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Published on March 01, 2024
Austin-Travis County EMS Turn to Apartment Complexes Amid Population BoomSource: Austin-Travis County EMS

Amidst a surge in population growth in Travis County areas outside Austin, local EMS have been forced into unconventional housing for their stations—apartment complexes. In what many see as a makeshift solution, emergency responders are sandwiched between residential units while on standby for urgent calls.

Paramedics from Austin-Travis County EMS are now stationed full-time in four apartment complexes, with units spread across Bee Cave, Manor, and two in Lakeway. As reported by KXAN, this situation arises from the necessity to relinquish space at local fire stations to accommodate additional fire apparatus needed due to the county's explosive expansion. Austin EMS President Selena Xie commented, "This is just a regular apartment complex and you will see we just have an ambulance on the side of the road."

The unique arrangement is not without its challenges. "Apartment complexes are not appropriate places for public safety facilities," Xie emphasized in an Austin American Statesman interview. Access to vital equipment is hampered without the backup generators standard in a dedicated emergency facility. The 2021 Winter Storm Uri underlined these vulnerabilities when EMS had to resort to portable generators to power crucial medical devices.

Xie disclosed to the Austin American Statesman that dispatching from an apartment can delay medics by up to two minutes. Locking doors and descending flights of stairs contribute to the lag in a profession where seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

Safety concerns accompany the current setup as well, with the potential for equipment vandalism looming larger than if stationed in a secure facility. "Somebody could really easily vandalize these (ambulances) and we have little garages where we store equipment and somebody has vandalized that," Xie told KXAN. Solutions are on the horizon, with EMS in the process of renovating and expanding two existing standalone stations to alleviate the pressure, but until then, paramedics and their ambulances remain nestled within the apartment complexes of Travis County's rapidly expanding landscape.

Austin-Real Estate & Development