June, 2010

Water Storage Made Safe

As discussed in previous posts, there are levels of preparedness and you get to decide what level works best for you: Survival (72 hours), Emergency (2 weeks up to six months) and Long-Term (6 months and beyond). Our suggestion is for you to make sure you have enough food, water, money, clothes, and medical supplies to provide for you and your family in an emergency for two weeks or more.

Our last article discussed our first priority, water storage, and walked you through three simple steps on how to get started: determine and purchase/collect containers for water storage, figure out where you are going to store the water, and lastly, fill your containers.  Now I want to talk about the water you are putting in the containers.

As long as the containers are clean, there is no need to add anything, such as chlorine or bleach. If the container was used prior to you filling it, consider using a mild bleach rinse (an ounce or so of bleach and a dozen or so ounces of water, shake for a minute or so, and rinse with water). It is not a bad idea to do a quick rinse before adding the water.

When filling, remember to leave a little “head-room” for freezing if you are storing the water outside in a climate where freezing is inevitable. It is a good idea to replace the water about every year or so (packaged water will last for five years or more). Water can taste “funny” after storing it for a long time. One thing you can do is to pour the water back and forth between containers. This will aerate the water and make it taste better.  Some suggest storing water on pallets and away from any chemicals. Not everyone has this luxury. Using common sense is always a best practice.

Practicing emergency preparedness is easy. Start by making your list and do a little each day or week. Sooner than you think you will be done and with that comes a peace of mind that is priceless.

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Water Storage for an Emergency: Easy as 1, 2, 3

There are numerous opportunities in and around your house to find water in an emergency situation. Pipes, water heater, toilets, ice cube trays, just to name a few.  So who of you is ready and equipped to take apart water pipes for water?

Obviously these choices are for desperate situations if you don’t have any options. Truth is you can stop by your local grocery store or wholesale warehouse and pick up a case of water. You can drop by Mark’s Barrel Company, or any outlet that sells water jugs or water barrels and pick up what you need. It is easy.

The pamphlet “All is Safely Gathered In” says, “Store drinking water for circumstances in which the water supply my be polluted or disrupted. If water comes directly from a good, pretreated source, then no additional purification is needed; otherwise, pre-treat water before use. Store water in sturdy, leak-proof, breakage-resistant containers. Consider using plastic bottles commonly used for juices or soda. Keep water away from heat sources and direct sunlight.”

Water storage is as simple as one – two – three! 1. Determine just how much water you need. 2. Pick/collect/buy the containers you need. 3. Fill the containers you need with water and store them in a cool and dark location that is easily accessible.  Water storage is easy. Simply start with these three manageable steps.

A word about step three. Just owning an empty container for water will not help should you need water immediately. I know some who have purchased a couple water barrels and set them in their garage, empty. Take the few minutes required and fill up the containers and then store them away from direct sunlight or chemicals.  I have a friend in Houston who was able to fill additional water bottles and jugs as hurricane Ike was heading his way. He was glad he did as his area was one of the hardest hit and they were without potable water for nearly two weeks. Not everyone gets the opportunity to fill containers as the storm is preparing to hit so it is best to be prepared. Having water already stored is a sure bet.

Water storage is an on-going process. Many people continue to collect 2 liter plastic pop containers, rinse them and fill them with water. If your tap water is chlorinated or if it is filtered, nothing else is required. Water stored over a long period can get stale and taste “funny.” Simply pour the water between two containers and this will aerate the water and improve the taste. If you have the means, it is not a bad idea to switch out your water every year or so.  Simple put it on your calendar once a year or so to change out the water. Use the “old” water to take care of plants, water the grass, vegetables, etc. It is easy to get prepared and stay prepared.

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The 4 Step LDS Guide to Preparedness

A few years ago the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints introduced a new program for home storage. As with any plan, they encouraged their faithful to start “modestly.” In olden times, what seemed expected was out of reach for most. The new approach is within everyone’s grasp. Survivalists agree and encourage us to build a 72 hour kit to be prepared, and then build from there to a month, three months and so on.

The pamphlet, “All is Safely Gathered In: Family Home Storage,” published by the LDS Church, takes a simplified, four step approach to building home storage. This article is designed to take you through the highlights of those steps.

We begin with step one – to gradually build a small supply of food that is part of your normal daily diet until it is sufficient for three months. It may be obvious to some, but I want to mention the food we are being encouraged to set aside food that will store well; Canned fruit, protein, vegetable, cereal, and dried goods that will not need to be rotated every few weeks. Make a list of what you have and when it expires. Rotate your stock.

