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Water is the most important component of any preparedness program. A healthy adult can only live three to four days without drinking water. Water is the cheapest preparedness item to acquire and the easiest to store, it is also the most overlooked item when preparing for an emergency and one of the hardest to obtain in time of crisis. In case of a natural disaster; hurricane, earthquake, flood, etc., the water wagons are the first to arrive. Next comes food and warmth. That tells you the importance of drinking water. However, in the case of a large scale disaster only a fraction of communities that need water will get it.
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We do not recommend the use of 30 and 50 gallon water containers as these containers can weight up to 450 pounds, which is too heavy and dangerous for use around children and others, can easily be transported and allows the user to not "store all of their eggs in one basket" meaning you may store these smaller containers in different areas around the home or office. Smaller containers are the safest choice around hurricane and earthquake prone areas. We highly recommend the use of 2.5, 5 gallon and 15 gallon water drum or also know as water storage barrel, plastic water storage containers as they are a safe, practical solution for home and business emergency water storage needs. Our storage containers are made of FDA approved plastic and are small enough to take with you on-foot and in your vehicle. Your emergency drinking should be stored in portable containers that can be stored in a many different locations to assure you have access to freshly stored drinking water in the event a single location is damaged and made inaccessible in a disaster. Smaller water containers can also be shared easily with friends and family members if needed.
Whether storing water for emergenies or have the need to bring along a portable water container for camping purposes, The Preparedness Center carries the largest selection of water storage containers available. From one half quart bota bags to multi-gallon containers to canteens and water containers with wheels for easy portability. From disaster relief drinking water containers such as those used by FEMA and The Red Cross to portable water containers used by campers, hikers, hunters and most all outdoor adventurers. On this site you will find colored container such as green, blue, red and even clear that are collapsible for easy storage.
If an earthquake, hurricane, winter storm or other disaster strikes your community, you might not have access to food, water and electricity for days, or even weeks. By taking some time now to store emergency food and water supplies, you can provide for your entire family. This information is provided by Preparedness.com.
Having an ample supply of clean water is a top priority in an emergency. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water each day. Hot environments can double that amount. Children, nursing mothers and ill people will need even more. You will also need water for food preparation and hygiene. Store a total of at least one gallon per person, per day. You should store at least a two-week supply of water for each member of your family.
If supplies run low, never ration water. Drink the amount you need today, and try to find more for tomorrow. You can minimize the amount of water your body needs by reducing activity and staying cool.
Water Supplies - How to Store Water
Store your water in thoroughly washed plastic, glass, fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers. Never use a container that has held toxic substances. Plastic containers, such as plastic containers found at Preparedness.com are best. You can also purchase large or small food-grade plastic water containers or large water storage drums.
Seal water containers tightly, label them and store in a cool, dark place. Rotate water every six months.
Emergency Outdoor Water Sources
If you need to find water outside your home, you can use these sources. Be sure to treat the water according to the instructions on page 3 before drinking it.
Streams, rivers and other moving bodies of water
Ponds and lakes
Avoid water with floating material, an odor or dark color
Use saltwater only if you distill it first. You should not drink flood water
Hidden Water Sources in Your Home
If a disaster catches you without a stored supply of clean water, you can use the water in your hot-water tank, pipes and ice cubes. As a last resort, you can use water in the reservoir tank of your toilet (not the bowl).
Do you know the location of your incoming water valve? You'll need to shut it off to stop contaminated water from entering your home if you hear reports of broken water or sewage lines.
To use the water in your pipes, let air into the plumbing by turning on the faucet in your house at the highest level. A small amount of water will trickle out. Then obtain water from the lowest faucet in the house.
To use the water in your hot-water tank, be sure the electricity or gas is off, and open the drain at the bottom of the tank. Start the water flowing by turning off the water intake valve and turning on a hot-water faucet. Do not turn on the gas or electricity when the tank is empty.
Three Ways to Treat Water
In addition to having a bad odor and taste, contaminated water can contain microorganisms that cause diseases such as dysentery, typhoid and hepatitis. You should treat all water of uncertain purity before using it for drinking, food preparation or hygiene.
There are many ways to treat water. None is perfect. Often the best solution is a combination of methods.
Two easy treatment methods are outlined below.
These measures will kill most microbes but will not remove other contaminants such as heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals. Before treating, let any suspended particles settle to the bottom, or strain them through layers of paper towel or clean cloth.
Boiling: Boiling is the safest method of treating water. Bring water to a rolling boil for 3-5 minutes, keeping in mind that some water will evaporate. Let the water 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. This will also improve the taste of stored water.
