9 Ways to Become more Self-Sufficient in a Disaster

Our infrastructure failed us this February 13-17, 2021 as Winter Storm Uri closed down most of Texas. We learned that we cannot rely on our utilities to provide for us in every situation.

So how can we become more self-sufficient to prepare for the next extreme weather event?

snow in bathtub for self-sufficiency

Pictured above: my bathtub filled with snow during Winter Storm Uri. We melted this snow to flush toilets, wash dishes, and if it came to it we could boil to drink.

Climate-induced extreme weather events include:

  • Wildfires
  • Droughts
  • Floods
  • Hurricanes/Cyclones
  • Snowstorms…

Climate-induced extreme weather events are becoming more common and will continue to do so as our climate continues to change. In graduate school, I read The West Without Water which gives a scientific view of our planet’s climate history. It gave me the lasting impression that the Earth has always gone through fluctuations of warming and cooling, and continues to do so today, but may be occurring at a faster rate now than in the past. 

Whether you believe our current climate-change is caused or influenced (i.e., sped up) by humanity’s impact on the environment or it is simply another shift in the Earth’s cycles, our climate will continue to fluctuate and is doing so today. I do not intend to be divisive, however, so in the meantime let us focus on how to better prepare ourselves for the next weather-related disaster.

power outage spurns self sustainable living

Pictured above: “Rolling blackouts” in Texas saved the grid from failing completely but left many households without electricity for days in below-freezing temperatures.

Self sufficient definition: able to maintain oneself without needing external assistance to satisfy one’s basic needs.

Becoming more self-sufficient is something that anyone can do – whether you’re in an apartment in a big city or you living on acres of land. You do not need to go off-grid or forgo the comforts you currently enjoy. I am not encouraging you to build a bunker with a year’s food and water supply.

Self sufficient living will simply provide some ways that we can reduce our complete reliance on the “grid” when the occasional extreme weather event occurs. Think of it as a buffer from shocks to our food and water supplies caused by disasters. This self sufficient survival list will help to soften the disruptions to our basic needs caused by such emergencies.

This emergency supply list is not exhaustive by any means (and not in any particular order), but includes some basic-need items that will help us be better prepared for disasters similar to Winter Storm Uri in Texas.

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#1. Non-Perishable Foods.

non-perishable foods for self-sufficient living

This emergency supply item is obvious, but the Texas Winter Storm served as a strong reminder to use to keep a large supply of non-perishable food: extra canned, dried, and frozen foods.

If you need more room in your pantry, add a shelving unit in your garage to store your disaster-planning supplies. Keep a 1-2 week supply of food.

#2. Fruit & Vegetable Planter Garden

edible gardening in pots for emergency preparedness

A veggie garden is an enjoyable and healthy self-sustainable living strategy. Many edible plants can be grown in portable containers such as peas, tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers. In the event of extreme weather, these pots can be moved indoors or covered with a plant cover.

#3. Keep a firewood stock.

firewood stock for emergency preparedness

If you have a fireplace, keeping a firewood pile an easy way to prepare for a power-outage emergency. Other important fire-related items are kindling and matches or a lighter.

If you don’t have a fireplace, you could still make a fire outside to warm up or to cook on (in the event of losing your electric stove/microwave/oven).

Consider keeping a simple steel fire starter around for emergencies. This one comes with a multi-tool striker that has a built-in tinder scraper, bottle opener, hex wrench, and ruler.

#4. Install rain barrels.

rainwater harvesting rain barrel self sufficient

A rainwater catchment (or “harvesting”) system is a very self-sustainable way to collect rainwater from your roof and store it in rain barrels. The harvested non-potable water can be used for everyday household tasks like flushing toilets and irrigating landscaping, or it can be purified for human consumption.

Many cities have rainwater harvesting or rain barrel rebates to help pay for the cost of such a system. In the meantime, keep enough bottled water on hand – enough for one gallon per person per day. Keep a 1-2 week supply of water.

#5. Solar-powered gadgets.

Solar-powered devices are a must for any survival supply kit.

Keep a few solar-powered devices on hand in preparation for disaster-induced power outages. There are solar-powered lanterns, phone & device chargers, or this lantern power bank that does both. This 5-paneled solar power bank is able to charge multiple devices at once (including tablets) either with a USB cable or wirelessly. It also has a built-in flashlight, compass, and strobe signal light.

#6. Emergency candles.

emergency candles power outage

Keep extra candles on hand to provide light when there is no electricity. You can even purchase this durable 3-wick survival candle that can last 36 hours (if you burn each wick individually).

#7. Portable gas stove.

gas portable camping stove emergency preparedness

If you have an electric stove in your kitchen that would be turned off when the power goes out, invest in a gas-powered camping stove.

Not only are these so useful for camping (speaking from experience), they can be used in an emergency situation at home too. My parents had to use their Coleman camping stove during the Texas Winter Storm for two days. They have owned that trusty thing for over 20 years!

Make sure you have a couple bottles of propane ready as well to fuel the stove (you can buy them for cheap at your local supermarket).

#8. Emergency blanket.

emergency blanket disaster planning

Emergency blankets like this one are designed to retain up 90% of your body heat and serve many other emergency needs. Besides keeping you warm, these blankets can also be used as sleeping bag liners, emergency shelters, water or snow melt collectors, or as rain ponchos.

