The Essential First Step for Emergency Preparedness
Water is essential for human life.
The human body is made of up to 60% water. The brain itself is 73%, so if you’re dehydrated, you might have a hard time thinking straight.
The signs of dehydration resemble a hangover. Thirst, of course, dry mouth, tiredness, headache, dizziness, and confusion. You need 64oz (8 cups) of water every day to stay hydrated.
In the survival world, time is measured in threes. You can survive
- 3 weeks without food
- 3 days without water
- 3 hours without shelter in freezing temps
- 3 minutes without air
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First Step: Water Storage
If you’re new to preparedness, the first step is the most important one: water.
Why would I need to use stored water?
Something as benign as a plumbing issue could call for the main water to be shut off temporarily. Another possibility is a problem at the water treatment plant. Whether the water supply has been contaminated by bacteria or by man, your local municipality could ask you to refrain from bathing or drinking your tap water.
Look at Flint, MI and the lead pipe contamination issue. That’s human error affecting large scale public infrastructure. Look at Corpus Christi in December of 2016 and the chemical emulsifier contamination. It can happen, it has happened, and will happen again.
Other, more serious scenarios can happen, especially weather related. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and freezing temperatures can cause damage to infrastructure or to your home’s plumbing.
Build your water supply
When I’m grocery shopping, it’s really convenient to buy a couple of the one gallon Ozarka bottled jugs of water for $1. Do that enough times and you’ll build up a nice stockpile for emergencies. The only downside is that you will need to store 28 of them for a family of four in order to have a one-week supply. More about that down below.
Keep these clear plastic bottles out of the sun. Water sitting in the sun can become a good environment for algae and bacteria to grow. Another reason is that when plastic heats up, it leaches chemicals into the water. Chemicals like BPA.
What is BPA?
Bisphenol A is a chemical added to plastic that has been linked to a whole slew of health issues including neurological disorders, cancer, infertility, metabolic disorders, and thyroid issues. The FDA says it’s safe at current levels, but I think I’ll pass, thankyouverymuch.
According to Ozarka’s FAQ site, their bottles are BPA free. However, even BPA free plastic has tested positive for estrogenic activity that can disrupt your hormones. I store mine in the bottom of my pantry. Bottled water doesn’t “go bad”, but it can leach chemicals, and it can go stale. Best to switch these bottles out once a year at least.
Another really good option is an Aquatainer. These are really handy for storing treated tap water and they hold 7 gallons and can be stacked in twos. You should pour them out and refill them every few months or more. They are really handy to use while camping as a hand washing station and are made of BPA free, HDPE plastic. Plus, they are opaque, so sun cannot get through the plastic. Without the sun, algae and bacteria are much less likely to grow.
What is HDPE? High Density Polyethylene withstands high temperatures up to 230 F. You can tell if it’s HDPE if it has the recycle symbol with the number 2 inside. HDPE is food grade plastic and safe to store water in, even in the hot garage.
If you want to get serious about it, the 55 Gallon HDPE Water Barrel is the way to go. You could store a couple of these bad boys in your garage and be set for a month for a family of 4. Done. Forgetaboutit. Kinda. You still need to change the water out every year at least.
It’s also a good idea to add a few drops of bleach to your barrel before storage. You can buy “Water preserver” drops, but the ingredients are “sodium hydrochloride”. Bleach. They are selling you less than one fluid ounce of bleach for $12.
There are some rules to adding bleach to the water. Only use the recommended amount per gallon. Only use regular, unscented, non-concentrated, not splashless. Just regular bleach that is 5-6% Sodium Hypochlorite. It will say on the label.
1 gallon: 8 drops
5 gallons: 3/4 of a teaspoon
55 gallons: 1/8 of a cup (or 2 tablespoons)
How much water should you store?
One gallon per person per day. You can survive on less, possibly half of that, but it won’t be comfortable and it may affect sanitation, which is essential for staying healthy- especially in the event that you cannot reach a doctor, or have no medicines available.
Each person needs one gallon per day for:
Water Recycling Guidelines
You can reuse your water by categorizing it and not letting good water go to waste. The water categories are:
Pure drinking water from bottled water or stored tap water. White water can be made from green water with proper filtration and treatment. More on that here.
untreated collected rain water, or water from a natural source like a pond, river, or lake. Green water can be used in limited situations, like to water the garden or to flush a toilet when the plumbing water is turned off. You should never drink untreated green water.
used water from cooking, hand washing, bathing and laundry. Grey water can be used to water the garden as long as you are using castile soap. You should never drink grey water.
any water that has been contaminated with fecal matter or chemicals. Obviously, you should never drink black water.
Cooking water can be reused to water the garden. Hand washing and bathing water can be used for the laundry. Depending on the soap and detergent you use, you could reuse the laundry, hand washing, and bathing water for the garden too.
Doctor Bronner’s Pure Castile Soap is great for all home uses. Castile Soap is an organic, biodegradable oil-based soap. You can wash your laundry, your hair, your hands, and your body. Saving some of that water from washing hands and hair, you can wipe down the counters with it, mop the floor, and then reuse the water in the garden. As long as it’s not too concentrated, it makes a great organic insecticide. Bonus! You don’t want to water your garden exclusively with soapy water, but a bucket here and there won’t hurt.
To protect your family and yourself, you need to have some emergency water stored. You can buy water literally anywhere. Next time you’re at the grocery store, throw a gallon or two in the basket. Or order a few Aquatainers and fill them up. Consider the 55 gallon blue barrels.
If you’re just starting out in preparedness, water storage is the best place to start.
“It’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.” I would rather have a bunch of water stored and it be silly that I ever did, than to have something happen and terribly regret that I didn’t.
See our next article about rainwater catchment
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