Disinfection: You can use household liquid bleach to kill microorganisms. Use only regular household liquid bleach that contains 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite. Do not use scented bleaches, colorsafe bleaches or bleaches with added cleaners.
Add 16 drops of bleach per gallon of water, stir and let stand for 30 minutes. If the water does not have a slight bleach odor, repeat the dosage and let stand another 15 minutes.
The only agent used to treat water should be household liquid bleach. Other chemicals, such as iodine or water treatment products sold in camping or surplus stores that do not contain 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite as the only active ingredient, are not recommended and should not be used.
While the two methods described above will kill most microbes in water, distillation will remove microbes that resist these methods, and heavy metals, salts and most other chemicals.
Distillation: Distillation involves boiling water and then collecting the vapor that condenses back to water. The condensed vapor will not include salt and other impurities. To distill, fill a pot halfway with water. Tie a cup to the handle on the pot's lid so that the cup will hang right-side-up when the lid is upside-down (make sure the cup is not dangling into the water) and boil the water for 20 minutes. The water that drips from the lid into the cup is distilled.
Safe Drinking Water in an Emergency
Many kinds of emergencies can affect the safety of your drinking water. Natural disasters such as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, ice storms, and other emergencies may cut off your drinking water supply with no warning. Planning for this possibility in advance will assure you have safe drinking water in such an emergency.
Why Do I Need an Emergency Plan?
A person can survive several days or even weeks without food, but only a short time without water. In a natural disaster or other unforeseen situation, your drinking water can quickly and without notice become contaminated and unsafe to drink. By planning before the disaster, you can be sure you will have safe drinking water in an emergency. Remember: After the emergency, it's too late to make plans!
How Much Water Should I Store?
To plan emergency water needs, keep in mind that you may be without electrical power and other basic services for several days. In normal weather, a typically active person needs at least one-half gallon of water a day just for drinking and cooking. That doesn't count the extra water needed for washing, brushing teeth, and washing clothes. To be safe, store at least 6 gallons of water per person per week. Some of the body's need for liquids can be met by using juices from canned fruits and vegetables. As a rule, store at least 1 week's emergency water supply for each member of your family.
What Containers Should I Use?
You can use food-grade plastic or glass containers for storing water. Make sure containers are cleaned and sanitized as described later. Food-grade containers are store-bought plastic or glass containers that have held food or beverages, such as soda, water, juice, or punch. You can buy new plastic water storage containers at sporting goods stores.
It's best not to use milk jugs to store water, because there may be harmful bacteria in the dried milk. Also, don't use empty bleach containers. They aren't food grade, and a child may not understand why some bleach bottles contain safe drinking water while others are hazardous. Don't take a chance; the results could be tragic.
How Do I Clean and Sanitize Containers?
Whether containers are new or used, clean and sanitize them before storing water in them. Otherwise, you run the risk of contaminating clean water with a dirty container. Make sure your hands are clean as well.
Begin by cleaning with hot, soapy water. Completely clean the inside and the outside of the container, including the handle, the lid, and where the lid fits. Next, rinse well with plain water. Then, sanitize by rinsing with a solution of one-half teaspoon of household bleach per pint of water. Last, rinse with clean water.
Once you clean and sanitize the container, fill it with water you know is safe and screw the cap on tightly. For safety reasons, clearly mark all containers "drinking water" with the current date. This safeguard will make sure every family member knows which containers are for drinking and which aren't.
Where Should I Store the Water?
Store the containers upright in a cool, dry place. Because direct sunlight and heat gradually weaken plastic containers, store them away from heat and light to prevent possible leaking. Water is heavy, so store the containers on a strong shelf or in a cabinet. To improve the taste of water stored for a long time, pour it back and forth from one clean container to another before drinking.
A freezer is also a good place to store water for a long period. Freeze water in plastic bottles only; glass will likely break. You probably won't have enough freezer space to store all the water you will need in an emergency, but storing at least some is a good idea. If you lose electricity, the frozen water will help keep foods in your freezer frozen until power is restored. Don't completely fill the container with water; leave 2 to 3 inches of space at the top to prevent bursting as the water freezes.
Do I Need to Disinfect (Add Chemicals to) the Water?
This answer depends on the source of your drinking water, which probably comes from a public water supply, bottled water, or an untested source such as a private well or spring. Purify any untested source or any source you're unsure about to make sure it is safe to drink. Read further for instructions to purify water.
Public Water Supplies
If your drinking water comes from a public supply (city or rural water system), you won't need to add a chemical disinfectant. Public water supplies are already "treated" with needed disinfectants and should be safe. An exception to this recommendation is if the system has issued an emergency "boil water" notice, in which case you would need to disinfect the water before drinking it. Although properly stored public water should have an indefinite shelf life, replace it with a fresh supply every 6 to 12 months for the best taste.
