For many Texans, preparing for the unexpected is part and parcel of living in the state they love. Hurricanes, flooding rains, strong summer storms, extreme heat, and drought aren’t uncommon. Increasingly, however, residents in the nation’s second-largest state must also prepare for unexpected power outages and crippling bouts of freezing rain and ice.
Last February, a blast of Arctic cold left a trail of back-to-back snow, sleet, and ice storms across the center of the United States. The state of Texas slowed to a stand-still, leaving nearly 5 million residents without power for days and knocking out almost half of the state’s power generation capacity.
Most Texans – along with many others who watched the crisis unfold -- started thinking seriously about how to achieve personal energy independence that doesn’t rely on the electric power grid.
For Dawn Milberger, a resident of Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas since 2011, it wasn’t just the sheets of ice and snow from the Arctic blast that worried her. For Dawn, connection to a power source represents a literal lifeline.
Dawn was born with a rare form of muscular dystrophy which inadvertently leads to heat-induced asthma that makes breathing difficult. Living in Texas, she has always needed to prepare for warm weather and extreme summer heat. Even a short power outage leads to the loss of air conditioning which could seriously exacerbate her condition.
The City of Fair Oaks Ranch is about 30 miles from downtown San Antonio. It straddles three counties in south-central Texas, on the edge of the Edwards Plateau. Unlike her hometown of Houston, where hurricanes are common, Fair Oaks Ranch is 120 miles inland. “Our main threat out here is hail,” Dawn says. “And we grow rocks out here. We grow rocks and cactus. And rattlesnakes.”
Dawn recalls their neighbors’ reactions when they began installing their whole house Generac standby generator in October 2020, along with a 1,000-gallon propane tank to fuel it: “Everyone says ‘Nothing happens here. We're not near the coast for hurricanes. This is the middle of nowhere.’ We felt a little like Noah building the Ark.”
“Then, a few months later in February 2021, Snowmageddon hit us with six inches of snow,” Dawn said. “I can't believe our perfect timing.”
Like most of Texas, they were expecting scheduled rolling blackouts. “But we had peace of mind,” Dawn remembers. “We knew that we were going to be okay. We knew that we were going to be able to keep the heat on to keep our pipes from freezing. We were going to be able to have our lights on and cook. And we were going to be able to receive people in, should they need it, if they could get here. The security of having that backup was priceless.”
Fortunately, the power in Dawn’s neighborhood didn't go out that time. They live next to an Army base and across the street from the fire station, lessening the frequency of rolling power outages. But she knew that, just like anyone else, they could lose power with ice on the lines.
A Generator: Equal Parts Health, Preservation, and Higher Calling
“When we lived in Houston, my husband and I purchased two ‘rollie-pollie’ mobile generators along with a window air conditioning unit. If the power went off, we’d have some air conditioning to help with breathing,” Dawn recalls. “Neighbors, family, and friends would come over when their power went off to charge cell phones and store medication in the fridge.”
In Houston, she also signed up for the local power company’s special medical list so that if the power went off, her medical condition would allow her to be among the first to be reconnected. In Fair Oaks, they don’t have that option.
Their hurricane experiences and long power outages in Houston fueled their pursuit of self-sufficiency and independence from grid disruptions. Dawn is a third-generation food preservationist. “I’m a canner and do both water bath and pressure canning,” Dawn says, “We grow a lot of our own fruits and vegetables, and we preserve a lot of it to last over the winter months.” Dawn also makes cheese and cans meat.
These processes rely heavily on electricity -- refrigeration, freezing, and cooking -- and that’s another big reason the generator is a pivotal part of their home planning and security. “Without power, I can’t process our food for long-term storage,” Dawn notes. "Our generator has given us incredible peace of mind. It has been a great comfort just knowing that, okay, so what if the power does go off? Our three freezers and beef and all my frozen fruit from the fruit trees will be okay when we need it."
Generator Powers A Higher Calling
Dawn believes there is a higher calling that has come into play with their new generator. “It’s health, long-term storage, food preservation, and ministry—reaching out to help people,” Dawn says.
When Dawn was in Houston, she saw the value of helping others in her community when they needed access to power and didn’t have it. Now, in Fair Oaks Ranch, they have the same calling. Her Canter generator lets Dawn keep her home powered for her own health and food security and, equally important in her mind, to be able to lend a hand to others in need in an emergency.
Although they have the peace of mind that comes from their Canter generator, Dawn sees the 2021 power crisis in Texas as a wake-up call.
“It was really revelatory for us to see the fragility of the grid system. And it was a perfect storm because so many wind turbine propellers were frozen and broken. We were four minutes away from a complete state shutdown,” Dawn said. She and her husband recently met with city officials to plan the best way to connect with neighbors in need during a power emergency.
Expertise, Efficiency, and Peace of Mind
Well along their journey to self-sufficiency, Dawn and her husband set October 2020 as their deadline for purchasing and installing an automatic backup generator. For Dawn, the process of ordering, installing, and maintaining her generator has been incredibly fast and efficient.
They knew they wanted a Generac standby generator and reached out to their dentist whose husband works at The Home Depot nearby. He connected them with Canter Power Systems and before she knew it, Dawn was working with a Canter Customer Experience Coordinator who helped coordinate everything that needed to be done.
“We don’t speak generator. We don’t speak propane tank. We don’t speak somebody who digs a hole and all that. It was a wonderfully easy process. We’re so grateful for the customer service at Canter, for the connections and the hand-holding,” Dawn says.
Along the way, choosing and installing their generator helped Dawn realize she has a reliable backup plan for her medical condition and a secure, self-sufficient source of good food. It also helps achieve a higher calling of helping her family, friends, and neighbors should they ever need it.