Water Storage

10 Questions to Ask Yourself BEFORE You Start Getting Prepared – #6

Yesterday we talked about dependence, who are you depending on and just who is depending on you during an emergency situation. Question six fits like a glove in yesterday’s conversation and it goes like this: Do you have a list of essential or at least important supplies you believe will be necessary to have on hand during your estimated emergency?

There are numerous lists available in books, videos, and on various blogs that cover the emergency preparedness subject. If you have been following along this past week, you understand it is critical that your list be designed to fit your estimated scenario.

Do you have a list of the essential categories your supplies fall under and is it prioritized? For example, we know people can go much longer without food than they can water, or it is easier to go without that comfortable pair of shoes or a book, than it is food or a blanket to stay warm with. Survival classes often teach the most important tool is a knife OR a tool that contains a knife, as well as a can opener, etc.

We at MBC believe it is best to take an inventory of what you have on hand right now. No sense re-inventing the wheel. Set aside some food and water items that will keep well in a cool place (preferably a basement). There are numerous resources readily available that can provide you with a list of what you will need in an emergency situation. Check in with some of these resources to insure you have what you and your family need.

Tomorrow we will talk about money and the potential financial implications your circumstance may bring up for you.

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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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Rotation of Water: Keeping it Fresh

You may have noticed we have suggested you rotate your water storage every year or so to keep it fresh. I can just hear you, “What, you want me to not only buy and fill water containers, you want me to empty and refill them as well? It’s too hard, its too much work.”

Truth is, it takes some effort to get and stay prepared. It doesn’t just happen over night. So lets break down the process of water rotation. First off, I am going to assume you already have water storage. Great!

It is smart to rotate your water every couple years or so. Obviously the fresher the water, the more likely it is to be clean and drinkable right out of the drum/jug/container if and when you need it. Fresh water tastes better. Water looses it oxygen after a while and can taste stale. Aerating the water (that is mixing it up, such as pouring water between two containers) helps, and if you can drain and refill the containers, it is easier.

A 55 gallon drum full of water weigh in the neighborhood of 500 pounds (8.34 lbs/gallon times 55 + the weight of the container) and can be difficult to move. While some store their water by drains to aid in rotation, I prefer to let the drums drain in my yard and/or near my gardens. I simply put it on its side and roll it out of the garage. Not everyone can tip a barrel over or move it. Drum dollies or a wheel cart, makes the drums easier to move. Some drum carts are designed to set the drum on its side, which makes it ideal for gravity filling or emptying. Siphon pumps are an option, as well as using a hose and drawing the water out that way.

Refilling your drums or water jugs is as easy as filling. A hose can be pulled nearly anywhere. Smaller bottles can be filled at your kitchen sink. Water outlets are in all major cities. Five gallon bottles can be filled for pennies. Emergency Essentials sells a “drinking water safe” hose if you are interested. It is about a buck a foot. Historically I have used my garden hose and I have had no problems.

Water storage for emergency preparedness is easy. You just have to start.

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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 Filters 101

I was recently asked about water filters for emergency storage and how they work. Most of us are familiar with the filter on the water and icemaker in our fridge or if you are lucky enough to getting filtered water (Britta anyone?), you understand on some level what I am talking about.

There are a few ways to differentiate filters for water. While portability may be important, what is critical is just how many microns these products filter out. Remember the water you may have to drink may not be clean due to unforeseen circumstances. So, while the filter on your fridge or underneath your sink may filter out some impurities and make your water taste better, they will not get the dangerous germs, bacteria, parasites, or viruses out.

People who do not get adequate drinking water can die. Having a portable filtration system assures safe drinking water from almost any water source, thereby eliminating the risk of illness, rapid dehydration, and ultimately death, due to lack of drinking water.

REI, emergency supply (such as Emergency Essentials) and camping stores generally stock filters that eliminate the bacteria that can cause the aforementioned problems. Most marketed water filters are in the 0.2 micron range and appear to be adequate for most circumstances; The higher the percentage of micron removal, the better and safer (and generally more costly) the filter system.  There are “heavy-duty” free standing units which are ideal for long-term use and smaller, portable types, that can easily fit in your 72 hour kit.  There are other articles I have posted about water filters, consider referencing those as well.

Iodine tablets, colloidal silver, and bleach can be stored and added to water to clean it. I do not recommend these as a long-term solution to cleaning water. Ask your local preparedness stores if you have further questions or check out www.REI.com under their “expert advice” column for other articles on water treatment. Preparing for an emergency is easy. Just get started.

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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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