Level 1 Power Alert
Level 1 Power Alert

Energy Preparedness

A smart person once said, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.”

The Texas Energy Crisis of February 2021 caught very few people prepared to handle long-term power loss during severe cold weather. While we are all monitoring the progress of a solution to the Texas Energy Crisis, we should all have a backup plan that will allow living without power a little easier if this scenario were to occur again. We have provided an overview of information to help you get started on your power-loss preparedness. We recommend having backup plans for both winter and summer when energy demand is highest for Texas.

Summer Scenario

Battling heat with a power loss in the middle of summer presents a number of issues. While rolling blackouts will allow for energy use offandon throughout the day and night, a prolonged outage due to equipment or power grid failure will make staying cool and hydrated difficult.

Regardless of a person’s age, heat stroke can occur from excessive strain in the summer heat. Individuals, especially the elderly, will need to keep activity to a minimum if a power outage limits your typical methods of keeping cool. Shade and a cool breeze will be important, and being outside could actually be better than staying in an overheated, stuffy home. You’ll want plenty of water on-hand in advance to prevent dehydration.

Having a battery power supply with a small solar panel for recharging could run a fan and go a long way toward helping beat the heat. When you need a short break from the soaring temperatures, jump into your car and run the air conditioning for 5 to 10 minutes.

Check on your neighbors and pets to make sure they are doing okay. Work together to stay distracted from the heat with conversation, games, or hobbies.

Rolling Black Outs

Depending on the power demand, rolling black outs may occur for 20 minutes off / 40 minutes on or potentially 1 hour off / 2 hours on. It will all depend on the demands on the grid. To help minimize the rolling blackouts, keep your thermostat set higher than normal – 82˚ F during the day and 78˚ F at night. Higher settings mean your HVAC runs less, reducing demand on the grid.

Keep your cell phone charged when power is on, and tune your battery-powered radio to a weather station for updates when power is off.

You most likely do not need to leave your home unless you have medical condition or a medical device that requires electricity.

Extended Power Outage

This could be 1 or 2 days to a week or more. At this point a decision will be needed to determine whether you will stay where you are or leave. If there is prolonged, extreme heat without power, you will most likely want to stay with family or friends with power or find a hotel or shelter with power. Make sure your vehicle is full of gas before the extreme heat in case gas stations are without power.

If you do leave, secure your valuables, and let your neighbors know you will be gone. Provide them a phone number in case they need to contact you.

If you have frozen or perishable food in the refrigerator you may want to take it with you or throw it out so that you don’t return home to the smell of rotten, spoiled groceries.

Use the information and resources provided in this guide to build your power outage plan based on your own unique needs.

Down Power Grid

This is the worse-case scenario. The February 2021 storm brought Texas to the brink: the state was just minutes away from the grid going down. If that had occurred, in the best case it would take between 7 and 14 days to bring the power back on; the worst scenario would take a month or more to bring the grid back up. Unfortunately, bringing the grid back online is a slow process to ensure equipment does not become overloaded and break down. Prolonged, excessive summer heat and power demand could create the exact scenario the 2021 winter storm spawned.

The important thing to realize in this scenario is there will be no electricity for much of the state. That means no cell phones. No communications. You will need to have a battery-operated radio or a crank-chargeable radio to get information. Even that could be difficult as life will look more like the 1800’s.

At this point you will have to make a decision about sheltering in place or relocating to an area with power. In this case you will need to have enough gas to make it to your destination. Most vehicles have a gas tank that can hold enough fuel for 250 to 300 miles. For those who live within that distance of the Texas border, they will only need a full tank; those traveling further will need additional fuel on hand to take with them – remember, gas stations will not be operational in a period of total grid failure. Leaving sooner rather than later is advisable as roads may become clogged during a power outage exodus. If your vehicle is not reliable, breaking down in these temperatures could be more dangerous than sheltering in place.

At this point a grid down situation will become a humanitarian crisis and national emergency. Federal and state agencies will have to coordinate to bring in resources and to maintain order. It could take weeks for Texans deep in the state to see help.

Please use the information in this guide to develop your personal power outage plan based on your own unique needs.

Winter Scenario

The winter of 2021 showed Texans just how vulnerable we can be without power. Yes, it is rare for Texas to experience such temperatures, and while we will most likely not have another event like this for a while, now is the time to prepare in case it happens again.

While staying cool can be extremely difficult in summer outage, staying warm in a winter outage is more manageable. While it won’t be comfortable, it can be more easily achieved. Wearing layered clothing, using more blankets, and isolating to one room in a home can go a long way. If a fireplace or an alternative heating source is available things will become even more bearable.

The bigger problem is water, and many Texans realized it for this first in winter 2021. With cold weather coming, make sure there is extra water on-hand both to drink and for cooking, and drip faucets so water pipes do not freeze. Cover your outside faucets to prevent cold air entering the pipes. You will want to have bottled water or buckets of water in-case your pipes freeze.

Check on your neighbors and pets to make sure they are doing okay. Work together to stay distracted from the cold with conversation, games, or hobbies.

Before cold weather arrives be sure to go to the store and stock up on additional food and water. Focus on non-perishable items.

Rolling Blackouts

Depending on the power demand, rolling blackouts may occur for 20 minutes off / 40 minutes on or potentially 1 hour off / 2 hours on. It will all depend on the demands of the grid. To help minimize the rolling blackouts, keep your thermostat set lower than 62˚F during the day and 65˚F at night.

Keep your cell phone charged when power is on, and tune to an emergency weather station on a battery-powered radio for updates when power is off.

You most likely do not need to leave your home unless you have medical condition or a medical device that requires electricity.

Extended Power Outage

This could be 1 or 2 days to a week or more. At this point a decision will be needed to determine whether you will stay where you are or leave. If there is extreme cold like the February 2021 storm, you will most likely want to stay with family or friends with power or find a hotel or shelter with power. Make sure your vehicle is full of gas with a non-freeze additive added to it in case you have to leave.

Snow and/or ice on the ground can complicate issue if you do not have all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. You may need to seek help to relocate. Know who you can call.

If your pipes have not frozen maintain a steady drip even if you are leaving. Secure your valuables before you leave and let your neighbors know you will be gone. Provide them a phone number in case they need to get ahold of you.

If you have frozen food, you can place it outside if the temperature is below freezing. All other foods in your refrigerator will spoil. You will want to eat or throw them out so that you do not return to spoiled stores.

Down Power Grid

This is the worse-case scenario. The February 2021 storm brought Texas to the brink: the state was just minutes away from the grid going down. If that had occurred, in the best case it would take between 7 and 14 days to bring the power back on; the worst scenario would take a month or more to bring the grid back up. Unfortunately, bringing the grid back online is a slow process to ensure equipment does not become overloaded and break down.

The important thing to realize in this scenario is there will be no electricity for the majority of the state. That means no cell phones. No communications. You will need to have a battery-operated radio or a crank-chargeable radio to get information. Even that could be difficult as life will look more like the 1800’s.

At this point you will have to make a decision about sheltering in place or relocating to an area with power. In this case you will need to have enough gas to make it to your destination and a vehicle capable of driving in difficult conditions such as snow and/or ice. Most vehicles have a gas tank that can hold enough fuel for 250 to 300 miles. For those who live within that distance of the Texas border, they will only need a full tank; those traveling further will need additional fuel on hand to take with them – remember, gas stations will not be operational in a period of total grid failure. Leaving sooner rather than later is advisable as roads may become clogged during a power outage exodus. If your vehicle is not reliable, breaking down in these temperatures could be more dangerous than sheltering in place.

At this point a grid down situation will become a humanitarian crisis and national emergency. Federal and state agencies will have to coordinate to bring in resources and to maintain order. It could take weeks for Texans deep in the state to see help.

Please use the information in this guide to develop your personal power outage plan based on your own unique needs.

Water Supply

While most power outage scenarios will only last from a few hours to maybe a couple of days, there are times when the power can be out for longer periods of time. It’s when a larger power outage takes place – like a grid down scenario across the entire state of Texas – that you will need to have plenty of water. If the grid goes down it could be weeks to a month (or more) before power can be restored.

Having enough water for each person in the household will be a priority. Below, we outline the standard needs for water along with online resources to help you prepare. These are useful sources, but we recommend you look around and find what works best for your family.

Rules

The standard rule of thumb is to have 1.5 gallons of water per person for every day you expect to go without access to clean water. This amount of water should adequately meet the needs
for hydration, food preparation, and light hygiene practices. In winter you may use less water, but in summer you may need more due to the dehydrating effects of excessive heat.

1.5 gallons of water per person a day

7 Days

1 person = 10.5 gallon
2 people = 21 gallons
4 people = 42 gallons

14 Days

1 person = 21 gallon
2 people = 42 gallons
4 people = 84 gallons

30 Days

1 person = 45 gallon
2 people = 90 gallons
4 people = 180 gallons

Water Storage Solutions

There are many ways to store water. The most important thing is to ensure the water is stored in food-grade sanitized containers. This can include water cubes, 55-gallon barrels, and 200-plus gallon containers. Use a liquid oxygenation product to prevent algae buildup. Chlorine can be used, but do you really want to drink chlorine?

