ATCEMS sees uptick in hypothermia cases following winter storm

Austin-Travis County EMS (ATCEMS) responded to more than 700 incidents on Wednesday and Thursday. 

Captain Darren Noak told FOX 7 Austin there were fewer car crashes than usual. ATCEMS responded to 27 collision calls Thursday. However, there was an uptick in cold weather exposure calls, with 29 on Thursday. 

Many calls came from homeless encampments. Shane Urich lives in an encampment on East Cesar Chavez near I-35. 

"All my clothes got wet, all my gear… I stayed up miserably throughout the night." Urich said. 

Urich chose to ride out the storm at his campsite - forgoing a city warming shelter. "The main concern was supplies. Second concern was safety." he explained. 

After spending a night in the cold, some of Urich’s friends wanted to go to a warming shelter Thursday. CapMetro buses were only conducting emergency transit through 3-1-1 requests. The group asked a FOX 7 Austin reporter to call for them. 

The first operator said they were not facilitating emergency transit. A second said "transport resources are limited. The City of Austin and their partners are doing their best but cannot guarantee rides."

To prevent hypothermia Noak suggests wearing layers, including a hat and gloves. If clothing gets wet, change immediately. If possible, minimize time outdoors. 

Noak said signs of hypothermia may include "Shivering first. Then maybe the person might become confused or altered, you know, fumbling of hands at times happen and then tiredness, sleepiness, confusion."

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