Emergency Preparedness Checklist
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Clean Drinking Water: Emergency Survival Guide

You turn on the TV to find out a big storm is headed your way.  You are advised to seek shelter and be prepared for an emergency. Do you know what to do in this situation? Having clean drinking water during a crises is a necessity. