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4 Principles of Preparation from the Texas Freeze

Disaster Education & Preparation
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The week-long freeze from just over one month ago here in Houston was a wake-up call for millions. But, the wake-up call wasn’t limited to those living in Houston, it affected millions of Texans throughout the state!

My family experienced only minor inconveniences such as a few hours without electricity over three days. Many of our family, friends, and neighbors did not fare as well. They experienced burst water pipes, electrical failure, house damage, and vehicle loss.

This family lost their home and had no emergency food storage or important papers archive.

Now that we’ve had a few weeks to reflect on that experience, here are four principle takeaways that stand out to us from it. Granted, this short article is biased. It is written from the perspective of a family who was fortunate enough to have been prepared to handle the challenges that presented during this week.

1. Be prepared.

Sounds too simple, right? It is. The principle behind this short phrase is “take action ahead of an event”. Although no one can ever fully be prepared for every single possible scenario (even if you have a bunker full of band-aids, beans, and bullets), the idea is to act, to respond, to be proactive ahead of the risk. There is a distinct difference between being proactive and reactive.

A busted pipe from an uninsulated water main in an attic caused this damage.

The week before the freeze, weather stations advised of cooling temperatures and of an expected drop in degrees the following week. We felt the sharp drop in temperatures, so we bled out our sprinkler system and made sure that specific water pipes in our home were insulated and prepped against the coming cold.

In addition to preparing our structure for the cold, we made sure our vehicles, food storage, preparedness supplies, and living spaces were all squared away.

We reviewed and tested our generator and fuel storage, related equipment and supplies, double-checked our deep freezer and fridge, tested backup cooking options, tested our backup lighting and their power sources, and adjusted our thermostat and prepped our HVAC system.

We have hundreds of these long-burning mini tealight candles. We highly recommend them!

As far as food and water supplies, we reviewed our stored drinking/cooking water and spot-checked our Berkey systems. We added some items to our pantry and also put together spare food and water for my in-laws and a potential neighbor-in-need.

We made sure we had enough toiletries and water on-hand to keep the toilets working even if we lost water for the week. We also made sure we had enough water for hygiene needs.

I made sure our phones had backup batteries and charging options in the event that we needed them. We did lose all phone communications and internet for several days due to infrastructure failure locally. We had to travel to make phone calls, but it was nice to be without electronics during that time.

This little generator was all we needed to power our smart fridge, LED light fixtures, and sensitive electronics as we needed them.

Because we routinely update our preps, we did not have to go out and make bulk or panic-purchases like many do whenever a natural disaster is looming. This run on consumables empties out shelves and stores within minutes. It’s always easier to restock after things go back to normal.

We are grateful to have been prepared for this freeze. It was a memorable experience that we cherish.

2. Keep On Top of Your Preps.

As I mentioned before, we keep on top of our equipment, gear, and preps. Routinely cycling through and replenishing lends itself to becoming familiar with the products and tools we use in time of need.

Some people have sophisticated and lengthy checklists that they run through monthly or even quarterly. That’s not us. We simply review counts and levels as we use consumables. For resources such as the generator and fuel, we use them routinely and keep on top of maintenance.

To us, staying on top of our preps is less about having a million gadgets and gizmos and more about maintaining basic needs and comforts. It is not uncommon for us to gift or share our resources with our family and friends as they need or are learning about something new. When we give away or sell something, we replace it if we need it.

3. Address Your Vulnerabilities

My family and I were saddened to watch family and friends experience severe water and property damage as they did not heed calls to review the weatherproofing of their homes and vehicles. As a result, many had extensive damage to their properties and structures. Some lost vehicles because they were not maintained properly ahead of the weather.

An empty Costco. My wife and I had the entire store to ourselves.

For example, after reinsulating our main water line, outdoor spigots, and several outer-wall facing pipes, I called my in-laws to ask if they had insulated their pipes. They said they had but later discovered that they had not. They were not alone. Two of my wife’s cousins failed to protect their outdoor water softener and treatment systems. The results were last-minute plumber calls and long waiting lists for service. At least two of my plumber friends turned off their phones and still had no shortage of work for the weeks following.

The empty milk and refrigerated drinks aisle in a local Walmart.

Addressing your vulnerabilities requires becoming familiar with holes in your preparedness planning. What are some areas that leave you at risk for safety and comfort? Where are you vulnerable? Do you have cash on-hand in the event that local banks and ATMs are inaccessible due to electrical outages or loss of physical access? Are there specific medical needs that you or a loved one has that have not been accounted for in your preps?

Reducing risk allows you to focus on emergent needs rather than spending energy on basic things that could have easily been prevented, such as ensuring clean clothing is available, or clean diaper solutions are available if you have a baby in the home.

4. Compassion in Community: Find Ways to Help Others

Our experience would have been dramatically different had we experienced some of the misfortunes that our loved ones, friends, and neighbors experienced. We are grateful that our inconveniences were nothing significant. Our fireplace never lost natural gas for the duration of the week, although our HVAC heating system stopped working with the loss of electricity. We never lost warmth in our home. We had extra blankets and plenty of warm clothing.

Because of our situation, we were fortunate enough to be able to share some our provisions with others. In another instance, we were able to pick-up donations for a family who lost their home and then deliver those items to them in their temporary home. For another family, we were able to purchase groceries and then deliver them late into the night across town. Unbeknownst to us, they had been unable to purchase food for the last three days and were virtually starving. They were extremely grateful for the groceries. We were grateful for the opportunity to be of help in some way.

We don’t share this to brag or draw attention to ourselves. We only share this because it was a powerful lesson to us. If we had not prepared, or if we had experienced a misfortune despite having prepared, we would not have been able to help those we care about in their time of need. That was humbling and deeply moving for our family. It instilled a deeper level of gratitude for our comforts and also reinforced our desire to be practical and mindful in moments of abundance.

One day, our neighbor knocked on our door to offer access to a generator his friend had lent him. His own generator had malfunctioned for some unknown reason, but his best friend brought a spare one to his home and now he was offering us the opportunity of connecting our refrigerator to that generator. I thanked him and let him know that our generator was working in the backyard and that we appreciated his gesture and would let him know if we needed anything. We also offered our help if he needed anything at any time.

Simply having preps do not prevent misfortune. They do, however, provide a peace of mind that makes a world of difference to responsiveness in an event.