As temperatures start to fall, we’re all reminded that winter weather is right around the corner. While we hope we never repeat the extreme cold and ice event of February, Central Texas Electric Cooperative strongly encourages our members to begin preparing for dangerous winter weather. Many weather sources have predicted another unusually cold winter, and being prepared and informed is the best way to stay safe. While CTEC can offer basic tips and advice, our members may have different needs based on their individual situations. Make a plan that will work for you and your family. By starting early, you can avoid the rush as well as the supply shortages that often occur just prior to the onset of a weather event.
Get the Basics
We encourage you to think back to the freezing weeks of February and make a list of what you needed most, whether you had power or not. While we understand that lack of electricity is an incredible obstacle in the face of winter weather, having power doesn’t help if you need food, water or medication and are unable to drive on icy or closed roads. Stock up on those supplies before dangerous weather arrives. There is a list of suggested items at the end of this article with space to add items for your specific household.
Have an Exit Plan
While it’s a good idea for everyone to have a list of safe places to go and a way to get there in the event of an extended winter outage, this planning is especially important for those with disabilities or who rely on life-support devices requiring electricity, such as respirators or ventilators. While CTEC encourages members with medical needs to make sure the co-op is aware of their situation, there is no guarantee that members with medical needs will have their power restored immediately, especially during emergency outage events. Those who rely on medical equipment need to be extra prepared. Their emergency preparedness kit should include additional oxygen tanks, equipment batteries or other backup equipment, and if possible, a backup generator as an alternate power source.
Ensure a Heat Source
As outdoor temperatures plummet, it doesn’t take long for the temperature inside your home to do the same if you lose power. While a fireplace can help cut the chill, a wood stove is an excellent way to heat your home in a power emergency. Make sure you have wood that’s ready to burn and stored in a dry, covered area if you plan to rely on either of these options. It’s also a good idea to have chimneys inspected and cleaned periodically so they’re safe to use. An alcohol or propane heater that is rated for indoor use can
help in a heating emergency. Make sure you are well stocked with fuel if using those types of heaters. Some kerosene heaters are available for indoor use but need to be cross-ventilated and aren’t as safe. Whatever backup heat source you go with, consider creating smaller, easier to heat areas by closing off unused rooms or areas of the house.
Make sure you have plenty of warm layers to wear and keep extra blankets and sleeping bags handy.
Ensure a Water Source
Ensuring a supply of clean drinking water for yourself and any pets or livestock is extremely important. By filling plastic containers with water and placing them in the freezer, you can use them to help keep food cold during a power outage as it thaws out to drink. You can also fill bathtubs or larger containers or tubs before bad weather to have on hand for nondrinking purposes. For livestock water troughs, consider placing floating objects in the water to keep the troughs from completely icing over and to make removing built-up ice easier. Jugs filled with saltwater and enough air to float can function as an automatic waterer since the water around the jug will not freeze. For livestock tanks, keep equipment and tools available to drill holes to allow for watering.
Again, thinking back to the icy cold weeks of last February, what damage from freezing temperatures could have been prevented? What tasks would have been easy to get done on those fairweather days that would have made a difference when the temperature dropped? Make sure all vehicles, not just automobiles, are winterized before the cold weather hits. To help prevent burst pipes, close any shut-off valves that lead to outside faucets and drain any excess water from the lines. Also drain lines in unheated areas
of your home, such as the attic. Update the weatherstripping in your home if needed and seal any cracks around windows and doors to prevent more cold air from coming inside. Also, make sure your gas tank is full before a storm hits.
Get a Generator, if You Can
If possible, have a backup generator in case power does fail. This isn’t a purchase that can fit into every budget, but it can be extremely helpful in the rare event of extended outages. If you do use a generator, be sure to operate it safely and notify CTEC that you are using one. Members with standby electric generators should make sure they are properly installed by a licensed electrician in a well-ventilated area. Never run a generator indoors; doing so can lead to a dangerous and deadly buildup of carbon monoxide. Improperly installed generators pose a significant danger to members as well as crews working on power lines.
Outage Emergency Supply List
- Nonperishable food and pet food
- Battery-operated radio
- Flashlights and lanterns (a safer option than candles)
- Batteries of different sizes
- First-aid kit
- Landline phone that is corded
- Cellphone charger
- Power bank or power station
- Pocket heaters or hand warmers
- Lighters or matches
- Games and books
Before a Power Outage
To prepare for a power outage, you should do the following.
- Update or build an emergency kit that includes key items such as nonperishable food, water, a battery-operated radio, flashlight, batteries, first-aid kit, cash, and a landline phone or fully charged cellphone.
- Follow energy conservation measures to keep electricity use as low as possible, which can help CTEC avoid imposing rolling outages.
- Fill plastic containers with water and place them in the freezer if there’s room. The frozen water will help keep food cold during a temporary power outage.
- Keep your vehicle’s gas tank at least half full. Gas stations reliant on electricity to power their pumps might be out of service.
- If you have an electric garage door, find the manual release lever and know how to operate it.
- Fill a bathtub for a supply of nondrinking water.
During a Power Outage
- Use flashlights for emergency lighting. If you must use candles, keep them away from items that can easily catch fire such as drapes and lampshades. Keep them out of the reach of small children and do not leave candles unattended.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed to keep your food as fresh as possible. Carefully check your food for signs of spoilage before eating.
- Turn off or disconnect appliances, equipment such as air conditioners, and electronics that were in use when the power went out.
- Never run a generator inside a home or garage.
- Do not connect a generator to a home’s electrical system. If you use a generator, connect the equipment you want to the outlets on the generator.
- If you have a phone system that requires electricity to work, such as a cordless phone, plan to have a landline phone or cellphone ready as a backup. It’s also a good practice to keep a charging bank in full power to charge cellphones or other devices if needed.
- Put on layers of warm clothing if it’s cold outside. Never burn charcoal indoors for heating or cooking. Never use a gas oven as a source of heat. If the power is out for a prolonged period, plan to go to another location (a relative’s or friend’s home or a public facility) that has heat.
- Provide plenty of fresh cool water for your pets.
- Eliminate unnecessary travel, especially by car.