#9. LifeStraw/Water Filter.

When you do not have access to clean potable (AKA drinkable) water, this famous LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is a must for your emergency survival kit. Without using batteries, this straw removes 99.999% of parasites, bacteria, and even microplastics from any water source.

I take my LifeStraw Water Filter Bottle almost everywhere I go and feel secure knowing I am drinking clean purified water. The straw filter is reusable up to 1,000 gallons.

Self-Sufficient Emergency Preparedness Survey:

From the Earthful Life instagram account, I conducted a quick survey asking how people would better prepare for the next climate-induced extreme weather event. This chart shows the results:

My Winter Storm Experience:

My husband and I lost water from Tuesday (2/16) evening until Friday (2/19) morning, but we [surprisingly] never lost power. Our friends that live nearby had been without power for the whole day on Tuesday and a frozen water pipe had burst in their garage, so they came to stay with us.

Because I was not prepared with enough food, our friends brought all of their frozen and canned foods, which we then lived off of for the next few days.

We harvested snow and kept it in the bathtub. We melted snow on our gas-powered stove to use for flushing toilets and washing dishes. Since we live in an unfinished neighborhood a couple of us even ventured to the construction workers’ porta potties in an effort to conserve our water supply for toilet flushing (very gross – I don’t recommend it, lol).

One joyous morning, the water started to trickle out of the faucets again so we turned the water heater back on. To celebrate we made sleds and snowboards out of reused cardboard and plastic sheeting and headed to the “slopes” of our nearby park. After we had a blast sledding, we headed back home for glorious hot and much-needed showers.

winter storm texas snow

Pictured above: San Antonio, Texas covered in snow during Winter Storm Uri.

My Friends’ Winter Storm Experiences in Texas:

The following are some of my Texas friends’ and family members’ experiences during Winter Storm Uri:

  1. Friend in San Antonio: lost power and water for 6 days. They stayed with nearby family, but many people in their apartment complex had nowhere to go.
  2. Friend in San Antonio: lost water for one week and lost power for about 3 days.
  3. Friend in San Antonio: this friend did fine. She never lost power or water and they had plenty of food and frozen meat in the freezer in her garage.
  4. Friend in Plano: never lost power, but her family did lose power and water.
  5. Friend in Fort Worth: lost power for 63 hours during the storm. The first night, the power went off in the early morning hours so she woke up feeling cold. The second night she slept by the fireplace with embers, but it was miserable and she hardly got any sleep. By the third night of no power, she could not stand one more night without heat, so she packed up and stayed with her grandmother who had power.
  6. Friend in San Antonio: went without water for one day but she was prepared with enough stored water supply.
  7. Friend in North Dallas: This friend was able to catch a frozen pipe in her house before it burst. Her water was then on boil notice after the storm. She did not lose power or water, but had many friends with major power outages.
  8. Friend in Boerne: This friend and her husband went without water for one week (2/15-2/22) because a frozen pipe burst in their area. Once water was reestablished, it took longer to reach them than other nearby areas because they live at the top of a hill. They had to melt snow to flush toilets and used baby wipes to stay clean. After waiting for 5 days for safe driving conditions, they drove to their family’s house where they could take showers.
  9. Friend in Austin: This friend and her husband never lost power but went without water for days. They took in some friends that did not have power and then were put on a city-wide boil notice once water did return.
  10. My sister: never lost power or water. Because of her access to a 4-wheel drive truck (and a boyfriend who knew how to drive through the ice on the day before the snow), she graciously bought much-needed groceries for us.
  11. My parents: lost power and water for 2 days. Their house temperature went down to 42 degrees. My dad chopped firewood during the day so that they could pull two couches up to the fireplace and sleep near the fire at night. They had to wake up every 30 minutes to keep the fire burning to stay relatively warm, but they did not sleep well like this for the two nights without power. Because they have an electric stove, they could not cook with it, so they used their propane cooking stove. While most people were able to contact friends and family during this time, their cell tower was out and they had no power to connect to any online communication methods. Eventually power came back and they used a space heater to warm up the well house which thawed out the frozen water pipes. One pipe that had frozen and burst in their house, my handyman-dad was able to fix.
  12. My parents’ neighbor: My parents checked on an elderly neighbor during the storm who said she was enduring her near-freezing house by burying herself in her bed under all of her blankets. Occasionally, she would warm up in her car to get warmer.
  13. Friend in San Antonio: did not lose water, but lost power from Tuesday night to Thursday night (48 hrs). The house got cold, she had no lights, and no way to keep perishable food. Not only was she unable to drive into work because of road conditions, she was also unable to work remotely without power. After 24 hours without electricity, she and her roommates all left the house for their friends’ and families’ homes.

Thanks for reading (and contributing to my survey)!

Did you have to go through any extreme weather event or disaster? How have you (or will you) become more self-sufficient to prepare for the next one?

Let me know in the comments!

Happy survival planning! 😉

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Leah

    We made it into the post! I was going to say #10- stay with friends who have water and power! Haha!

    1. Jaime

      Haha yess! Or #10 invite friends over for moral support lol

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