Our good friends were living in Del Rio Texas during recent winter storms (February 2021). Widespread power outages compromised their way of living. Fortunately, they fared alright and came away with practical lessons for better home-based emergency preparation. This is their account.*
These are some valuable lessons we learned from our experience—things we were glad we had prepared for, and things we wish we had:
Literally everything in our house is electric. No gas. So, for us we couldn’t cook or have hot water (before water left, too). Most of our fridge food spoiled, just because we had no way of cooking the frozen stuff, and eating cold leftovers sounded not good at all. A lot of the veggies I had needed to be cooked as well. We had a very small backpacking stove that runs on gas, we were glad to have that! It was reeeeeeeally old though, almost two decades! We had to break it to get it to work, so we only had 100% power, which boiled our water in under 2 mins haha! Not good for cooking, but we made oatmeal a few times and had lots of hot chocolate.
Things would have been had we gone without power and water in the summer months, something that we’ve been carefully considering.
- Have a way to cook food. A grill (propane, charcoal or both), or even a fire pit would be better than what we had. Also, a cheap cast iron pan that you don’t mind putting in the fire.
- We had lots of shelf stable food (including canned and powdered milk) which we used because we didn’t have a way to cook. Military MRE’s were nice too! They come with heater packs that warm up the meal. It was fun for the kids too, so many things to open and try.
- Our dishes piled up the day before the power went out. This sounds like a silly one, but I’ve been more motivated now to just do the dishes when they need to be done. It was rough going into the emergency with no clean dishes.
- Have a washboard and a few buckets to wash clothes. Unfortunately we went into the emergency with piles of dirty clothes too. If we had been without power much longer we would have needed a way to wash clothes using little water as possible. You can buy fancy foot pumped washing machines too! They look cool, I want one haha. And then of course some rope or something to hang the clothes to dry.
- More candles! We only had one candle, wish we had lots more. They give off heat, and while LED flashlights are brighter, candles were more comforting.
- For charging phones, we were lucky. Half of Del Rio had power the whole time. So, we were able to go warm up and charge our phones. Had we not been able to do that, we could charge in the car or use our battery banks (having solar powered stuff was nice). Be smart when charging phones or warming up in the car. There were some sad stories of families dying because of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- For staying warm we did pretty well covering the windows and taping our doors, bundling up in our Utah winter stash, and piling on the blankets.
This was an interesting development that we were not anticipating, but it made sense that if there was no power the water treatment would be halted as well. People were using stored water to flush their toilets, but because it wasn’t being treated and moving through, the waste water ended up over flowing into the creek and everywhere else. (It took 2 days of not being able to use our water unless we boiled it a few times, even after it came back on.) We thought about digging an outhouse, haha! Luckily it didn’t come to that, but going in the yard is what most people ended up doing. You can make a “port a potty” out of a 5 gallon bucket and a pool noodle. They make biodegradable bags to line it with, I’ve considered getting something like that, which would be nice if we had to be on the move during an emergency.
We had eight 5 gallon jugs stored, which was a huge comfort. A few cases of water bottles was nice to have as well.
Because it was winter and snow storms, we put large containers at all the runoff points on our roof for when it melted, in case we needed extra water for random stuff (not to be ingested); a quick filter would make it usable for washing up.
We always fill up our cars when it gets to half tank. My grandpa taught me that. It came in handy. We were able to drive places without worry, while there were lines at the few gas stations that had power and fights breaking out. They ran out of gas at the stations really quick, and because of the road closures, there wasn’t any more coming in for a bit. It took a few days into the next week for Gas stations to get back to normal.
I decided to buy some hot-hands warmers on a whim for our 72-hr packs, and when the box came it was a 40 count!! Of very big ones! Haha, I said to myself “I’m never going to need these, at least while we live in Texas”…I did, I used a lot of them, they lasted about 12 hrs per warmer, really nice to have in the pockets and warm up the girls hands when they got cold.
We have an ancient IPad just for movies when we travel, it was nice to cuddle on the couch and watch a movie. Not a necessity, but it was comforting, especially for our toddler.
Of course, the shelves at the stores were well picked through, so we didn’t bother to go. We had lots of friends make the run to get whatever they could find, and they were shopping in the dark! The generators were used for the card machines, but not for anything else! Grocery shopping by flashlight, I kind of wish we had gone just for the experience!
I wish I could say “we lived through the worst and came out fine”, but it wasn’t the worst, and I still have much to do to prepare for the future. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I believe in the scriptures and the prophecies in them. The wild ride has just begun!
My mindset when I was preparing for emergencies was “we are on our own and shouldn’t rely on anyone else to provide us with our needs.” I think that’s a good way to look at it so you cover all the bases. However, I was so impressed by the compassion people had for each other. So many people reached out to us, and we were able to reach out and help others. People are inherently good, the Light of Christ is in all of us. I look back on this emergency situation with only good memories. I feel so blessed to have had my husband home with us and a network of friends to help us through it!