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Why every person needs their own emergency supply kit during severe weather

KEYE Austin 11/22/2022 Bettie Cross
© Provided by KEYE Austin

Austin’s first cold snap has city officials warning residents to prepare now for the nasty weather that could be coming. This year nine emergency shelters are being set up across Austin to help people deal with having no water or power. But city leaders say they can’t ensure preparedness on their own.

“The Central Texas area has historically had mild winters, but over the last few years we have seen extreme cold weather conditions that have had severe impacts on our community,” said Juan Ortiz, Department Director for Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM). “Our staff has been working to ensure we are better prepared to respond during an emergency, and we are asking the community to be more prepared as well. Our level of preparedness will make us more resilient.”

The February 2021 winter storm was a worst-case scenario. Many lost power and struggled to stay warm. The harsh conditions also burst pipes and caused water systems to fail. The bleak situation pushed Austin to rework its emergency preparedness plan including having more distribution points for food, water, cots, hygiene kits, and other emergency supplies.

“We recognized that the ability for us to get supplies was going to be very limited because of the conditions of the roads,” said Robert Moreno, HSEM Deputy Logistics Chief.

To be better prepared, this year Austin almost doubled the number of recreation centers that can be used as emergency shelters.

“Last season we started out with five and then we’ve added an additional four. So, we have nine,” said Moreno.

Each of the shelters will have 75 cots and the pillows, sheets, and other supplies needed to weather a storm.

Caption: KEYE

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“We also have water and food, enough to sustain 75 people for 72 hours,” said Moreno.

But the City of Austin (COA) only provides the basics. Hygiene kits include bathing wipes, a disposable towel, oral swabs, and a brush. For anything else, people need to create their own emergency supply kits.  ReadyCentralTexas.org has recommendations on how to build an emergency supply kit. Experts say having medications and other personal supplies ready to go can make a disaster less stressful or even make the difference between life and death.

The COA says people can be more prepared by following the Four Pillars of Preparedness.

  1. Make a Plan: Before an emergency sits down with your family to plan out what you may need to shelter at home or what you need if you have to evacuate. Use the Neighborhood Preparedness Guide to help you get started.
  2. Build a Kit: Once you know your plan and have your supply list, build a kit of needed emergency supplies in a go-bag so it can be used quickly. Include items like medication, and pet supplies, and use a checklist to help get started.
  3. Know your Neighbors: In an emergency, your neighbors are the closest resource and can often be the fastest to respond. Making friends with your neighbors can also have more benefits than just during an emergency.
  4. Stay Informed: There are many ways to stay informed before, during, and after an emergency. Follow readycentraltexas.org for emergency preparedness information.

Other recommendations include:

  • Sign up for emergency alerts at warncentraltexas.org.
  • To get Emergency Alerts in American Sign Language (ASL) through the City’s Accessible Hazard Alert System (AHAS) register here, or for quick SMS registration textAHASto (737) 241-3710. Austin and Travis County AHAS subscribers in an area affected by an emergency or disaster will be able to receive an accessible alert message in ASL and English voice and text.
  • Download the Ready Central Texas app on your smartphone to get alerts and a digital copy of the Neighborhood Preparedness Guide.
  • Get real-time emergency information in multiple languages by saving austintexas.gov/alerts to your favorite websites. Community members may also notice the Emergency Preparedness Super Hero supporting preparedness efforts streaming in 12 priority languages across multiple channels. Our mission is to ensure that everyone has access to critical information before and during an emergency.

Follow @AustinHSEM on Facebook and Twitter.

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