Emergency Preparedness

    Published: August 31, 2015

    National Preparedness Month: Are You Water-Ready?

    September is National Preparedness Month, a public service campaign focusing on helping individuals and communities prepare for natural disasters and other threats to public safety. In 2015, the month will cover four weekly hazard themes:

    • Week 1: Flood
    • Week 2: Wildfire
    • Week 3: Hurricane
    • Week 4: Power Outages

    One common element runs through preparation for all four hazards and indeed all disaster preparation: the vital need for an emergency store of water. Food stores are also important, of course, but a lack of water quickly leads to dehydration. The human body can go weeks without food. Without water, most people cannot survive longer than four to five days.

    In an emergency, water supplies may be compromised or completely cut off. With this in mind, how much water should you include in your emergency preparation supplies? Conventional wisdom claims 1 gallon per person for at least three to five days. This is accurate, but only up to a point.

    For an average person, ¾ a gallon of water is needed every day for drinking, leaving ¼ gallon for sanitation or conservation for another day. Actual amounts required depend on many factors, including physical activity, health, age, diet, and climate.

    Children, nursing mothers, and the sick require more water. A medical emergency can quickly consume water supplies, and in very hot climates, a person’s water needs can double. Keep this in mind when you calculate water needs, and remember that, in this case, more is safer then less.

    Storing Emergency Water

    We recommend storing cleaner, filtered water for emergency use stored in BPA-free water bottles or containers. Store it in a cool, dark place and update your emergency supplies every 6 months.

    If you have access to a home filtration system, you may choose to bottle your own emergency water instead of purchasing environmentally-damaging commercially bottled water. If you do so, the best choice for containers are food-grade water storage containers from camping supply stores. Such containers should be cleaned with dishwashing soap and water and well-rinsed prior to use.

    If you choose to fill your own water containers, two-liter soda bottles are a safer choice than milk or juice containers, which cannot be adequately cleaned of fruit sugars or milk proteins (milk and juice containers can, however, be filled for non-potable uses, such as flushing toilets). Avoid glass containers, which are heavy and may break. Cardboard liquid containers are not advisable either as they are not intended for long-term storage.

    Here’s how to prepare plastic soda bottles for emergency water storage:

    1. Thoroughly clean bottles with dishwashing soap and water.
    2. Rinse completely to remove all traces of soap.
    3. Sanitize the bottle with 1 teaspoon non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach for every quart of water, swirling so the solution touches all surfaces of the bottle.
    4. Rinse thoroughly.
    5. Fill to the top with filtered water.
    6. Tightly close bottle with the original cap. Do not touch the inside of the cap with your finger as this could contaminate the water.
    7. Write the date of bottling on the container and store in a cool dark place. Replace every six months.

    Even if you have a filtered whole house water system, be sure to keep emergency water on hand. Water supplies may be completely cut off, or you may be forced to evacuate during an emergency.