Are You Prepared for a Disaster?

The month of September is National Preparedness month and Austin-Travis County EMS encourages you to be prepared in the case of an emergency.  Being informed and planning before disaster strikes are the most effective ways to ensure your family’s safety.

Can you really be prepared for everything? No. We at Austin-Travis County EMS know this lesson well. So what’s the point?  We know we can’t go out and buy anti venoms, electrical generators, get in perfect shape and install storm cellars, so why tackle all this stuff?  It is true that we cannot be completely ready for any emergency, but there are many simple and affordable things that we can do that will leave us better off after many emergencies than we would be if we just skipped the whole thing.

Be informed and have a plan:

Be aware of the natural disasters that are common in your area and stay alert for their warning signs.  Know what emergency systems your local government has in place to warn you. Register your phones with to receive emergency notifications from the Regional Notification System.

Many emergencies have several things in common, for example the need to evacuate your home. Do you know where you would go if you had to evacuate your home? Do you know if and when you would even have to evacuate? Knowing the answers to these crucial questions can save valuable time when seconds count. If your family is like many of ours, this is likely to happen when family members are scattered and not seated around a table ready to make a plan. The time to decide how to handle an evacuation and   (if needed) a rendezvous point is NOW. A family communication plan could save you many painful hours of searching, wandering or waiting. Decide with your family where and how you will find each other. Imagine various contingencies and talk about how your family will deal with them.

Assemble an Emergency Kit:

After you know what your course of action will be in each type of emergency, prepare a kit with all the essentials.  You might have to evacuate in a hurry, maybe even on foot, and when time is of the essence retreating to a safe location will be your top priority. You will not have the time to grab supplies in the midst of a crisis. It’s easy to think these supplies only help you during the emergency, but they are also useful after an emergency in the event you are trapped in a place where emergency personnel cannot immediately reach you. 

Remember, emergencies don’t care if you forgot to grab water at the grocery store or whether you are on vacation. Be prepared for every kind of hazard in any given moment.  We recommend assembling two kinds of emergency kits:  a larger, more complete kit to accommodate an entire family as well as a smaller "bug out bag" for each individual family member.

Getting nervous? Relax; the odds are pretty good that this whole discussion will never be more than just that.  It’s worth the time though because if you ever have to “bail out” for any reason, the peace of mind that comes with having a shared plan will be priceless!

Get instructions and checklists:

Download and print our Ultimate Guide to Emergency Preparedness which includes instructions for creating a family emergency plan and checklists for first aid kits, grab-and-go bags, and emergency kit contents.


Safety Tips, Tricks & Considerations

  • Bring water to a rolling boil for a minimum of one (1) minute and no longer than three (3) minutes. Do not leave the boiling water unattended and allow the water to cool completely prior to handling it or transferring it to another container or storage device. 
  • Consider adding a pinch of salt per quart of boiled water, it may improve the rather flat taste of boiled water 
  • Consider boiling, cooling, and storing larger quantities of water at one time in order to reduce the amount of occurrences this will need to be done. 
  • For safety purposes, consider using a tea kettle or other similar device specifically designed to boil water, rather than a pot. It may be easier to transfer the water into its storage container.
  • If you are using an electric kettle please ensure the automatic shut-off is disabled as it may not allow the water to be brought to a rolling boiling or safe decontamination temperatures for the one (1) minute minimum.
  • If you have an automatic icemaker consider emptying the ice bin and turning off the ice maker during the Boil Water notice.  This will minimize any accidental use of potentially contaminated ice during or after the notice has been lifted.
  • Use ice cube trays to make your own ice with boiled and cooled water or purchase consumer made bags of ice and store them in an ice chest or your freezer for long term use. Consider repurposing (saving) the plastic ice bags for storage of ice that you have boiled and cooled if required for a prolonged event.
  • If you initially elect to purchase bottles of water, repurpose (save) the containers for storage of boiled and cooled water you may need to use if the Boil Water Notice is prolonged.
  • If using a microwave to boil your water, please ensure you are utilizing an appropriate microwave-safe container. It is advisable to include a wooden stir stick in the container to prevent the formation of superheated water (water heated above its boiling point, without the formation of steam). It is inadvisable to attempt to remove the boiled water container from the microwave until the water and container have cooled to safe handling temperatures.
  • Consider the use of alcohol based hand sanitizer to wash your hands for basic purposes. It is still highly recommended that you wash your hands using soap and bottled or boiled and cooled water for food preparation purposes.