SPI Cameras offer another layer of safety

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Fire Chief Doug Fowler tied many of the public cameras on the Island into City Hall’s emergency operations center to get a good eye on Spring Break.

“It was my first Spring Break,” Fowler said. “In my experience when you have a large event, you normally have a command post.”

It was the first time the city had tried this.

Fowler is no rookie to leading a logistics and tactical command when it comes to big events.

He brings experience to the Island from Austin where he led the fire department through heavily attended events.

“When I came down here, I felt like there were so many things going on that we needed to have that situational awareness,” Fowler said. “That eye in the sky, so to speak.”

The second floor conference room was turned into the command center at Fowler’s recommendation. It was created for authorities to see, hear and communicate with officers on the ground during Spring Break.

“One of the ways we did that was by accessing the public cameras that are out there on the Island,” Fowler said. “They are strategically located in places where we have large populations.”

Island authorities still have not released any of the numbers associated with accidents, crimes or deaths that may have occurred on the Island over Spring Break.

The city officials are still compiling a list of arrests, emergency responses and other incidents on the Island.

City leaders plan to meet next month to discuss the numbers and what happened during Spring Break.

Fowler said there were six people in command of the Emergency Operations Center at any given time.

He said the EOC was able to access multiple cameras from the web throughout the Island and that was streamed into City Hall.

Fowler said the goal of the EOC was to provide support and situational awareness to the operations that were out on the Island.

At any time, Fowler and the EOC command team could focus on the crowds in front of La Copa Inn or Isla Grande hotel and scan the crowd if necessary.

“We could tell our different sections out there what was going on,” Fowler said. “And we could tell them what the numbers were on the beach or if there was trouble on the causeway.”

South Padre Island Mayor Pro-tem Dennis Stahl said, “We were able to monitor through many video cameras, and I was really proud and impressed with the team we had commanding the EOC.”

rgacia@valleystar.com