Now Is The Time To Learn From Our Mistakes

As many of Texans emerge from a historic snowstorm there are a lot of questions to be answered. Questions might not be the best word, lessons learned is probably better.

A Big Lesson Is Being Prepared

Lessons Learned From A SnowstormOne of the most important values I pass down to my sons is independence. The importance of being independent across a broad set of subjects. Freedom is not free, it comes at a cost and in this case it is about being prepared. I have lived by the Boy Scout motto of “be prepared” ever since I was a Boy Scout. I’m deeply saddened I did not try harder to encourage my boys to join. Again, there is that freedom. I gave them the choice and tried to help them appreciate the values they would learn at an early age. It is hard to compete with the digital age these days so unfortunately they missed out on what I remember as a wonderful experience. Lessons learned for me at that early age was planning for an unknown or unknowable event.

Being Independent Means Being Prepared

When it comes to being prepared I find it to be the single most important survival skill you can develop. It is such a broad subject and rightfully so. There are many different needs, individual needs that must be taken into account. Over the years I have amassed an inventory of various emergency or survival provisions. I will admit, they are probably outdated compared to some of the new offerings, but something is better than nothing. The biggest lesson learned is how important it is for us ALL to be prepared. The best strategy to reduce the overall impact of any natural disaster, civil unrest and other calamities is to be prepared as a society. This level of independence is hugely liberating for sure, but it boils down to survival and keeping your family safe.

Maybe I Wasn’t As Well Prepared

I’m not going to say fortunately, but we have had a few rehearsals to get ready for this past event. The biggest being the pandemic we are still managing. It forced us to take a hard look at how we will survive. While there are several really good books on survival, what they all will probably say is you need to have food, water and shelter. Not necessarily in that order, but these represent the bare necessities to survive. I want to share some of my lessons learned on these three essential elements from this past snowstorm. How I learned I might not have been as prepared as I thought I was in my head. Part of this had to do with a degree of procrastination. I knew I should update some of our emergency supplies, but I really didn’t get around to it until we were knee deep, literally knee deep in snow. My biggest suggestion is don’t wait for a disaster to start preparing. Lessons to be learned is quite frankly to learn from the mistakes of others. Remember when Noah built the Ark.

Cooking Food Might Have A Different Meaning

When it came to food, we were pretty well stocked. Between dry goods, dehydrated foods and frozen foods I had a pretty good supply. The problem was more about how long the frozen foods would last. The silver lining of having freezing temperatures is storing your perishables in coolers outside. Luckily, we had two coolers for various types of foods to help ensure they stayed the coldest the longest. Food that didn’t need to stay frozen, just cold went into one and frozen food in the other. We would allow nature to defrost the food during the day to be cooked at night. Cooking the food was another huge lesson learned. While I have plenty of camping and backpacking supplies. Periodically function checking all your cookware and lighting options provided more lessons learned. I think it had been about 5 years or more since I powered them up. The lantern was a no joy, but the stove gave us a good day of cooking. It was later replaced with a smaller backpacker stove for the rest of the ordeal. I got lucky on the fuel, I had stored each of them with fuel along with a small supply bottle with fuel. It probably would have given us a couple of days of service. My propane bottle was low or close to it and there were none to be had so having an extra on hand will be a staple again. All the pots and pans I have for camping are great, but they are not ideal for cooking real meals. We had to adjust to the idea of maybe some burnt or over cooked items. Probably one of the most under valued survival skill is the ability to start a fire. I had plenty of lighters and matches. I fell in love with my old Zippo lighter again, but having enough fuel to refill them is something to consider.

Water Is Life

When it came to water, I keep a modest supply on hand. What I’m really glad to have on hand are water coolers and jugs. We filled those up the first time the power went out trying to plan for the worst. A lesson learned from the past was the importance of potable water. Things like purification tables or purifiers are another important staple in your survival gear. Bottled water is something I keep on hand in low volumes so clearly they would not have been enough and we used them more for personal hygiene. I have kept a water purifying pitcher on hand for years, but what I didn’t have in high supply were the replacement filters. All told, this gave us probably 15 gallons of drinkable water with the ability to boil and purify water for some time. One of the things I learned on a mountain expedition a long time ago is the importance of moral in tough times. If moral drops the survival rates can also drop. One of the best things you can do to boost moral is a tasty beverages. I had plenty of water tablets I use to give plain water a splash of flavor and they were a big hit. Probably the biggest hit came in the form of hot coffee. Do not underestimate the healing powers of a good cup of coffee.

Shelter And Staying Warm & Dry

Shelter is a bit misleading, but really it is about staying warm and dry. Our house did a good job, not the best, but still good enough. Little things like keeping doors shut, putting towels around window sills and external doors are great ways to keep some heat in, but you have to plan to be cold and dress appropriately. It is no secret we don’t get cold weather here often, like almost never. Naturally many were unprepared for those cold temperatures. Again, my camping gear really paid off. Sleeping bags are a great addition to the linens and sheets. The problem is you are not always in bed, or at least you shouldn’t be in bed too much. Part of surviving is keeping busy, finding work. You don’t have to go to the extreme of cutting down a neighbor’s tree for firewood, but you need to keep a little bit of activity going. It is good for the mind and body. I also had a very deep inventory of expedition level cold weather gear. It brought me great joy to see everyone in the house toasty warm during some of the coldest hours. A lesson learned was I have so much. I finally had a reason to go through it all and I’m going to be getting rid of almost half. If this happens again, I know my household will be well prepared with half of that loadout.

There you have, some initial thoughts on surviving this past snowstorm. In part two, I’m going to go over some observations about being in the the thick of it with little to know preparation.

2 thoughts on “Lessons Learned From A Snowstorm, Part 1

  1. Chris James says:

    Good advice, Jeff. Glad to hear you guys made it through like champs. Thanks for passing the wisdom on to us.

    My wife and I a post-Snowpacalypse debrief to ID some of the weaks spots in our plan & gear, including shelter. Pleased to say we were in good shape (comparatively) despite no power for four days. The biggest ah-ha for us were the grids we could rely on and the ones that are weak and unreliable. LNG and cell service were MVPs, electricity and water not so much. Making plans to build in redundancy before the next utilities failure is the investment focus for us right now.

    Because we have already had issues with Austin water failing us in the past, a whole house filter & sterilizer is our answer to the boil ordinances. Additional redundancy came from an unexpected place – our homebrewing equipment. If the filter+sterilizer weren’t online we still had the ability to boil and store large (15gal+) of water and transport it via soda keg 5gal at a time. This was a huge asset to our friends who lost water pressure in the days after the power came back on. You can find 5gal soda kegs at any local or online brew supply store for around $50, or 5gal blue jerry cans for water for even less. It’s so easy and inexpensive to store sufficient potable water in advance of a problem that no one should be forced to buy bottled water when the SHTF.

    The plan going forward is to add standby power from a natural gas generator and add 600 gallons of rainwater storage. While this isn’t off-the-grid living by any means, I think it satisfies our “Two is One and One is None” standard for the basics of modern urban survival. Would love to hear how others managed & learned from this golden opportunity as well.

    • Jeff Gonzales says:

      I think it is a great opportunity to learn some new things from how others coped with the snowstorm. That was a great idea to repurpose the home brewing station, smart move. The water containers worked great on our end, but I think a couple of extra cans couldn’t hurt. Thanks for sharing. Stay safe.

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