Step two – Store drinking water. We can live without a lot of things; water is NOT one of them. It is a high priority. I encourage people to have a month’s supply of water per person. That is a gallon of water per day for 30 days and I know what you are thinking, “That is a lot of water!” It can be and it can take up a lot of room if you are stacking cases of bottled water. Consider using water jugs or better yet, a plastic 55 gallon water barrel, where water can be easily transferred into smaller containers.

Step three – Establish a financial reserve by setting aside a little money each week, and gradually increase it to a reasonable amount. It doesn’t talk about “small bills” but according to friends who have been caught in emergency situations, smaller bills sometimes work best as not everyone has access to change.

Step four – Once families have achieved the first three objectives, they are counseled to expand their efforts, as circumstances allow, into a supply of long-term basic foods such as grains, legumes, and other staples. This objective speaks for itself.

I want to honor the local Church for their continued commitment to supporting their flock in terms of preparedness and in creating a guide each of their members can follow. It just makes sense. Fill in as you deem necessary with flashlights, batteries, first aid kits, medicine, extra clothes and blankets. Getting prepared and staying prepared is easy. You just have to get started.

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Getting Safe Drinking Water in an Emergency: The Facts

NEXT TO AIR, WATER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT REQUIREMENT FOR LIFE. MAKE SURE YOU ALWAYS HAVE ENOUGH ON HAND.

The new millennium has come with a fierceness we have not seen, perhaps ever.  The last decade of disasters, including a tsunami, hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes, and floods, have woke many of us up to this simple fact: WATER is a critical component of preparedness for any emergency situation.  Clean water is essential for emergency medical treatments, drinking, food preparation, and sanitation.  Government agencies (FEMAUSGS, OES, etc.) and relief agencies such as the Red Cross, have elevated recommendations for preparedness from the traditional “three days of self-sufficiency” to “five to seven days minimum and seven to fourteen days recommended” in recently published planning scenarios.

Why is water a key in these recommendations?  Experts indicate that some aqueducts and reservoirs may be inoperative for up to 3-6 months, and the piping systems required to distribute the water to homes and businesses could also be severely disrupted for long periods of time.  An all too painful reminder: The fall 2009 Reusable Industrial Packaging Association (RIPA) meeting was held in New Orleans.  I toured the NOLA community to discover it is still reeling five years after hurricane Katrina brought it to its knees.

Definitive care specialists have shown the importance of water on our wellbeing.  A loss of only 5-10% of a person’s body fluids can result in moderate shock that may become life threatening if left untreated.  The simple fact is that human body can not survive even one week without water.  In general terms, the body requires four times as much water as food.  For persons trying to respond to or recover from an emergency, body fluid loss can occur rather quickly depending on temperature, activity level, emotional state, and/or possible injuries.  A basic treatment for shock is to maintain body temperature and to give fluids, especially water.

It is important that an adequate supply of water be properly stored BEFORE an emergency so it is readily available without the need for filtration, boiling, or treatment.  Keep water stored for emergencies free from bacterial growth and other contaminants.  A recent Utah State University study showed much of the water they tested that was stored contained bacteria, 11% contained E-Coli.  They make two key recommendations: store the water below 21 degrees C and that all stored water have chlorine bleach added (16 drops per gallon – 3 tablespoons per 55 gallon drum) to ensure safety for emergency use.  In short, treat water with a preserver prior to storage or empty and replace regularly with fresh, clean water.  Store in a cool, dry area, away from direct sunlight.

Ideally, water should be stored in three forms: 1) In portable containers, suitable for dispensing, for personal drinking, food preparation and sanitation.  2) In large volume drums or containers with a dispensing pump for all uses.  3) In small portable containers or medical or first-aid use as needed.  The best material for 2.5 to 55 gallon water storage containers is food grade polyethylene that meet the US Department of Transportation (DOT) specifications.  While the containers may have components made from other materials, only polyethylene touches the water.  On smaller, pre-filled, packages, look for products with “sterile” packaging and a minimum 5 year shelf life.

The easiest way to store the bulk of your water is in 55 gallon polyethylene (plastic) water drums (Food and Drug Administration, FDA, approved for storing drinking water).  The drums available at MBC are the best industry has to offer and are designed to have weight stacked on them when filled with water.  This allows one to stack your food on them, thus saving space while keeping your food and water together.  Some survival experts recommend two 55 gallon drums of water per person.  This, along with collecting “rain water”, should be suitable.  When you consider most households use in excess of 100 gallons of water per day for drinking, bathing, laundry, dishes, sanitation, etc., this isn’t a lot of water.

Water that we take for granted when things are normal, become absolutely essential for life and a vital resource in any disaster.  The lessons we have learned this past decade have taught us if we take our water supply for granted, we will regret it.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Water Storage

Question: How much water should I store? Water is your most important supply during an emergency. The amount of water a person needs will depend upon age, physical condition, activity, diet and climate. One gallon per person, per day for drinking, food preparation and hygiene should be stored with your emergency supplies. For example, a minimum of 56 gallons of water should be stored for a family of four for two weeks. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Children, nursing mothers and ill people will need even more.

Question: Can water be rationed if supplies are low? Never ration water. If supplies run low, drink the amount you need today and try to find more for tomorrow. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool. Try to avoid foods that are high in fat and protein, and don’t stock salty foods, since they make you thirsty. Try to eat salt-free crackers, whole grain cereals and canned foods with high liquid content.

Question: Does our hot climate mean I should store more water?  A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day; however, hot environments can double the amount of water required. Reduce your activity and stay as cool as possible to minimize the amount of water needed to stay hydrated.

Question: What is the best way to store water? If possible, purchase bottled water and keep it sealed until ready to use. You can also store water in thoroughly washed plastic, glass, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers. Never use a container that has held toxic substances. Plastic containers, such as soft drink bottles, are best. You can purchase food-grade (FDA) plastic buckets or 55 gallon drums from MBC Inc. Seal water containers tightly, label them and store in a cool, dark place. Rotate water based on expiration dates on bottles or every six months.

Question: What can I do to improve the taste of stored or boiled water? Stored or boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring it back and forth between two containers.

Question: What if we run out of water? There are hidden sources of water in your home. You can use the water in your hot-water tank, pipes, and ice cubes. As a last resort, you can use water in the reservoir tank of your toilet (not the bowl). How to use water in your pipes: Shut water off to your house. Let air into the plumbing by turning on the faucet in your house at the highest level. A small amount of water will trickle out. Then obtain water from a faucet located at the lowest point in the house. How to use hot-water tank water: Be sure the electricity or gas is off before draining the hot-water tank. Open the drain at the bottom of the tank. Start the water flowing by turning off the water intake valve and turning on a hot-water faucet. Do not turn on the gas or electricity when the tank is empty. Be sure to purify water from outside natural sources before drinking it. Avoid water with floating material, an odor or dark color. You should not drink floodwater.

Question: When should the water into the home be shut off? If you hear reports of broken water lines or sewage leaks turn off the incoming water valve to prevent contaminating the water in your pipes and hot-water tank.

Question: When does water need to be purified? Water of uncertain purity should be purified before using it for drinking, food preparation or hygiene. Contaminated water can contain microorganisms that cause diseases such as dysentery, cholera, typhoid and hepatitis.

Question: How do I purify water? There are several ways to purify water and none of them are perfect. The best solution is to use a combination of purifying methods. Before purifying, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom, or strain them through layers of paper towel or clean cloth. 1. Boiling – Boiling is the safest method of purifying water. Bring water to a rolling boil for one minute. Some water will evaporate. Let water cool before drinking. Boiling water will kill most microbes but will not remove other contaminants such as heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals. 2. Disinfection – Chlorine water purifying tablets or household liquid bleach will kill most microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color-safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners. Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes.

Question: Is there really an expiration date on water? Studies show sterilized or disinfected water, stored in clean, food-approved containers with secure lids or caps should be safe for use even after many years of storage. Replacement of stored water with fresh water should be necessary only if the stored water becomes contaminated in some way or if the container should begin to leak. Be certain to label each container so there will be no question about its contents. Include the date and information on the method of disinfection used. We recommend changing properly stored water every three to five years.

Question: How much food and water is enough? Make sure you are “prepared” for any emergency and be able to provide essential food and water for you and your family to survive. We suggest at least a three month supply of storable food per person, and two 55 gallon drums of water per person. Remember, it is better to buy two years early rather than one day too late. All the freeze-dried and dehydrated food manufacturers combined can only handle around 10,000 clients at a time. This is a very finite resource. If you are indecisive about whether to make a food and water storage investment for you and your family, ask yourself the following simple question, it may help you decide: Would you rather have it and not need it, or need it and not have it?

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