Prepare Your Family for Survival
How to be Ready for Any Emergency or Disaster Situation
By Linda Loosli
Page Street Publishing Co. Copyright © 2015 Linda Loosli
All rights reserved.
WATER FIRST AND FOREMOST
An aging water pipeline bursts and the homes throughout your community have run dry. You head to the grocery store to find that all of the bottled water is gone, so you drive to the next store and the next — nothing. Damaged pipelines, contaminants, vandalism, drought — any one of these crises can quickly dry up your water supply for days, weeks, maybe longer.
In this chapter, you'll learn why water is the most important part of your preparedness plan. I'll walk you through the different types of water containers that you can use to store water in, how much water your family will need, how to preserve the water safely, and how to purify water for drinking. In an emergency when others are running out of clean drinking water and are in a panic, your family will be calm and comfortable knowing you have plenty of safe water for drinking or staying clean.
Every plan for emergency preparedness must begin with water. You can survive for weeks without food but only days without water. Proper hydration is so important to your body that if you were to allow yourself to become dehydrated in hot and humid conditions, you'd risk getting heatstroke, which can be fatal. Plainly and simply, water is essential to life.
But think about all the other ways it's important to you. From the hour that you get out of bed in the morning until you go to sleep at night, water is part of so many daily rituals. You turn the tap to fill a glass with water and to brush your teeth. You flush the toilet, wash your hands, and scrub your body under a stream of water in the shower or in a tubful of water for a bath. You heat up water on the stove for tea or pour it into your coffeemaker to brew a pot of coffee. You wet a sponge to wipe your counters. You use water to wash your dishes, by hand or in the washer, to do your laundry, to soak your vegetable garden, to prepare meals, and on and on. And, of course, with a simple turn of the tap, you have a nice cool glass of clean water whenever you want one. We use water in so many ways and we have such easy access to it here in the United States, whether from a local municipal supply or a well, that we can easily take it for granted — until it's gone.
WHEN WATER RUNS OUT
You've heard about water running low or drying up in areas that have been suffering from years of drought, like California. At least in these circumstances, residents have some warning as the stream, lake, or reservoir levels begin to drop. More immediate challenges are faced by families whose water supplies become cut off due to water-line breaks, a loss of power at their city's water supply pumps, or contamination from heavy rains, oil spills, sewer-line backups, or industrial waste dumping.
I came across a story not long ago out of Toledo, Ohio. A lake that supplied water to local residents had become overgrown with a type of algae that produces a toxic chemical. The algae had to be killed with a special chemical before the lake water could be made available to residents again. I've read many stories about communities in which people had no access to water in their homes because the city's water supply pumps weren't working.
In any of these events, you could drive to the supermarket in hopes of purchasing cases of bottled water, but if the store shelves are empty, you may find yourself in a situation in which the water you have stored in your home is all that you will have to drink, brush your teeth, and cook your meals for days, possibly weeks, and rationing that water becomes tricky if you don't know when your supply will be restored.
HOW MUCH WATER DO YOU NEED TO STORE?
Your most critical need, of course, is drinking water. Plan to store 1 gallon (3.8 L) per person per day and more if you live in a hot climate. You'll also need some water for cooking and to clean dishes if you're not using paper plates. If you have a supply of freeze-dried or dehydrated foods, you'll want water to rehydrate them. You can eat most freeze-dried food directly from the can or package, but dehydrated products need water to make them consumable and more enjoyable. Then there's personal hygiene — daily teeth brushing and once-a-week hair washing (you can use baby wipes to clean your hands and wash your body). In total — for drinking, cooking, personal hygiene, and washing dishes — plan to store 4 gallons (15.2 L) per person per day.
If you have pets, you'll also need to stock up on drinking water for them. Estimate 1 ounce (30 ml) of water per pound (454 g) of body weight, so if your dog weighs about 40 pounds (18 kg), you'll need 40 ounces (1 L) of water a day (8 cups of water, or 1 quart plus 1 cup).
Should water lines break or power at the water plant go out, you won't have water to flush the toilet. It takes 5 to 12 gallons (19-45 L) of water per day to flush a conventional toilet depending on how many people are using it and how many times it is flushed. If you have access to a nearby pond or lake or you have a pool, you can use that water for flushing, but if that's not the case, I will explain how to create a makeshift dry toilet in chapter 6. Storing enough water for toilet use simply isn't practical.
CONTAINERS FOR WATER STORAGE
My first priority when I started my journey on food storage was finding a way to store water. I was a young mother, and I filled empty milk jugs with water from the tap. Was it the best? No. Plastic milk containers will eventually leak, but at that time in my life, it was the best affordable option. If you buy beverages in 2-liter bottles, you can also use those to store tap water for drinking if they're properly cleaned. Wash them with dishwashing soap and rinse with water; then mix a teaspoon of bleach in a quart of water and swish it around inside the bottle to sanitize it.
The best containers for storing water are those designed for this purpose. They are made of food-grade, BPA-free, sturdy plastic that won't degrade over time and leak. Many of them are designed to be stackable so that they are easy to store. If your budget doesn't allow you to purchase these types of storage containers, then reuse your milk jugs and other plastic containers to start. As your budget allows — and I talk more about budgeting for emergency preparedness in the next chapter — put aside money for water storage, and as you can, invest in good containers. You will be so thankful that you did.
You have many options for water storage from individual-size packages to 250-gallon (946 L) tanks. What you choose will depend on your personal preference, your living situation, and your budget. Let's take a look at the pros and cons of each.
An emergency or disaster can happen at any time, not just when you're in your own home and staying hydrated can mean surviving or not. Things happen quickly in a disaster and trying to carry very many large containers of water would be impossible, especially if you are alone. You'll want a supply of individual-size packages of water that you can easily grab to take with you in the car or to the office or to pack in your child's schoolbag. If your child is at school when a disaster strikes, you will be comforted to at least know they have some water in their backpack to sustain them until help arrives. It is also important to keep small containers of water in your car, because if something occurs as simple as a traffic jam or as huge as an earthquake, you could easily leave your car and carry a few small containers of water with you to a safer location. And sometimes it's just nice to pop open a single serving of water and drink, no fussing with larger containers and cups or glasses. The disadvantage is that these are not cost effective for storing large volumes of water.
BOTTLED WATER. Perhaps you already purchase bottled water to have on hand in the fridge for yourself or when people come to visit. Just twist off the cap, and it's ready to drink. You can purchase cases of bottled water at your supermarket or online. According to the International Bottled Water Association (bottledwater.org/education/bottled-water-storage) water should be stored at room temperature or cooler and out of direct sunlight. Room temperature is generally considered to be 68° to 77°F (20 to 25°C), so water stored at higher temperatures will not maintain the same quality or taste as bottles stored at lower temperatures. Light and heat can cause chemicals to leach from the plastic into the water, so storing bottled water in a cool, dark place would be the best choice.
The Dasani water company states that its water "will hold its crisp, refreshing taste for up to 12 months. After that, it's best to recycle the old one and start with a fresh, new bottle." Bottled water is meant for a one-time use, and it is recommended that if a bottle is going to be refilled with water, it should be carefully cleaned with soap and warm water and rinsed. Bacterial growth can form in unseen cracks or grooves of plastic, which would then transfer to the water you are drinking. Almost any type of drink container, including coffee mugs, pitchers, or glasses, can contain bacteria if not properly cleaned.
Pros: Clean water in a convenient container.
Cons: Every 6 to 12 months you should replace cases with fresh ones.
EMERGENCY WATER PACKETS. These water packets resemble the juice packets that children love. There are a few different brands. You can purchase them online or at camping supply stores. Check the label to make sure they are United-States -Coast-Guard-approved.
Pros: Simple to stash in your, car, purse, office desk, or your child's school backpack. The packaging is durable yet easy to open, even for a child. Emergency water packets can withstand extreme temperatures so no special storage is required, and their shelf life is five years.
Cons: The drawback is that each packet only holds 4.22 ounces (125 ml). I could drink that much at one meal.
AQUA BLOX EMERGENCY DRINKING WATER. If emergency water packets remind you of juice pouches, these will make you think of juice boxes. They come complete with a straw that you poke through a covered opening. Aqua Blox are also available online or at camping stores.
Pros: These hold more water than the packets — 6.75 or 8.45 ounces (200-250 ml). Like the packets, they are United-States-Coast-Guard-approved, have a shelf life of five years, and can withstand extreme temperatures. They're great for 72-hour kits.
Cons: They are crushable, and may leak once crushed, which is why I don't recommend them for a child's backpack.
EMERGENCY DRINKING WATER IN A CAN. Yes, you can even buy water in a can, and I really like this option because canned water has an extraordinarily long shelf life and will withstand very cold to very hot temperatures. I put several cases of these in a closet and use them only in an emergency.
Pros: Most have a shelf life of 30 years, but Blue Can's shelf life extends to an amazing 50 years. Blue Can comes in 12-ounce (355 ml) cans (vs. 22 or 24 ounces [651 or 710 ml] for other waters) that are made from 95 percent recycled aluminum.
