Monday, November 21, 2022

It is Time to Make Winter Weather Preparedness a Priority

 


Safety Guidance to Protect Your Family and Property this Season

City of Austin encourages the community to prepare for winter weather in advance this year. The last few weeks of cooler temperatures are a chilly reminder to begin stocking up on supplies and planning ahead for winter. 

The Homeland Security and Emergency Management Office (HSEM) is prepared to respond to an emergency if needed. HSEM updates the Winter Weather Plan annually. This plan is designed for emergency response in the event of severe winter weather so that the City can provide resources like shelter, food and water distribution and other lifesaving resources. The City’s annual tabletop planning exercise for departments is scheduled in December. This year, HSEM has also pre-deployed shelter-ready supply kits at nine City-owned recreation centers to ensure resources are ready to be activated throughout Austin when needed. 

“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, Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department Director. “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.”   

Community members can also help themselves be ready for cold weather this season. Follow the four P’s for winter weather safety. Check on People especially children, elderly, and those outdoors. Don’t leave Pets outside and bring in your Plants, too. Protect your Pipes from freezing and causing damage to your property.  

Austinites can also be more prepared by following the Four Pillars of Preparedness.  

Make a Plan: Before an emergency sit 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.  

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, pet supplies and use a check list to help get started.  

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. 

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 text AHAS to (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 smart phone 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. 

Across the City, departments are preparing for colder weather. Follow winter weather safety guidance to keep your most precious resources safe this winter. 

Austin Code Winter Weather Safety Guidance  
Common weather-related issues related to property damage may include no hot water, burst pipes, and cracks in the ceiling or walls. One way to prevent damage is to proactively follow the following property maintenance tips: 

  • Test your gas service lines annually for possible leaks. 
  • Check if your furnace is operating correctly. 
  • Check if the boilers are working as intended. 
  • Check if you have smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. 

Tenants who experience unresolved code violations, can request a Code Inspector by calling Austin 3-1-1 or 512-974-2000. Visit the Austin Code Safe and Sound webpage for more property maintenance winter tips.  

Austin Water Winter Weather Safety Guidance 
Austin Water encourages customers to take steps now to prepare for winter. Following a few, easy steps now will help customers protect their property and prevent damage when freezing weather does arrive in Austin. 

Locate your water shutoff. Locate the water main shutoff valve and keep it clear of debris and obstacles at all times. For most homes, the property owner’s shutoff valve is on your side of the water meter at the meter box. For renters, please consult with your property manager. If you cannot find your shutoff valve or if it is damaged, then you should be prepared to access the City shutoff valve in the meter box in an emergency. You may need a water meter key to open the meter box, which can be purchased at most hardware stores. Watch a video about how to locate your water shutoff. 
 
Weatherize to keep out cold air. Make repairs to broken or drafty windows, doors, and walls. Seal all leaks in crawl spaces and basements. Winterize unheated spaces and be prepared to close garage doors for the duration of the freeze. Gather supplies to cover vents on your home’s foundation. 
 
Weatherize exposed pipes and water heaters. Prepare to insulate pipes in unheated and drafty areas, such as an attic or garage. Also check manufacturer recommendations for your tanked and tankless water heaters. Hardware and plumbing supply stores carry insulation to help keep pipes from freezing. Get all supplies now so you are ready to wrap pipes and water heaters when a winter storm is approaching. 
 
Learn how to drip faucets properly. After the measures above are taken, drip one cold water faucet slowly if you feel your pipes may still freeze. The faucet you choose should be the one that is the greatest distance from your main shutoff valve. It does not need to be a running trickle. If you do drip your faucet, capture the water for future use. Watch a video about how to drip faucets properly. 
 
Outside faucet protection. Austin Water encourages all customers to turn off irrigation systems during the winter months to help conserve water. Prepare supplies to wrap outside faucets with towels or a Styrofoam insulator. 
 
Gather supplies to be prepared. Having one gallon of water per person and pet per day for seven days on hand to help avoid the rush at stores when the first winter storm of the season approaches. 

Stay Informed:

Austin Energy Winter Weather Safety Guidance 
In case of a power outage: 

  • Unplug appliances and turn off most lights to avoid overloading circuits when power is restored. 
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed during an outage and follow FDA guidelines for food safety. 

Electrical Safety Tips: 

  • If using an electric space heater, be sure it has an automatic shut-off switch and non-glowing elements, and make sure to keep away from flammable materials. 
  • Never heat your home with a gas oven or burn anything in a stove or a fireplace that is not vented. Do not burn paper in a fireplace. 
  • Do not drive over or go near a downed power line, as it could be energized. Call 311 if you see a downed line to report it. If the line is sparking, call 911. 
  • If you see limbs on wires or see downed tree limbs, please call 311 to report them. 

Stay Informed  

Austin Transportation Winter Weather Safety Guidance
Low temps, ice and wintery weather can make driving hazardous. Before driving in inclement weather this season, be sure to:  

  • Check for updated weather conditions  
  • Avoid bridges and overpasses  
  • Check tire pressure + tread  
  • Make sure windshield wipers + lights are functioning  
  • Keep a winter emergency kit with the following items in your vehicle: 
    • Jumper cables  
    • Flares or reflective triangle  
    • Ice scraper  
    • Car cell phone charger  
    • Cat litter or sand for better tire traction.
Cold Weather Sheltering
The public may call the Cold Weather Shelter hotline to check the activation status: 512-305-ICEE (4233).

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