A major earthquake has just ravaged southern California, leaving inhabitants with very limited resources. As blessings are counted, attention must now turn toward sustaining life. The most important resource you will need is water. Lack of safe drinking water can be deadly. On average, most people begin feeling the effects of dehydration after exceeding 36 hours without water.
Dehydration occurs much quicker than starvation. Our bodies can tolerate the loss of food much better than the loss of water. With ample water supply, starvation can be held off many days, even weeks. The possibility that recovery could take anywhere from three- to seven-days minimum, makes the availability of water paramount.
Question: How much water should I store?
Answer: Generally, you should store at least one gallon of water per person per day. An active person needs at least one gallon of water daily just for drinking; however, individual needs vary, depending on age, physical condition, activity, diet and climate. To determine your personal needs take into account the following:
• One gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
• Children, nursing mothers and sick people may need more water
• A medical emergency might require additional water
• If you live in a warm weather climate more water may be necessary
• Keep at least a three-day supply of water per person
Ideally, you should purchase commercially bottled water for the safest and most reliable emergency water supply. Keep bottled water in its original container and do not open until you need to use it. Observe the expiration or “use by” date and be sure to store water supplies in a cool, dark place.
Question: How do I properly store water?
Answer: It is recommended you purchase food grade water storage containers from surplus or camping supplies stores to use for water storage. If you chose to use your own storage containers, choose two-liter plastic soft drink bottles, not plastic jugs or cardboard containers that have had milk or fruit juice in them. Milk protein and fruit sugars cannot be adequately removed from these containers and provide an environment for bacterial growth when water is stored in them. Cardboard containers also leak easily and are not designed for long-term storage of liquids. In addition, do not use glass containers, because they can break and are heavy.
Before filling with water, thoroughly clean the containers with dishwashing soap and water, and rinse completely so there is no residual soap. Fill the containers to the top with regular tap water. If the water has been commercially treated with chlorine, you do not need to add anything. If the water you are using comes from a well or water source that is not treated with chlorine, add two drops of non-scented liquid household chlorine bleach. Let the water stand for 30 minutes before using. A slight chlorine odor should be noticeable in the water, if not, add another dose of bleach and allow the water to stand another 15 minutes. Water may also be treated with water purification tablets that can be purchased at most sporting goods stores.
Special note – DO NOT store any plastic water container directly on concrete because the concrete will leech chemicals into the water, degrading the plastic bottle and cause failure. Water that has not been commercially bottled should be replaced every six months.
Important facts to consider:
• Rotate your water every six months. This includes any sealed bottles you may have purchased from the store.
• Don’t forget to include your pet in your water storage calculation.
• The hot water heater is an additional source of water. Contact the gas company for the process to tap it safely.
• Maintain some unscented bleach/water purification tablets in the home for sanitation/purification purposes as part of a household kit.
• Never ration drinking water unless told to do so by the authorities.
• Drink the water that you know is not contaminated first.
• You can minimize your body’s need for water by reducing activity and staying cool.
• Do not substitute carbonated or caffeinated beverages for water. These will actually dehydrate the body and increase the need for water.
• Unsafe water sources include radiators, toilet bowls, water beds, swimming pools and spas
• If you are a commuter, do you have water in your vehicle.
The importance of being aware and prepared cannot be overstated. A major catastrophe will assuredly affect the availability of the regional water supply and will certainly exacerbate the pain and suffering for many who are not ready, cannot be reached or require more than what they have.
Please take the time to address the issue of water storage now with your family — develop a plan that works for everyone.
For more information go to the following links:
LA Disaster: Ready LA
Federal Emergency Management Agency
United States Geological Survey
Remember, it is not if a disaster strikes, but when.