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Here’s how Texans can stay prepared for winter storms and other disasters

 Jacqueline Fabian (left), an Instacart shopper for Costco, makes a water and grocery delivery to Kristin Rash (right) during Winter Storm Uri on Feb. 18, 2021.
Julia Reihs
Jacqueline Fabian (left), an Instacart shopper for Costco, makes a water and grocery delivery to Kristin Rash (right) during Winter Storm Uri on Feb. 18, 2021.

With 2021’s Winter Storm Uri still fresh in folks' memory, lessons from that disaster can help guide planning for the next.

As the Lone Star State enters the colder months of winter, undoubtedly many recall the still-fresh memories of 2021’s Winter Storm Uri.

Hundreds lost their lives due to the blackouts and freezing temperatures that the storm brought to Texas, and in the months since many Texans have looked into the various ways they can prepare for similar disasters.

Dr. Monty Dozier, director of the Disaster Assessment and Recovery Program at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, joined the Texas Standard to share some tips on how you can stay prepared this winter.

If the lights go out

Several Texans died due to carbon monoxide poisoning while trying to keep warm during Winter Storm Uri. There are several options that can be turned to as sources of warmth should the lights go out.

Generators are one option for those able to keep one at their residence, but Dozier stresses keeping them outside if running.

“Make sure that that generator stays outside, that you run an extension cord from outside into the house if you’re trying to power up an electric heater or those kinds of things,” Dozier said.

For those using propane, Dozier recommends keeping the tank filled before entering the colder months of the year. And for those with access to a fireplace, stock up on firewood – never use briquettes or anything used for barbecuing inside the house, Dozier said.

For those who are unable to keep a generator, Dozier says candles and flashlights should be kept handy. Make sure there are sufficient batteries for the flashlights and portable lights. Also, extra battery packs for one’s cellphone can help keep one connected to information and updates.

One thing that’s good to invest in is a solar type of a battery pack that will charge with the light of the sun because you may be out of power or your batteries may continue to run down before you’ll have the chance to plug them back into an electrical source,” Dozier said.

Finally, make sure your carbon monoxide and smoke detector batteries are well-charged. Additionally, Dozier says to make sure the battery backup system works on the detectors if they’re connected to an electrical system.

Food and water

Ample supplies of food and water are important in disaster events where services are disrupted. Dozier recommends keeping at least three days’ worth of water for everyone in the household, including pets.

“So we kind of tell people to have a gallon of water for each individual per day,” Dozier said. “So if you’ve got 12 gallons of water, that would be good for four people over that three-day period.”

Additionally, Dozier suggests filling up your bathtub if a large storm is known to be on the way – giving you a source of water for flushing toilets.

For food, Dozier says to keep a store of canned and other non-perishable food, but to make sure you have a handheld can opener.

“If we’re out of power, your electric can opener is not going to be any good for you,” Dozier said.

Staying mentally prepared

Lingering trauma from Winter Storm Uri may still afflict Texans in the form of anxieties toward the weather and electrical grid.

Dozier says ensuring one has a plan is one way to potentially curb those anxieties. He suggests sitting down with your family to discuss the storm, or another disaster, and think about how your family has coped with it and what lessons can be learned from it.

Take notes about that and then discuss it with other individuals about how you made it through that process and rely on one another to talk through different aspects of an event,” Dozier said. “And then after the event, you know, it’s always great to have someone that you can talk to about what you just came through.”

For additional resources, including guides for building disaster supply kits, visit the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension site.

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Raul Alonzo