Being prepared for an energy and water disaster has never been more important

We all witnessed a catastrophic fail of energy infrastructure in Texas over the past few weeks. Households went days without gas, electricity, or water in freezing temperatures and many of these households had little in terms of back up supplies. This disaster is just the tip of the iceberg that Texas and communities everywhere will be suffering through as we navigate our ever-changing climate.

The cause of the catastrophe may have been the freezing temperatures, but at the root of the failed response was a lack of preparedness. The good news is we can all learn from this experience. Upping personal preparation and improving home energy efficiency are chief among the items on this short list of suggestions to help the Davis community prepare for whatever comes our way.

Whether it’s fire season, power outages, extreme heat, or another pandemic. Tapping into the “practical prepper” in all of us has its practical benefits!

Be prepared for a home energy outage

Is your house prepared for a power outage? When I see people so uncomfortable in their homes during this crazy freezing storm my first thought is, how much attic insulation they got? Whether it’s extreme heat or cold, insulation is key to comfort, in particular attic insulation. During the power outage in Davis back in January (about 15 hours in my neighborhood), the weather was only mildly cold (maybe even brisk compared to the negative temps in Texas last month) and still many households were very uncomfortable and had to bundle up or keep a fire going for warmth.

On the flip side, homes with attic insulation and proper air sealing coasted through the power outage with little discomfort. Three years ago, I blew in R-50 attic insulation (about 2 ft of fabulous pink insulation), and, thankfully, my house stayed comfortable during the whole outage. It was the first time I truly realized that insulation not only saves on monthly utility bills, but, when your utilities go out, it could also save your life in extreme weather events. So, if you’re required to put in attic insulation, do so with the peace of mind that you’re making this home energy efficient for a long time to come.

Get backup power from the sun

During that last outage in Davis, many people also fired up generators to keep their fridges cool and phones powered. Did you know that home battery backup systems are a cleaner, quieter, and more reliable method to keep the energy flowing? Before you go out and buy a gas-powered generator, just imagine if every home had one and we had a multiple day outage? It would be loud, smelly, carbon intensive, and probably result in gas shortages.

If there’s a power outage in our area in the future and you had a battery system coupled with a rooftop solar system, the battery would be recharged at no cost every day, even mildly sunny days. Even when the grid is down! No running to the gas station for fuel. If the grid is down and you don’t have a backup battery as part of your system, your panels won’t generate for your home or the grid.

Visit the Cool Davis Rooftop Solar page for more info about going solar including backup batteries!

Rooftop solar and battery backup graphic courtesy Lillian Shobe.

Be prepared with extra water

The folks in Texas are also suffering without water supply because their pipes burst in the cold. Pipe insulation is inexpensive, available at most hardware stores, and easy to install, and should be used on any lengths of pipe exposed to the cold. Pipes embedded in slabs are generally not susceptible to bursting.

Keep enough water on hand to last your family for at least three days or as long as two weeks. The CDC recommends one gallon per person per day for drinking and sanitation; don’t forget your pets, too. You can flush a toilet when the tap water is off if you have enough supply. Pour water into the tank by removing the lid then flush as usual or just dump a full bucket of water quickly into the bowl.

Installing a rainwater catchment system with barrels or tanks can be the key to watering thirsty houseplants and perhaps even flushing that toilet. Chlorine bleach can make rainwater potable as well. Put a value on that!

Practice ice box etiquette to keep that fridge cold

I was super worried during our last power outage that the food in my refrigerator was going to spoil. Luckily, I had block ice in my freezer, so I took that out and stuck it in the fridge. I have a fridge thermometer and am happy to report that the block ice kept it in the blue the whole time. Fridges are super insulated to keep in that cold and can coast for a surprisingly long time, even longer if you keep block ice in it. Other practical ice box etiquette with your fridge/freezer includes:

  • Open the fridge sparingly and be quick
  • Place a visual cue to remind family members. I put a stick in the door handle of my fridge so my 10-year-old wouldn’t open and linger randomly
  • Keep a cooler on the floor and put the most used items in there (also with ice)
  • Don’t open the freezer unless absolutely necessary!

Household preparedness

Screen capture from website. Feb 26, 2021.

We all need to be prepared for disasters. Develop a “Go Bag” and a “Stay Box” both of which are now a normal part of our family vocabulary. If you’re not sure what should be in your Go Bags or Stay Boxes, check out the new Listos California website.

Listos California has 5 easy steps to help you prepare for emergencies including what goes in your “Go-Bag” and “Stay-Box.” Check it out here:

Another practical solution is to be prepared with a camp stove. I camp so I have one already; even if you don’t camp, it might be worthwhile to get one for your Stay Box. Hot coffee and top ramen can make a world of difference in a multi-day of power outage. And another note from the backpacker in me, don’t wait until you need it to try out your stove. Make sure you know how to operate it and the kind of fuel you need; a little extra fuel that’s stored safely is key.

Clean electricity is the answer

The climate crisis demands we transition to renewable energy generation, rooftop solar, and all-electric homes. While there’s a lot of work to do to upgrade our grid to be prepared for a changing climate, we’re lucky to live in a state where serious conversations, research, and engineering efforts are already actively working on this problem. Power lines are our lifelines and clean electricity is the most valuable resource we have as we transition away from dirty fossil fuels.

If you have more cool practical prepper ideas to share, please email

Thanks, be safe, and be prepared!

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Community Emergency Response Team (CERT)

Get training to help during an emergency

City of Davis Guide: Preparing for an emergency

Listos California has 5 easy steps to help you prepare for emergencies including what goes in your “Go-Bag” and “Stay-Box.” Check it out here: