Much like all of you, I woke up this morning to a blustering and bitterly cold morning. I do not believe that Houston, TX has seen a 22 degree day for decades. We are simply not prepared for days such as this. As I began preparing breakfast for my kids, the electricity went off (I suppose the electric company was not prepared either). The children are running around frantic because there are no lights. I’m laughing and thinking how the children are not prepared mentally for any sort of emergency because the slightest change in their routine sends them into a frantic scramble. Even though we have worked on emergency drills, I think to myself, we will have to work on it more.
In the dark, I am scrambling for any sort of warm clothing – I have nothing, not even sweat pants to throw on. So, I throw on my 3/4 length hiking pants and run out the door. As I walk out the door, the cold hits my bones instantaneously. While driving the kids to school, I noticed people dressed in balaclavas and scarves around their faces. Mothers have their young children swaddled in warm blankets and are darting their children into the day cares as fast as their cold legs can carry them.
Now, the entire state of Texas is dealing with rolling blackouts to compensate for generator shortages. And, I have to ask myself, “Was my family prepared at all for this?” We have plenty of food, water, a rocket stove, blankets, but we did not plan adequately for winter emergencies, nor did we use the proper layering technique for clothing. I, myself do not even own winter wear, a good winter coat, or gloves. Of course, by this time next month, I will own all of those items. Hind sight may be 20/20, but at least I can make some necessary changes.
Today has been a huge learning experience for me. I admit that I was not prepared for this storm to hit. Thankfully, I have learned from this and can prepare for future winter storms accordingly. As much as we pride ourselves on preparedness, if this emergency were the real thing, my family would have been caught off guard. We would have been alright, but we were not as prepared as we should have been. By using this as a learning experience, I will be able to further prepare for unforeseen events, as well as increase my family’s tolerance for stress and frustration. Here are some ways to further prepare for winter storms.
Winter Emergency Preparation Guidelines
- Have an emergency plan in place with emergency contacts on alert in the case that a person needs to evacuate their home.
- Have some winter disaster supplies in the home such as: candles, matches/lighters, a battery operated radio, emergency food supplies, water, extra blankets, toilet paper, prescription medicines, over the counter medicines, a non electric can opener, infant/baby needs if a child is in the home.
- Use the layering principle when dressing yourself and children. It would be a good idea to have clothing including winter outer wear ready the night before.
- Be prepared for the power to go out. Have an alternative power and heating sources to go along with the extra blankets. Having an emergency generator with extra gasoline could be a life saver in this situation.
- If you will be going outside, make sure there are no gaps in clothing. This can lower your body temperature rapidly, thus making you susceptible to hypothermia.
- Avoid traveling in freezing conditions.
- Always have a 72 hour bag in the vehicle with lots of warm insulated clothing in the case that a person is stranded in their car during a blizzard. Additionally, having an extra supply of gasoline in the car would also be a good idea.
- If a person is stranded in the car, do not leave the engine running to keep warm. Snow can block the exhaust pipe and fill with the car with fumes, thus causing carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep one window open just a bit to avoid this. Run the car in short bursts to avoid running out of gas. Turn the engine on long enough to keep the car warm and then turn it off.
- Stock up on shovels and snow removal equipment prior to the storm.
- Stay inside and stay warm! The winds from this type of storm are going to be extremely dangerous. Snow drift can be a problem after a storm of this magnitude. Additionally, frostbite will be a major concern so a good rule of thumb is to keep everyone inside and warm until the threat is over.
Best of luck to those that are going through these torrential storm systems. Stay warm and stay prepared!