AUSTIN, Texas - With city, county and state officials looking at how they can better respond to weather emergencies, such as Winter Storm Uri, let's take a look at how you and your family can be better prepared for the next winter storm or natural disaster.
The City of Austin says there are four pillars of emergency preparedness:
Make a Plan
Preparing for a weather emergency or natural disaster starts with planning ahead and mapping out what actions you and your family are to take during those situations.
Step 1: Put a plan together by discussing the questions below with your family:
- How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
- What is my shelter plan?
- What is my evacuation route?
- What is my family/household communication plan?
- Do I need to update my emergency preparedness kit?
Families are also advised to check with the CDC and update their emergency plans due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including having face masks for everyone over the age of 2 and disinfectants and checking and adjusting their shelter plan as needed.
Step 2: Consider specific needs in your household:
Families should tailor their emergency plans and supplies to their specific daily living needs and responsibilities, including children, business, pets or medical needs.
When developing an emergency plan, families should keep in mind these factors and plan ahead:
- Different ages of family members
- Responsibilities for assisting others
- Locations frequented
- Dietary needs
- Medical needs including prescriptions and equipment
- Disabilities or access and functional needs including devices and equipment
- Languages spoken
- Cultural and religious considerations
- Pets or service animals
- Households with school-aged children
Step 3: Fill out a Family Emergency Plan:
Families can download Ready.gov's Family Emergency Communication Plan and fill it out or use it as a guide to create their own.
Step 4: Practice your plan with your family/household:
Families should practice their emergency plan with all members to make sure everyone knows what they need to do and have in case of an emergency situation.
Build a Kit
The next pillar of emergency preparedness is building your emergency kit with the proper resources and supplies for your family. The city of Austin recommends building an emergency kit with at least seven days' worth of supplies.
What do I put in an emergency kit?
Families should have at least a basic disaster supply kit with food, water and other supplies to last for several days, including the following recommended items:
- Water (one gallon per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation)
- Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
- Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
- First aid kit
- Extra batteries
- Whistle (to signal for help)
- Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
- Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
- Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
- Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
- Manual can opener (for food)
- Local maps
- Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
In addition to the basic supplies, families should also consider the needs of their pets and members of their household like seniors, children and those with disabilities or special care needs.
Additional items to consider adding to your family's supply kit include:
- Masks (for everyone ages 2 and above), soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes to disinfect surfaces
- Prescription medications
- Non-prescription medications such as pain relievers, anti-diarrhea medication, antacids or laxatives
- Prescription eyeglasses and contact lens solution
- Infant formula, bottles, diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream
- Pet food and extra water for your pet
- Cash or traveler's checks
- Important family documents such as copies of insurance policies, identification and bank account records saved electronically or in a waterproof, portable container
- Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
- Complete change of clothing appropriate for your climate and sturdy shoes
- Fire extinguisher
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Feminine supplies and personal hygiene items
- Mess kits, paper cups, plates, paper towels and plastic utensils
- Paper and pencil
- Books, games, puzzles or other activities for children
Ready.gov recommends storing your supplies in airtight plastic bags and putting your entire kit in one or two easy-to-carry containers, such as plastic bins or a duffel bag, in case you need to evacuate.
How do I maintain my emergency kit?
After assembling the kit, don't forget to maintain it so it’s ready when needed by:
- Keep canned food in a cool, dry place.
- Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers.
- Replace expired items as needed.
- Re-think your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.
Where can I store my kit safely?
Emergencies can happen quickly and without warning so Ready.gov advises preparing supplies for your home, your place of work and your vehicles:
- Home: Keep this kit in a designated place and have it ready in case you have to leave your home quickly. Make sure all family members know where the kit is kept.
- Work: Be prepared to shelter at work for at least 24 hours. Your work kit should include food, water and other necessities like medicines, as well as comfortable walking shoes, stored in a "grab and go" case.
- Car: In case you are stranded, keep a kit of emergency supplies in your car.
Know Your Neighbors
The third pillar of emergency preparedness is knowing your neighbors and knowing who might need additional help or support, such as those with disabilities or seniors.
The fourth pillar of emergency preparedness is staying informed during a weather emergency.
Ready Central Texas app
The City of Austin recommends downloading the free Ready Central Texas app, available on Android and iOS, which provides:
- News updates and warnings
- Preparedness resources
- Emergency plan checklists to help make sure you have what you need
- Informational videos
- Document library with preparedness materials
- COVID-19 resources from Austin, the State of Texas and the federal government
Warn Central Texas Alert System
Residents can also sign up for Warn Central Texas, a public safety alert notification system that covers Bastop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Fayette, Hays, Lee, Llano, Travis, and Williamson counties.
The system sends out critical community alerts concerning natural disasters, weather warnings, evacuation notices, bioterrorism alerts, boil water notices and missing child reports.
The Accessible Hazard Alert System
The City of Austin Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Travis County Office of Emergency Management have partnered with Deaf Link to launch the Accessible Hazard Alert System (AHAS) for Deaf, Blind, Hard of Hearing, or Deaf and Blind community.
Subscribers will receive an accessible message in American Sign Language, and English voice and text. The alert message will include information about the emergency and what actions to take. AHAS has the capability to send accessible alerting messages to registered residents before, during, and after an emergency or disaster in Travis County.
When an emergency alert or other information is sent through the AHAS program, users will receive accessible alert messages on internet and video capable devices such as computers, cell phones, smart phones, tablet computers, and wireless Braille readers.
Residents can register for alerts online or by texting AHAS to 737-241-3710.
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