Friday, June 12, 2009

The Top 5 Priorities of Emergency Preparedness

Before we get to priority #4 here is the summary of your top 5 Priorities of Emergency Preparedness. They are:

1. MAKE A PLAN. Review, Rotate, Replace. Make adjustments for family size, age and local community needs. Consider evacuation, communication and staying put.

2. GRAB-N-GO SUPPLIES. 72 hour kits, MREs, food bars, water pouches, water purification, first-aid, storage.

3. SHELTER-IN-PLACE SUPPLIES. Radios, flashlights, first-aid, sanitation & hygiene, warmth & shelter, storage.

4. CLEAN WATER. Water storage, barrels, filters, storage.

5. SHELF STABLE FOOD. Items in pantry, short term and long term food storage items.

Priority #4 – clean water is something that I have addressed in different ways on this blog. The reason I keep going back to it, is because having access to clean water in an emergency is so critical and almost always overlooked until it is too late. Here are a few obvious points to understand about water, but that I want to make very clear:

Without water you die very quickly – Depending on your health and age, you will live for 5-7 days without clean water. You can live much longer without food.

Water is heavy and takes up a lot of space – A gallon of water weighs about 8.3 pounds. Water is not easy to transport because it is so heavy. That means your emergency water plan should account for that.
Keep these items in mind when you are doing your planning. For example, you may want to put a gallon of water per day in your 72 hour kit. But, that will weigh about 25 lbs. Are you strong enough to carry that water around? Are your children strong enough? Will it even fit? So make sure you plan.

The recommended amount of water from a variety of sources like the American Red Cross is 1 gallon of water per person per day. That is water for drinking, cleaning, cooking and sanitation. It is not for just drinking. You and I don’t drink a gallon of water on a normal day. But to be safe and to take of other needs, 1 gallon of water is the recommendation. If you start doing the math on how much storage space that would require for you and your family for 1 year, you will start to understand my recommendations below.

Here is my approach to water and what I recommend. In an emergency, you need to have a 3 ways of getting to clean water:

1. STORE WATER – Every Shelter in Place supply should have water storage. A small word of caution: don’t try to go cheap on your water storage. Buy a food grade water storage container like a 55-gallon, 30-gallon or 5-gallon stackable container and use that. Don’t fill up your old juice bottles or worse your old milk jugs. The best barrels and water containers are made from 100% non-toxic food-grade HDPE plastic, are heavy duty, and opaque to keep sunlight from promoting bacteria growth in your water. Good water containers are not to terribly expensive and when the time comes that you need the water, you will be glad you stored water you can actually use. Also, have a variety of sizes of storage containers. Don’t just have a 55 gallon barrel that you never move and never clean out, or worse... never even fill up. Use smaller, easier to transport containers like a 5 gallon stackable. Remember, water is heavy!

Also, you won’t rotate your water as much as you think you will, so make sure you use some sort of water stabilizer that allows the water to be stored safely for 5 years without rotating. We have a Water Preserver that works well. But, if you do have the water stored but you are not sure if it is safe or you come across water in an emergency and you don’t know if it is safe, that leads me to my 2nd point.

2. HAVE A PORTABLE WATER FILTER – These portable water filters are extremely handy and will allow you to clean suspect water that you come into contact with and make it drinkable. These portable micro filters are will remove bacteria and protozoa from the water, but most of them won’t kill viruses without adding some sort of purifying solution like our water preserver. One of the only water filter that actually filters out viruses is the Katadyn Extreme Purifier Water Bottle. It is a great unit and extremely light but has a smaller filtering capacity of only 100 liters (26.4 gal). Water filters are especially useful fi you have a stream, lake, pond, river or well by your house. You will be able to clean the water from those sources using these filters. Water filters range in capacity from small light weight filters like our Frontier Pro Water Filter which will filter 200 liters (53 gal) all the way up to heavy duty filters like our Katadyn Pocket Water Filter which will treat 50,000 liters (13,208 gal). That is more than 240 55-gallon barrels worth of water. An impossible amount of water for most people to store. I really like or MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter water filter and the Katadyn Combi Water Filter. They are also great for backpacking and camping can have that dual purpose.

3. HAVE A WATER PURIFICATION SOLUTION – Water purification tablets, liquids, or powders are very handy to have around and a small bottle or packet will chemically treat from 5-gallons to 50-gallons of water. They work fairly quickly (typically in less than a half an hour) and will kill bacteria, protozoa and viruses. You have several options in this area. The most common is iodine-based tablets like our Potable Aqua. These are very effective and relatively inexpensive but do leave your water tasting a bit like iodine, so you can get the Potable Aqua with PA Plus that has an additional tablet to make your water taste and look better after the iodine treatment. Another option is the PUR™ Purifier of Water this is an ingenious powder solution that not only purifies but also filters out any particulate matter from dirty water with a simple cloth. It is really amazing how this stuff works; you can watch a video of PUR™ in action here. Another option is the MSR Miox Water Purifier. This is really an amazing device that replicates the process used in municipal water treatment facilities but puts it right in your pocket in an incredibly small device using mixed oxidants to purify your water with only salt and electricity from rechargeable lithium batteries. MSR Miox Water Purifier is more expensive initially but provides one of the cheapest long term water purification solutions anywhere.

Remember that if you don’t have any of these three things, you can still clean water by boiling it. As a matter of fact, boiling is most effective way to clean water except it won’t take out the floaties like a filter will. The problem with boiling water to drink is it uses a lot of fuel that you may not want to use for that purpose. Also, don’t forget to have portable water pouches in your emergency supplies. They have a 5 year shelf life and are very handy to have around.

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