Packaged water certainly has its conveniences: it's a perfect grab -and-go option, and because the water is pure and sealed, you don't need to add any preserver. But it's not an efficient or cost-effective way to store large volumes of water. For that purpose, I recommend investing in WaterBricks. These are containers made of food-grade BPA-free plastic that you fill with water, and — here's where the "brick" comes in — they are stackable so they make the most efficient use of your storage space. They come in 1.6- and 3.5-gallon (6-L and 13-L) sizes. The smaller size measures 9 x 9 x 6 inches (23 x 23 x 15cm) and weighs about 13 pounds (208 oz) when filled with water. The larger container measures 9 x 18 x 6 inches (23 x 46 x 15 cm) and tips the scale at about 29 pounds (464 oz). Each has a handle for ease of carrying. I have 16 of the larger WaterBricks under my queen-size bed, which means I have 56 gallons (212 L) of water stored and ready to use when needed. You can purchase a spigot to attach to these containers so that you can set them on the counter and dispense water easily.
Pros: Containers are easier to carry and typically have a handle, plus when filled with water they don't weigh as much as the bigger containers. Even an average teenager could carry a medium-size water container and possibly even two of them depending on the child's size. Another advantage is that most medium-size containers can be stacked to save storage space.
Cons: The medium-size containers are more expensive and would require purchasing 16 (3.5-gallon [13 L]) WaterBricks to equal 56 gallons (212 L) of water (the blue barrels equal 55 gallons [208 L]).
BIG AND REALLY BIG WATER STORAGE OPTIONS
How you store water will depend on your home. If you live in an apartment or condo, your most practical option will be to use WaterBricks and some cases of canned emergency water or other packaged water. If you live in a house with a yard, you can consider containers with some significant volume.
WATER-STORAGE BARRELS. You can purchase 55-gallon (208-L) plastic water-storage barrels at your local warehouse store or online for about $50. It's best to place them in a shady area and on a pallet to keep them off the ground. Because summer temperatures can exceed 110 degrees fahrenheit (43°C) in Southern Utah where I live, I use UV covers to protect my 55 -gallon (208-L) containers from the heat, and if you're accustomed to winter temperatures below freezing, leave space at the top of the barrel when filling to allow for expansion. You'll need a bung or bucket wrench to tighten the lid of the barrel and a pump to remove water as you need it. Pumps are usually sold alongside the barrels at your local store.
Pros: They are inexpensive and hold 55 gallons (208 L). Most are BPA free (check with the manufacturer before you purchase).
Cons: They are bulky and may be too heavy to store in a small apartment. You need a pump to pump the water out of the barrels, which is hard to control the flow of water and it takes a lot of work (particularly for an elderly person) to manage. The barrels must be placed on 2 x 4 boards (0.6-1.2 M) or another support system other than concrete since the porous nature of the concrete could possibly allow its chemicals to leach into the plastic barrels.
WATER TANKS. The next step — or should I say leap — up in size and cost are water tanks designed for home use. You can purchase 160 or 360-gallon (606-1,362-L) tanks. They are made of BPA-free high-density-polyethylene (durable plastic) and have spigots at ground level and bucket level. Some models have attachments to hook to your water lines so that you can continually rotate the water inside the tank to keep it fresh. My concern though is with possible cross-contamination if the water supply to your home became contaminated by flooding or another unforeseen disaster. Some top suppliers of water storage tanks include Ready Store, Emergency Essentials, and Water Prepared. You can check them out online.
Pros: Some models have 160 gallons (606 L) to 360 gallons (1,363 L) available. Some are stackable to give you even more gallons available in one location. You can store more water in one location and they typically have two spigots. One spigot or hose bib is just a few inches off the ground to empty the container when you need to rotate the water. The other spigot or hose bib is about 18 inches (46 cm) off the ground and is perfect to fill a bucket. They are BPA free in most cases (check the manufacturer before you purchase).
Cons: They are pricey. Some are as little as $300, but others can cost more than $1,000 each. They weigh a lot and might not be a good fit for every location. They also take up a fair amount of space for those with limited room available.
RAIN BARRELS. These are wonderful if your state allows them — some states don't, so you'll need to check your local laws. The barrel connects to the downspout of your gutter to collect rainwater as it runs down. When you have enough, you can attach a hose to the barrel to water your garden. This water is only safe to drink if properly filtered (see "How to Purify Water"). You can purchase rain barrels at hardware stores and some garden retailers or order them online.
Pros: Rain is free, if we have it, and in some locations rain is abundant.
Cons: The water must be purified before we can drink it. Some states do not allow rainwater collection, so check with your city, county, or state. You will need to make some adjustments to your current rain gutters, if you have rain gutters on your home. If not, you'll have the cost of adding them to direct the rain to the barrel. Rain barrels are fairly expensive, anywhere from $100 to several hundred dollars depending on the make, gallon size, and model. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Prepare Your Family for Survival by Linda Loosli. Copyright © 2015 Linda Loosli. Excerpted by permission of Page Street Publishing Co..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.