Water Bricks

These offer flexibility in stacking and placement and are easy to deal with when water is needed. They also work great for grains, and are good for apartment living where space is limited.

View Water Bricks

Water Bob

For those who have extremely limited space, the Water Bob can be a great emergency solution. As long as clean water is still being provided you, if you expect the water treatment system will lose power, you can fill this 100-gallon bladder in your bath tub. This is a one-time solution and you will need to replace it. We recommend you purchase two and keep one as a backup.

View Water Bobs

Water Containers

For those with space, a larger water storage container could be the right solution. Place it in the garage, outside, or in the ground depending on the type.

View Containers

Water Purification

Even if you have water stored, you may still need to boil it for use if it becomes contaminated. You can also run it through a ceramic filtration system like a Berkey or similar system. These systems can be used year-round to ensure all water coming into your home is clean and free of impurities.

Food Supply

While most power outage scenarios will only last from a few hours to maybe a couple of days, there are times when the power can be out for a week or more. It may be localized or it could affect a larger area or region. Most people will still have mobility to go across town for food or medications, or they’ll be able to drive out of area for power and supplies.

It’s when a larger power outage takes place – like a grid down scenario across the entire state of Texas – that you will need to have a fair amount of nonperishable food on-hand along with plenty of water. If the grid goes down it could be weeks to a month (or more) before power can be restored.

Having enough food for each person in the household will be a priority. Below, we outline the standard needs for longterm food storage along with online resources to help you prepare. These are useful sources, but we recommend you look around and find what works best for your family.

Guidelines

Having a supply of food that is nonperishable is a must for prolonged power outages. Food in the fridge or freezer will quickly go bad – how fast will depend on the length of the outage and the quality of the insulating properties of your appliance. If it is winter and below freezing, food can be placed outside. Summer is, of course, the worst scenario for perishable food.

Long-term storage food has been developed be stored for 25 years, making it a great investment. You may never use it but it’s nice to know you have it. You might purchase dried food or prepackaged food meals or a combination. Note that freeze dried food will need to be reconstituted with water, which you will need to account for in a daily water allowance.

Your disaster menu should include meals that provide for sufficient calories per meal and per day. Budget around 1600 to 1800 calories/day for women and around 1800 to 2000 calories/day for men. If strenuous activity is anticipated, the number of calories should be increased by about 200 calories.

The following are good products to start with, but you can find a variety of products and vendors online.

Freeze dried

thrivefreeze.com

Prepackaged meals

mypatriotsupply.com

Hygiene

In a long-term situation, hygiene can become a problem if water is shut off or has become contaminated. This is why it will be important to have stored water and, ideally, a method of obtaining water from a pool, pond, or rain. In an emergency an individual will require 1 to 1.5 gallons of water a day. This water is primarily for drinking but also for cooking, cleaning, and hygiene.

Bathing

Long showers or baths will be out of the question during a long-term grid situation. Sponge baths should be administered every couple of days or more frequently in situations where excessive sweating is occurring. Try and utilize water from pools, ponds, or rain catches so that you do not use your best water for bathing.

Hand Washing

There should be a designated station for washing hands. Having hand sanitizer can help limit water use. Always wash hands before food prep or eating and after going to the bathroom.

Clothes

Do not use drinking water to wash clothes. Wash clothes utilizing swimming pool, pond, or rainwater. If it is raining outside, place clothes outside for a natural rinse. If water is limited you can utilize the smoke from a fire burning pine needles to kill bacteria in the clothes. Hang clothes over the smoke for several minutes. The clothes may smell of smoke, but they won’t cause you illness or hygiene issues.

Teeth

Brushing teeth will be required to help prevent any oral health issues. Utilize a small amount of water from any meal to brush and rinse with.

Bathroom

If a long-term power outage occurs it can affect sewage and waste treatment. The system could back up, and you will want to prevent the backup from coming into your home. You will need to locate the clean out trap of the main line where the sewer comes in. Stuff rags into the clean out trap tightly but leave them sticking out so they can be pulled out when the time comes.

You will not be able to use your toilet if the sewer system is no longer pumping. You’ll need to have an alternative system for using the bathroom, like a camping Porta-potty. When disposing of waste, keep waste away from all water supplies and bury it if possible. Waste dumps and latrines should be located at least 100 feet away from any groundwater source and at least 30 yards from the edge of the living area.

