakeholders in those areas
- Identifying an independent party of diversely selected individuals who will review and assess the EOC’s response
The CHEP Council consists of 80 volunteer members from Austin-area community partner organizations. The Council members draft and design initiatives, with Central Health providing project management and administrative support. For more information on the CHEP Council, visit the Central Health website.