In our geographic area, we thankfully don’t worry about emergency preparedness for earthquakes, direct hits from hurricanes or blizzards. The last time this area had an accumulation of snow for 24 hours was 1985. Tornadoes are rare. Our biggest threats are wildfires, lightning storms, and occasional flash flooding that subsides within a day.
So if you live outside of Texas, this might help you understand why most residents were completely unprepared to go nearly all week without power and longer without drinkable water when a winter storm hit us on the night of Sunday, February 14, 2021, bringing freezing precipitation and temperatures for six days.
Two weeks ago, I shared lessons learned about emergency preparedness for water, food, power for heat and cooking, and fuel.
This week, I’ll share additional emergency preparedness lessons learned, some of which are quite important, while others are seemingly minor but should still be considered.
Amount of Supplies
In the past, I’ve stated in blogs and videos that 2-3 days of supplies would be enough because utilities would surely be back on by then in any kind of emergency. That’s also the number of days recommended in many emergency preparedness guides. Apparently, my expectations were grossly underestimated when it came to the Texas power grid. From here on out, we’ll have supplies for 7 to 10 days because it wasn’t just the immediate power outage that affected us; our entire grocery supply chain was affected.
Due to power outages, most grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations were closed. The ones that were actually open had their shelves wiped clean. Any open restaurant or gas station had a line several blocks long with people waiting in freezing temperatures for over an hour just to get a bit of something. There were zero delivery services from any of them, so if you’re planning on relying on food delivery instead of storing supplies, you might want to re-think that. By the way, on Day 2 of Snowmageddon I checked with Amazon to see whether anyone in our area could get canned food delivered. The soonest available delivery via Prime for non-price gouged items was five days.
Kids and Senior Citizens
Formula, diapers and wipes became a valuable and missing commodity. If anyone in your household relies on these supplies, be sure to either never let your supply deplete or include these on your emergency preparedness shopping list.
Even though our fur babies are important to us, sometimes we forget to include their needs in our emergency preparedness planning. During COVID, we started ensuring that we had at least a month of their food and medicine in stock so if we wound up getting quarantined, we wouldn’t have to worry about tracking down these items and getting them delivered. Our updated water inventory formula increases the amount of their “ration” so we don’t have to worry about precise measurements during an emergency.
We have no cell service in our area, so we rely on a landline and internet. Once our battery back-ups ran out after 30 minutes, we had no contact with the outside world. Each afternoon, after the ice on the roads melted enough, I charged my phone as I drove 13 miles to a solid cell spot. Armed with our list of who needed to be contacted and my password manager, I spent up to 30 minutes completing this in a cold vehicle (I didn’t want to idle the car since there wasn’t gas available), then heading back home. A sample communication list might be: report electrical outage, report water outage, get latest weather update, check water quality update, email status update to family members, check in with inner circle via GroupMe app, check neighborhood news in private Facebook group, get in the front of the line for rescheduling doctor appointments. Have a back up plan for communication in case your primary platforms disappear.
A few stores were open, but they didn’t have working credit card machines. Cash was king. Have some extra cash on hand.
I love hiking and spending time outdoors, but there’s a reason why I don’t go camping: no running water! This girl likes a warm shower every single night. So when we lost our water and its heating source, I was more upset about that than having to live on baked beans and Chef Boyardee. We relied on baby wipes. We originally kept these in our stash as a back-up for washing hands. We’ve increased the amount to have on hand in case they’re the only way to bathe for multiple days.
Power for Light
We’re all electric, so once the electricity goes out, we’ve got nothing. We have flashlights and candles for light. On Day 4, we thought about charging our solar Christmas lights to use inside at night, but the power came back on that evening. In addition to always having extra batteries in storage, we’ve moved a few sets of solar lights to the garage instead of stashing them in the attic with Christmas decorations, so we have easy access to solar lighting.
Since we knew we were going to have Monday off as a snow day, I blew off doing laundry on Saturday. I figured I could do it Monday while we’re home. Oops. My husband had to borrow socks from me, and he had a limited supply of sweats since the rest were in the dirty clothes. The next time bad weather is in the forecast, I’ll be doing laundry beforehand.
If there’s no power, why would electronics be a concern? If you’re on 24/7 medical equipment that requires electricity, you’ll want to have a back up in place. Would a generator be the right solution for you? If you’re working from home and the power goes out unexpectedly, you wouldn’t want to lose everything on your computer, so having a battery backup will give you an extra 15 to 30 minutes to save what you’re working on. A problem that many of our neighbors encountered was fried appliances and electronic equipment from all of the power on-and-offs. We were saved from that because we have a whole-house surge protector, surge protectors on our HVAC units, and every power strip in our house is surge protected. If you value your electronics, you might look into this type of equipment.
If you missed my first post about personal lessons learned about emergency preparedness (including our updated planning lists), you can view that here: