Question 4 – Ten must questions before you get prepared

Question four in our series of ten questions to help you get prepared is: During an emergency, what facilities, stores, resources, supplies, and assistance is available in your area apart from family and friends?

Truth is MOST people rely on their local super markets for essentials such as food and water. It is a little known fact that these stores themselves are NOT prepared to handle the rush of customers for food and water in an emergency. All they stock is the normal week’s worth of groceries and that is why their sale items get cleaned out so quickly and/or when there is a scare, they are immediately cleaned out of all bottled water.

Take the time to think about the question and what essentials such as energy, communication, shelter, and medical supplies are available. What about education and information? Do you know where to go to get information during an emergency situation if the power was knocked out and you could not rely on your television or radio?

What utilities in your area are vulnerable to disruption or elimination? Have you made plans to transition if you were to lose your water, gas, electricity, or phone service?  It might be as simple as purchasing the generator that just went on sale at Costco or it may mean networking within your circle of friends, family, and neighbors to see just who has what and how others are preparing for an emergency.

Next time we will talk about other who are dependent on you and just who you might be depending on during an emergency situation.

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10 Questions to ask yourself BEFORE you get prepared – #3

Welcome to our discussion about preparedness. At MBC we believe not only is it important to be prepared, it is critical that you be prepared for the types of situations you may encounter. Therefore, we put together a little list of ten questions we suggest you answer before you run out and start buying up your supplies.

The first couple questions dealt with circumstances and scenarios and the probably length of those circumstances impacting you.  The third question concerns knowledge: What preparedness knowledge do you personally have that is important in providing specific information and instructions needed during an emergency or emergencies for which you are preparing?

Something no one can give you OR take away in an emergency is calmness. Studies have repeatedly shown those who are prepared for an emergency worry less than those who are not prepared.

So it would behoove you to spend some time reading some of the information available on preparedness or taking a few evenings to watch some of the video that is available on YouTube or various websites that specialize in assisting others to be prepared. Take a straw poll of your circle of friends and family, how is their knowledge? What informational resources and references (books, videos, DVDs and other tangible items) do you have available to you? Spend some time on the Internet, attend a preparedness fair in your neighborhood, or go to your local library and pick up some resources today.

Getting prepared is easy, you only have to get started. There is a wealth of information readily available at your fingertips. Take the time to be prepared. You deserve to feel calm and relaxed during an emergency, that way your decisions are well thought out, planned, and congruent with your desire to keep those you love as well as yourself, safe.

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Water Water Everywhere…or Maybe Not

Yesterday I attended a brunch honoring the summer mission trips sponsored by a local church in Salt Lake City. For one trip, a couple dozen teenagers went down to a city just outside of Mazatlan, Mexico. Jeff talked about the water situation in Mexico. What he understands today (and took for granted prior to the trip) was that water is a luxury in North America.

EACH PERSON uses almost 25 gallons each day in most households for cleaning, cooking, drinking, bathing, and sanitary reasons, etc. Suddenly Jeff was without drinkable tap water. He had to travel nearly a mile and a half to turn on a pump that would fill up a cistern at the home. He had to travel several miles to Mazatlan to find a drinkable water source. Jeff woke up to just much he takes for granted the water situation here in Utah. Like Jeff, most are unaware of just fortunate we have it.

The human body can only survive three days without drinking water and because of this, water is a high priority when it comes to emergency preparedness. Should the power grid that supply water to most of our homes stop working or the local water supply become contaminated due to flooding it is going to be critical that you find a source for safe drinking water. New Orleans, Nashville, Houston, Haiti, and others have experienced this crisis.

We believe it is a good idea to have a week’s worth of water saved for your household. Most suggest a minimum of one gallon of water a day per person. Understand this ONLY refers to drinking water and does not take into account any additional water needed for cooking, bathing, sanitary reasons, etc. So take the time to make a plan and follow through by getting the needed food and water to protect your family in a time of need. Educate yourself and your family members to preserve the water you do possess. Be prepared.

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EP Water Basics

So you have decided to get prepared and you are zeroing in on your first priority – that would be having enough SAFE drinking water for you and your loved ones. You have numerous options as to how to store water (prepackaged versus package yourself; bottles, jugs, barrels; locations; types of containers; etc.). Here are a few suggestions regarding containers and ensuring the water you have is safe to drink.

First off, lets assume you know how much water you need. An easy formula to follow is to have one gallon of water per day per person set aside. Most agencies suggest you build up to a month’s supply of water (28-30 gallons of water per person). The important thing is to get started and build up your supply if need be, so I encourage you not to put it off or be overwhelmed by the suggested quantities.

The container you pick is important for a number of reasons. Ease of use, durability, safety, storage capability are all factors to consider. If you choose to set aside a few cases of water, we recommend you follow the container’s “best if used by” dates as a rotation guideline. Believe it or not all water is the same and some store better than others. I suggest you choose water that has been bottled in PETE or PET containers.

If you are packaging your own water, use only food-grade containers.  Avoid using plastic milk jugs as they tend to become brittle and leak over time. Do not use containers previously used to store non-food products. If the container had been used previously, it is a good idea to sanitize and thoroughly rinse all containers with a mild chlorine bleach solution (1 teaspoon to 1 quart of water) before using. 55 gallon drums, 5 gallon jugs, and other food grade poly-plastic containers are recommended.

Water from a chlorinated municipal water supply does NOT need further treatment when stored in clean, food-grade containers. If the water comes from a non-chlorinated source, simply treat it with a bleach that does not contain thickeners, scents, or additives. The formula is 1/8 of a teaspoon (8 drops) of 5-6% sodium hypochlorite (liquid household chlorine bleach) for every gallon of water.

Rotate water every couple years or so just to be safe. Water goes stale and can taste “funny” after it has sat for a long period of time. You can improve the taste of stored water by pouring it back and forth between two containers (such as two water pitchers) before using.

Water storage for emergency preparedness is easy. You just need to get started.

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Solving the EP Water Storage Riddle

Are you puzzled as to what to do in an emergency situation when it comes to water? You are not alone. In an emergency, you may not have access to clean drinking water. It is a good idea to have a back up plan in finding water during a disaster situation.  Here are five suggestions:

  1. In many cases, your tap water may still be flowing and pure. Listen to authorities for instructions (another reason to have a radio and extra batteries) as to the purity of your tap water. If there is any question, boil it or filter it.
  2. The water you have set aside for emergencies is ideal. Your 72 hour survival kit, or the cases, jugs or drums of water you put together for just this situation will come in handy.
  3. There are water sources within your home as well you might not have thought about. Water lingers in your garden hose and water pipes (first shut off the incoming water supply so you don’t contaminate this water, then turn on your lowest faucet to access the water). It is available in your toilet, and in your hot water heater (turn off the gas/electricity to the tank first).  The water found in the water feature in your yard (if you have one) or swimming pool (if you have one, play pools for your kids work as well) can be used to flush toilets or cleaning (not for drinking).
  4. Rain barrels are a great source of water. Cisterns have been used for over 5,000 years! Rain water can be pretty dirty and needs to be filtered using one of the “stand alone” water filters that are readily available in stores such as REI (think back country). Some have a solar still. This is a shallow hole, approximately four or five foot square and three feet deep. A collection container, such as a plastic 5 gallon bucket is placed in the middle of the hole and a six foot round piece of plastic is put over the hole. A small rock is put in the center, which causes the plastic to slope to the container. Water condenses on the plastic and drips into the collection container.
  5. Lastly, there are outside water sources to consider. Nearby streams, ponds or rivers can be a source of water, but obviously you should take measures to make the water safe by filtering it. Boiling, distilling and chlorinating it may help as well. You should never drink flood waters.

I hope this list helps you in an emergency. I hope you never have to tap into the emergency supply of water you have set aside for a “rainy day” or a catastrophic event, but if that emergency happens, take some peace in the fact that you will be prepared.

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3 Simple Methods to Ensure Safe Drinking Water

There are numerous ways to treat water in order to make it safe to drink. In previous articles we discussed several of them. I want to talk about two methods that have, over time, proven to kill most microbes.  As good as these methods are they are not perfect and they will not remove other contaminants such as heavy metals, many chemicals, and salts. Before treating, we suggest you let any suspended particles settle to the bottom, and/or strain them through layers of cheesecloth or a paper towel.

Guessing you do not have an adequate stand-alone filter system, lets start with the safest method for treating water first, boiling. I am also going to guess you have access to a heat source, if so, bring water to a rolling boil for 3-5 minutes.  You have options here – one is to let the boiling water vapor evaporate, another is to collect the vapor. The collecting of the vapor is a process called distillation. The condensed vapor will not include salt and other impurities. To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot’s lid so that the cup will hang right side up when the lid is upside down. Keep the cup from dangling in the water. Boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled. If you choose not to catch the evaporated water, simply let the water you boiled for roughly five minutes cool before drinking (unless you are drinking tea or coffee). Sometimes boiled water tastes better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two containers.

The second method of treating water in an effort to make it safe to drink is called disinfection. Simply add a 5-6% solution of sodium hypochlorite (regular household liquid chlorine bleach) to the water. Do not use bleaches with additives, thickeners, scents, or color-safe type. Most recommend adding between 8-16 drops (approximately 1/8 – 1/4 of a teaspoon) of bleach per gallon of water.  Stir this solution and let it stand for 30 minutes.  Any other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products sold in surplus or camping stores, that do not contain 5-6% sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, should be avoided.

Boiling water and disinfection by treating the water will kill most microbes in water. Distillation will remove microbes that resist these methods, and heavy metals, salts, and many other chemicals.  I am often asked when is the right time to treat your water. BEFORE you use it is the appropriate answer. Why? Purifying chemicals will eventually wear out and bacteria can again, begin to grow.

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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


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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