September is National Preparedness Month. This month we are sending out regular posts about things you can do in your home to be prepared if an emergency or disaster occurs.
#27- Determine Water Needs
Following a disaster, clean drinking water may not be available. Your regular water source could be cut-off or compromised through contamination. Prepare yourself by building a supply of water that will meet your family’s needs during an emergency. View the recommended emergency supplies list (PDF).
Store at least one gallon of water per person per day for several days, for drinking and sanitation. A normally active person needs about three quarters of a gallon of fluid daily. However, individual needs vary depending on age, health, physical condition, activity, diet and climate. Children, nursing mothers and sick people may need more water. In warm weather more water may also be necessary.
- Never ration drinking water unless ordered to do so by authorities. Drink the amount you need today and try to find more for tomorrow. Minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool.
- Drink water that you know is not contaminated first. If necessary, suspicious water, such as cloudy water from regular faucets or water from streams or ponds, can be used after it has been treated. Put off drinking suspicious water as long as possible, but do not become dehydrated.
- Do not drink carbonated or caffeinated beverages instead of water. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol dehydrate the body.
Buy commercially bottled water and store it in the sealed original container in cool, dark place.
If you must prepare your own containers, purchase food-grade water storage containers. Before filling with chlorinated water, thoroughly clean the containers with dishwashing soap and sanitize the bottles by cleaning with a solution of one teaspoon of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach to a quart of water. Water that has not been commercially bottled should be replaced every six months.
If you have used all of your stored water and there are no other reliable clean water sources, it may become necessary to treat suspicious water. Treat all water of uncertain quality before using it. Contaminated water can contain microorganisms that cause serious disease.
There are many ways to treat water. Often the best solution is a combination of methods. Before treating, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom or strain them through coffee filters or layers of clean cloth.
- Boiling is the safest method of treating water. Bring water to a rolling boil for one full minute. Cool before drinking.
- Boiled water will taste better if you put oxygen back into it by pouring the water back and forth between two clean containers.
- You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 to 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, color safe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners.
- Add 1/8 teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight bleach odor. If it doesn’t, then repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes. If it still does not smell of chlorine, discard.
- Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products sold in camping or surplus stores that do not contain 5.25 or 6.0 percent sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient are not recommended.
Distill water if boiling or chlorination don’t work.