Emergency Supplies

Water Storage for an Emergency

15 September, 2005 (09:51) | Emergency Supplies | No comments


By Rae Udy

“Water, Water everywhere but not a drop to drink.� This line from the Samuel Cooleridge poem was never more real as the world watched the struggle for survival from the murky waters of the Gulf Coast.
Hurricane Katrina’s devastation gave a wake-up call to all Americans on the readiness of the nation. Local, state and federal governments urge all Americans to be prepared for disasters by storing a minimum of emergency supplies.
The Monday morning after Katrina hit New Orleans, I went grocery shopping after returning home from a short vacation. Bottled water was almost impossible to find. At Wal-Mart the shelf usually holding gallons and two-gallon jugs of water was empty except for about six gallons of water specially used for mixing baby formula. Although we live hundreds of miles from the disaster drinking water was in high demand.
Having an ample supply of clean drinking water is the top priority in any emergency. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. According to the Department of Defense and the Office of Civil Defense, a quart of water a day will sustain life in an emergency.
The rule of thumb is to store at least one gallon per person per day for at least three days. This will allow two quarts for drinking and two quarts for food preparation and sanitation. A family of four should store a minimum of 12 gallons of water. The Department of Homeland Security recommends at least a ten day supply of water and a 30 day supply if at all possible.
Store water in clean tightly covered containers away from direct sunlight. Any plastic or glass container that previously held food or beverages may be used. Plastic containers should not be stored near gasoline, kerosene or pesticides because they may absorb harmful hydrocarbon vapors. Large 55 gallon drums are available for water storage but can be difficult to transport in an emergency.
Adding five to seven drops, about one-eighth of a teaspoon, of chlorine bleach per gallon of water protects against harmful bacterial organisms. Clearly mark all water containers as “drinking water� and include current date for rotation.
When water is properly stored, it should have an indefinite shelf life, however, it is a good idea to use and replace the stored water every six to 12 months. If you have freezer space, storing some water in the freezer helps keep foods in your freezer frozen longer if the power goes out. Leave two inches of space in containers because water expands when frozen.
In an emergency, unless you are advised the water supply has been contaminated, don’t forget the water in your own plumbing system. A typical water heater holds 30-60 gallons of water and can be drained into gallon containers for emergency drinking. Allow the water heater to cool so it does not scald you when you open the valve. Add chlorine bleach to each gallon and shake to mix solution. Set aside for thirty minutes before using.
Rainwater, streams and rivers with running water, ponds and lakes and natural springs are all emergency outdoor water sources. Always treat water before drinking with chlorine bleach or boiling.
Water can be purified by boiling three to five minutes. After boiling water allow it to cool and pour into storage containers. Add 5 to 7 drops of chlorine bleach to each gallon of cooled water and shake to mix.
Use liquid household bleach that contains 5.25 percent hypochlorite. Do not use bleaches with fresheners or scents because they may not be safe to consume. Adding too much chlorine to water can be harmful so it is important to be as accurate as possible when measuring. A two-fold process of boiling along with adding bleach is recommended for best results.
Keeping emergency water is a habit everyone should adopt. Years ago East Texas was hit by an ice storm that knocked out power for five days at my house. My family had a taste of survival mode we won’t forget. Luckily, we had water stored because our house has a well and we never know when the pump will act up.
I urge everyone to check the Homeland Security website, www.nationalterroralert.com, for more information on emergency water storage. The 72 Hour Go Pack is a wonderful list to help you get started on your own disaster supply kit.
The American Red Cross website, www.redcross.org, contains hints for gathering water, food, first aid supplies, clothing, bedding, tools and special emergency items you may need during an evacuation.

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Food Storage for an Emergency

15 September, 2005 (09:50) | Emergency Supplies | No comments


By Rae Udy

According to the American Red Cross, there are six basic categories you need to stock in your own home in case of disaster: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing and bedding, tools and special emergency items.
It is unlikely an emergency would cut off your food supply for two weeks, but the Department of Homeland Security suggests you prepare a supply that will last that long. Select foods requiring no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and are compact and lightweight.
You don’t need to go out and buy a bunch of unfamiliar foods to prepare an emergency food supply. Buy the canned goods, dry mixes and the drinks you normally would. Make sure to keep a manual can opener with your supplies. The easiest way to develop a stockpile is to increase the amount of basic foods you normally buy.
Keep stored food dry and in a cool, dark spot. Label items with a marker to include the date you purchased them. Place new products at the back of the storage area and move the older items to the front. This will rotate your stored food and prevent spoilage. Try to pull food products for you regular meals from the disaster supplies and replace them so the food supplies are always fresh.
Many foods may be stored indefinitely in proper containers and conditions. Wheat, soybeans, dried corn, rice and pasta are great keepers but need extra water for cooking. Look for instant varieties of these foods to cut down on cooking time and water used.
Non-carbonated soft drinks, powdered milk bought in nitrogen-packed cans and instant coffee, tea and cocoa are important food storage items that have an indefinite shelf life. Bouillon cubes or packets will offer a hot cup of soup when you need it the most.
Canned goods will store for one year in the correct conditions. Canned beans, vegetables and soups add protein and hearty, filling meals during a disaster. Fruits canned in their own juices offer nutrition and great taste during an emergency. Fruit and vegetable juices should be in small containers because you may not have refrigeration after opening.
Peanut butter, jelly, hard candy and canned nuts will be good for one year and provide great variety to a survival diet. Ready-to-eat whole grain cereals are important additions to a home storage plan. Choose cereals high in fiber and store in tightly sealed plastic or metal containers.
Boxed powdered milk, dried fruit, whole grain crackers and potatoes will store for six months. High energy foods like granola bars and trail mix are also recommended for food storage. Look for “expiration date� or “best if used by date� on the product package to judge how long it will store.
Instant cups of noodles or cups of soup are a good addition but need water for reconstitution. Snack-sized canned fruits or prepackaged beverages in the foil packets or foil-lined boxes will keep for several months and are great to store, especially if you have children.
As you stock food, keep in mind your family’s needs and tastes. Include foods they are used to and enjoy. You may have family members with special diets or allergies who will need certain food items. Include vitamin, mineral and protein supplements in your stockpile to assure adequate nutrition for members of your family. Medications needed should also be stored properly in waterproof containers.
Emergency cooking is a challenge. You can use a fireplace, charcoal grill or camp stove outdoors. You can also heat food with candles, chafing dishes and fondue pots indoors. Cans of Sterno with waterproof matches should be a must for any survival kit. If you heat food right in the can, remember to remove the label first and open the can before heating so it won’t explode.
It is important during and right after a disaster to maintain your strength. The National Terror Alert recommends healthy adults eat at least one well-balanced meal and drink two quarts of water each day.
Although these simple preparations may not have helped those caught in Katrina’s path they may help you in case of an emergency in your area.