Before water can be sold as bottled water, it must pass tests to make sure it is free of harmful contaminants. In Mississippi, bottled water also must be tested each week for bacteria and once a year for a broad range of chemicals. Unopened bottled water should be safe to store without added chemicals.
Although bottled water isn't necessarily better or worse than public water supplies, its convenience makes it attractive as a source of stored water. If you do plan to store bottled water for emergency use, get it before a natural disaster; you may not be able to get to a store afterward.
Private Wells and Other Untested Sources
If the water you plan to store comes from a private well, spring, or other untested source, purify it before storage to kill bacteria that may be in the water. It is not necessary to purify water from a proven source such as a city water system or bottled water. Several methods to purify untested water are available.
How Do I Purify Untreated Water?
Any one of the methods listed below will purify water if done properly. Regardless of the method you choose, boil the water first as an added precaution. Then choose one (and only one) of the treatment options. Some methods, particularly purification tablets containing iodine, may give the water an off taste and color. If you plan to use tablets, get them before any emergency because you may be unable to do so afterward. Iodine and bleach also are poisonous, so keep them out of children's reach.
Bring water to a rolling boil for one minute. Pour into a clean container as soon as the water cools and store in a safe place.
Liquid household bleach that contains sodium hypochlorite (chlorine) will purify water. It's important to know, however, that not all bleaches are the same for purifying water. To be safe and most effective, use "regular" full-strength bleach containing 5.25 percent sodium hypochlorite (read the label). Do not use scented bleach; it isn't 5.25 percent strength, plus it's more likely to have an off taste. Use the following table as a guide for adding bleach. Stir to mix completely.
Table 1. Amount of 5.25 percent bleach to add to treat different amounts of clear and cloudy water.
Amount of Water - 2 liters
Amount of Bleach for Clear Water - 4 drops
Amount of Bleach for Cloudy Water - 1/8 teaspoon
Amount of Water - 1 gallon
Amount of Bleach for Clear Water - 1/8 teaspoon
Amount of Bleach for Cloudy Water - 1/4 teaspoon
Amount of Water - 5 gallons
Amount of Bleach for Clear Water - 1/2 teaspoon
Amount of Bleach for Cloudy Water - 1 teaspoon
Let the water stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight chlorine odor. If it does not, add the same amount of bleach again and let the water stand for 15 minutes more.
A special note about chlorine: Because of publicity, people may be concerned about potentially harmful effects of chlorine in drinking water. However, until other effective, economically feasible treatment options are available, many water-quality professionals agree that the benefits of chlorine in eliminating life-threatening drinking water problems far outweigh the shortcomings, in emergency as well as nonemergency situations.
These tablets are iodine based and are specifically made to purify water. They're available at camping and sporting goods stores, military surplus stores, and some large department or drug stores. Carefully follow directions on the package. Purification tablets are for emergency use only, not everyday use. Unopened tablets have a shelf life of several years. Some tablet kits include an additive to help the off-taste and color created by iodine.
In an emergency, iodine in a medicine kit will purify water. Use 2 percent U.S.P.-strength iodine (read the label). Using a medicine dropper, add 20 drops per gallon to clear water and 40 drops per gallon to cloudy water. Mix completely by stirring or shaking in a clean container. Allow the water to stand at least 30 minutes before using. Iodine is an antiseptic and is poisonous, so use and store it safely.
Will I Ever Need to Re-Treat Stored Water?
Stored water should be safe unless it comes in contact with flood water or other contaminant sources. Clean and sanitize with household bleach (as described earlier) any container that comes in contact with contaminants. If the water itself is or might be contaminated, purify it again before using for drinking, cooking, brushing teeth, or washing dishes. If your private well goes under water during a flood, disinfect the well itself to protect against bacteria and other contaminants.
Emergency Sources of Water
Although not likely, it is possible in an extreme emergency that drinking water might not be available at all. If drinking water is not available from other sources, you can get emergency water from ice cubes, frozen containers of water, a hot water heater, or even the toilet tank (the tank on back of the toilet, not the bowl) provided a chemical disinfectant has not been added to the tank. Until the emergency has passed, keep the water coming into your home shut off to keep out contaminants.
To get a free flow of water from the hot water tank, open the valve at the top of the tank as well as the faucet at the bottom of the tank. Increase the water flow by turning on any hot water faucet before draining water from the hot water tank. Be sure to turn off gas or electricity to the tank before draining water for emergency use.
Planning Is the Key
Remember, planning for a possible emergency will ensure you have drinking water in a real emergency.