"The City did not adequately anticipate or plan for a widespread or severe winter storm," says a copy of the report that has been made publicly available online. "While the storm was exceptionally severe, the city's lack of preparedness for Winter Storm Uri led to a less effective and disorganized response. Additionally, the city has not implemented many past recommendations that may have improved."
The report also says Austin residents were left without essential information that may have helped them stay safe because the city could not communicate properly with them in the days preceding the deadly winter storm. That's why city officials must be open and transparent about the dangers that future storms can pose to human life and be more proactive in providing information on how residents can stay safe before storms arrive.
One major hazard during the February winter storm was carbon monoxide poisoning. According to The Texas Tribune, "many brought charcoal grills inside or ran cars in enclosed spaces, either unaware of the dangers or too cold to think rationally. In their desperation, thousands of Texans unwittingly unleashed deadly gases into homes and apartments that, in many cases, were not equipped with potentially lifesaving carbon monoxide alarms, resulting in the country's biggest epidemic of CO poisoning in recent history." In addition, Austin wasn't prepared to house vulnerable residents during the storm. Due to power outages, staff had to drive individuals from one shelter to another during hazardous conditions. Therefore, the report recommends planning for prolonged power and water outages in the event of another winter storm.
Although winter storms are not expected to arrive in Texas for a while, it's critical to plan ahead so you have everything you need in the event of an emergency. According to FEMA, it's worth having the following items nearby in the event of a hurricane, winter storm, or any other natural disaster:
- Water: one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home).
- Food: non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home).
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible).
- Extra batteries.
- First aid kit.
- Medications (7-day supply) and medical items.
- Multi-purpose tool, like a Swiss Army knife.
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items.
- Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies).
- Cell phone with charger.
- Family and emergency contact information.
- Extra cash (ATMs might be inoperable).
- Extra fuel for generator and car.
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