Are we ready for another natural disaster?
This period of cold weather has led to many stories and media projections regarding a possible repeat of last year’s deadly winter freeze in Texas and the opportunity and warnings to prepare. Are you okay?
Not only a fight with very low temperatures again, but what about floods or grass fires? On December 30, I watched live coverage of the Boulder County, Colorado fire as it swept through the area of my old home, which still stands as the homes in front and behind were burned to ashes . This fire was burning an area the size of a football field and all of its contents in seconds with hurricane-force wind gusts of 115 mph. All but one of the people were able to evacuate, but everything they owned was gone for thousands of families, including many pets.
Central Texas leads the country in the variety and frequency of natural disasters: tornadoes, floods (remember 2015 in Taylor?), hailstorms, fires (usually man-made), and droughts ( we’re just in a severe drought – thank goodness for some rain, but not enough, on Jan 11). This winter storm of 2021 was a new experience and caught many of us off guard and off guard.
The Williamson County Emergency Management Team has been assessing and preparing for the 2021 storm. We have names and direct phone numbers for those in the power supply industry who should support us for immediate notifications and other information. We have processes to maintain automatic backup switchover to diesel generators for all county first responder emergency radio towers. Emergency Medical Services has traction socks for the ambulances if we get a lot of snow or ice this year. Our cities and municipal utility districts have worked to implement strategies and equipment to ensure a continuous flow of water and wastewater for their customers. All worked to identify sites for the shelters in their respective jurisdictions.
But what about you? Do you think someone else will be responsible for you? How many of you who own homes or condos have actually located your water faucet in the yard? Do you have a water valve key needed to shut off your home’s water supply? Do you remember where you put it? Have you wrapped exposed pipes in your attic? What’s in your pantry? Do you have foods that don’t require cooking and water to drink for seven days for your family? How about a non-electric can opener? If your water pipe freezes or needs to be shut off because a pipe broke, how will you flush it?
What if that alert hits your phone telling you to evacuate immediately? Do you have a list of all your online accounts and passwords? Do you have your prescriptions and emergency contacts on your cell phone? If you or someone you know is medically frail, are you registered with the Texas Emergency Assistance Registry (stear.tdem.texas.gov) if your life cannot be sustained without electricity (dialysis, oxygen, etc.). If you and your family members are separated during an evacuation, do you have a plan?
Wilco’s Emergency Management Office has lists of items for an emergency home or evacuation supply kit. Visit wilco.org/Departments/Emergency-Management for all your shopping, planning and preparation needs.
This year, let’s all be ready. Prepare while life is quiet and make sure everyone in your family is prepared and knows what to do. Keep your gas tank nearly full, sitting in a line at a gas station is not an evacuation.
We are all in the same boat!
Terry Cook is county commissioner for Precinct 1, which includes most of Round Rock, most of Austin in Williamson County, and part of southern Cedar Park.