Medical

During a long-term power outage maintaining your current heath needs and or seeking medical attention will be difficult. Having extra medications and medical supplies on hand will be necessary.

Medication

If you have life imperative medications, you should always attempt to have a three-month supply if possible. Many online pharmacies and insurance companies prefer you order in three-month increments. If you have medication that cannot be filled this way, attempt to get an extra refill before extreme weather arrives.

Medical Kit

Small scrapes and are not a big deal and can easily be treated using basic supplies. Some rubbing alcohol and a Band-aid may be all that is needed. For more serious injuries, even deep cuts, you will need more alcohol and several bandages to cover the wound. Many people underestimate how much they will need. Bear in mind, it’s recommended to change a bandage twice a day for 5 or 10 days, and that can eat up supplies fast.

In a major outage, if a serious injury were to occur medical attention might not be available and you could be the only person who may be able to help. Wounds may need stitches, or a broken leg may need to be set – having a medical emergency book on hand will be helpful. This can at least provide an opportunity to attempt to do something in a difficult situation.

Having a more robust kit that includes a surgery kit, sutures, clamps, and similar equipment might sound extreme, but they are not very expensive and there may be someone else who can use them.

Basic List of Supplies

  • Box of latex or sterile gloves
  • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
  • Cleansing agent or soap and antibiotic towelettes
  • Antibiotic ointment and burn ointment
  • Eye wash solution
  • Prescription medications taken every day such as insulin, heart medicine and asthma inhalers
  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
  • Petroleum jelly or other lubricant
  • Thermometer, scissors, and tweezers
  • Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose and blood pressure monitoring equipment and supplies
  • Stock nonprescription drugs such as aspirin or non-aspirin pain relievers, antidiarrheal medication, antacids, and laxatives

Communications

The ability to gather information during a long-term grid down situation will be imperative.

The following items are highly recommended:

  • Battery-powered or hand-crank radio
  • An NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Extra batteries and/or a smaller solar charger for batteries and battery packs.
  • Whistle to signal for help
  • CB Radio or equivalent
  • Long-range walkie talkie
  • Short Range Walkie Talkie
  • A cellphone with chargers, inverter or solar charger
  • Have designated times with family, friends, or neighbors to check in.

Power

Having the ability to create some sort of power, even if just enough to charge a few batteries can be a great advantage. Keeping radio, flashlights, and communication devices working is important.

Generators

Having a gas-powered generator that you run for a few minutes a day is a great tool to have if you have space to store it and gasoline to fuel it.

Having a natural gas-powered whole house generator is the next step up. These can run a small portion of your home, like having the refrigerator on, or the whole house with the HVAC running. Natural gas will most likely stay on for a longer period of time. Eventually, though, it too could be shut off for potential danger.

Review this source for generators:
generac.com

Solar

A smaller solar panel system or a system that powers your whole home could be a sound investment. However, a solar system that meets a whole homes needs can be over $30,000.

Small kits
goalzero.com/shop/solar-kits/

Batteries

Always have plenty of batteries on hand for any device you deem important. Invest in rechargeable batteries and battery packs and have a small solar device to charge them.

While expensive, you can invest in very large lithium packs that can run small appliances for short periods of time. These are expensive and usually start in the $3000 range.

Tools

It’s always a good idea to have some tools even when the power is on, and they are even more important when the power goes out. Here is a list of tools to start with. Add to it depending on your home and needs.

  • Knife or multi-tool
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Garbage bags and plastic ties
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Pry bar
  • Variety of screwdrivers
  • Hammer
  • Manual drill
  • Duct tape
  • Plastic Sheeting
  • Variety set of nails and screws
  • Axe
  • Bolt cutters
  • Various-sized adjustable wrenches
  • Shovel
  • 5-gallon buckets
  • Heavy duty rope and chains
  • Paracord
  • Zipties

Evacuation

In the event you decide to leave your home it will be essential to have a ‘Go Bag’ already prepped with any essentials you will need. Evacuation may be orderly to a FEMA camp or it may be quick and unexpected. Regardless, there are a few items you will want to be sure you have.

  • Food and water
  • Documentation and Identification
  • Money
  • Clothing appropriate for time of year
  • Medical supplies
  • Medications
  • Shelter (tarp, poncho, plastic)
  • Fire starting kit
  • Compass
  • Several types of knives
  • Communication devices

More can be added but only if you can handle the load. You will most likely be leaving by foot.