Weathering the storm: Police, fire personnel endured elements to serve city
When many residents were left stranded, cold and in the dark during Winter Storm Uri, City of Temple Police and Fire personnel braved the winter weather to bring some much-needed relief.
“It was quite remarkable to see Temple residents and the broader community step up and help,” Temple Police Chief Shawn Reynolds said. “I think what we saw this past couple of weeks is really what makes Texas special and what makes Temple a place we love to call home.”
Early in the storm event, City of Temple officials set up an Emergency Operations Center to identify needs and coordinate response. The city began working with local organizations to open warming shelters for residents without power, but getting to the shelter soon became an issue for most.
In true community fashion, police and fire personnel picked up residents and safely transported them to warming shelters, medical appointments and pharmacies using their public safety vehicles.
Temple Police Lt. Tim Simeroth said many of the individuals he encountered were facing life-threatening situations.
“There are so many people we helped who were elderly and who probably would not have survived otherwise. They appreciated everything we did,” Simeroth said.
The City established an emergency call center to help arrange transportation and connect residents with resources. TPD officers, civilian employees and volunteers worked around the clock taking calls, many of whom slept at the police station.
“Many of our employees ended up just camping out at the police station during these endeavors. I think that really gets back to the heart and soul of what a police department is supposed to do, and those folks did incredibly well,” Reynolds said. “It just tells you about their desire to serve and protect the public.”
Temple Fire & Rescue assisted with transportation efforts and helped coordinate water and food distribution throughout the city.
“In addition to our normal duties, we were helping the water department with shutoffs, we were taking citizens to work and doctors’ appointments and distributing water and helping out with any job that needed to be completed,” Temple Fire & Rescue Chief Mitch Randles said. “It was a total city effort.”
Randles said his staff not only braved the weather but also worked long hours while responding to a dramatic increase in calls.
“We were averaging about 150 calls per day (during the winter storm) where we normally average 35-40,” Randles said. “They went nonstop, 24 hours per day in some of the worst conditions Texas has seen in decades.”
Public Safety personnel worked closely with other city departments to identify and respond to needs, and Reynolds said residents were grateful for their efforts.