The recent polar vortex that crippled Texas in recent days is the prefect example of why we need to prepare. Humans, Americans in particular, are reactive and seldom proactive. We also have short memories and generally do not learn from the trials life throws at us. After a crisis we quickly fall back into our normalcy biases.
The news was filled with images and articles about the severe weather and they were terrible for those suffering through them. From frozen roads that lead to numerous traffic accidents, some major with numerous fatalities, to burst pipes that flooded homes, apartments and led to boil water notices and massive power outages. The storm was a perfect example of just how fragile our modern society is. A week without power brought the largest state in the lower forty-eight to its knees, quick.
Power is the life’s blood of the modern world and it’s our overdependence on it that makes us so vulnerable to even the slightest interruption to the grid. With this fresh in our minds, now is the time for everyone to consider how they would deal with such a situation. If you lived through this event, you already know where your vulnerabilities lie, do something about it.
What happened in Texas was literally a perfect storm. The push to “green energy” was a major contributing factor. The Texas grid was stressed and when the wind turbines froze up and the solar farms were covered in snow the grid lost that capacity. It led to conventional power generation trying to pick up the load and there simply wasn’t enough. The lights started a series of cascading power failures that left millions in the dark and cold.
Things were compounded when natural gas pumping stations started to fail due to the severe power outages. The nightmare continued when trucks were unable to navigate the frozen highways. Fuel deliveries, food and everything that travels on a truck, which is everything, simply stopped being delivered. This left millions of Texans without resources and no hope of real help. This is where preparedness comes in.
Individual responsibility is a dauting thing. However, the sooner you realize that the only person you can really depend on when the chips are down is yourself, the sooner you will be able to take active measures to ensure your family doesn’t suffer during such an event. It can be overwhelming at first when you start down the road of preparedness. Just remember that every step you take puts you that much further ahead, that much more capable of getting through a disaster.
There are two kinds of cold weather to account for when we consider cold weather survival. There’s cold weather and there’s wet cold. These two are very distinct from one another and both require specific approaches to deal with. Wet cold is by far the most dangerous of the two conditions to be caught in. Hypothermia is a killer and when we’re wet, we lose body heat twenty-five times faster than if we were dry.
Keeping the current situation in mind, survival doesn’t always take place in the wilderness. We can find ourselves in a survival situation in our own homes. Modern homes are not designed to function without power. Electric or gas heat are the two primary ways homes are heated today. When these utilities fail, the situation can become dangerous. Getting and keeping a secondary heat source is critical. Wood stoves and fireplaces are common in many homes as aesthetically pleasing accents to our home. In such a crisis they can become life savers.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a source of wood heat you will need to maintain a sufficient supply of wood. Even if you only use it a couple of times a year it is critical to maintain a wood supply for emergencies. If you do not have wood heat in your home, there are other options. There are kerosene and propane heaters that can be used as well. With all these it is important to keep the potential of carbon monoxide poisoning in mind. Your home must be properly vented to allow air in and the poisonous gas out. Adding a detector for this odorless gas is highly recommended.
If these are not an option or you’re nervous about storing such fuels in your home, there are other options. If you’re home is cold, or even freezing, it’s important to remember exactly what you’re trying to do. The goal is to maintain core body temperature for the occupants. Hang blankets over windows and doorways to create a warming space. If you have one of the heaters listed above choosing one room and keeping it heated will stretch your fuel. By having everyone in one room the body heat from those gathered there will also raise the temperature.
The important thing is warm the people, not the home. Beat in mind that our clothing is our first line of shelter and not just for looks. Having proper clothing adequate for the temps will assist in keeping that core temp up. You can also use electric blankets. If the power is out, this is obviously a problem. There are several 12 VDC products on the market that can be run off a battery. If you have a battery pack power supply, you can easily run one of these. With panels you can keep it charged. If you do not have one of these a simply deep cycle battery will run such a blanket for an extended time. Adding an inverter to the battery will allow you to run an AC blanket as well.
On the subject of blankets, get more. Remember, the goal is to warm the individual. Wool is the best choice and modern wool isn’t your grandmother’s old scratchy blankets. In the modern world we take such an item for granted and would even scoff at the idea. However, if you travel to less developed places you will see what is really valued. Wool blankets, metal containers and other mundane items are what maintain life. Add more blankets to your stock.
One of these power supplies will also allow you to keep your phones charged and run lights. To charge your battery or your power supply you can always use your car. If all you have is a battery, attach it to the car with jumper cables and let the car run to charge it. The power units will charge through 12 volt as well and the car will easily charge these as well. Just remember to keep the car in the driveway, do not run it in the garage. For security, place the battery or power supply in the car, routing the jumper cables through the door if necessary. Or leave the battery in the garage and close the door.
When there is no power, a little goes a long way. A little planning now will provide warmth, light and power for electronics. Get creative, remember you have a car that is essentially a 12 VDC generator. Having USB power packs will also help. There are a number of USB lights on the market that will run for many hours on such a pack. One placed in each room will provide plenty of light to navigate the house. Not to mention they will also keep your electronics charged and can easily be recharged in your car.
Preparing food can be a challenge when the power is out as well. Picking up a camp stove or propane cook stove can be a real life saver. There are many models on the market, and I would avoid the small backpacking units as they are more difficult to use and not as stable as some of the tabletop versions. A stove with two burners will make life much easier. Hot food or drinks in cold weather is a must. If you’re eating cold food and drinking cold beverages you will be speeding up the process of lowering your core temp. So, it’s important to have a way to cook.
Having a way to cook is great, just make sure you also have food on hand to prepare. While people in Texas were trapped in their homes and logically, we would think they had food, most people in the US have less than three days’ worth of food in their pantry. Start adding a little extra to your shopping trips. Pick a spot in the pantry for your food stores and start adding to it. Be sure to purchase foods you already eat. This will allow you to rotate them into your normal diet, just be sure to replace anything you use from your storage shelf. Comfort foods and snacks the family enjoy are also important. During a crisis were stressed. Having something familiar and enjoyable will aid in lessening that stress.
A little forward thinking and planning now can make your life much more comfortable in a crisis. Take the time now to make a plan and pick up the items you’re lacking. Discuss the plan with your family and encourage them to make suggestions. Keep the kids involved as well as it will help reduce their stress when they know there is a plan, and the family is prepared. Disasters happen, we cannot prevent that. All we control is how we respond to them. Be prepared to respond.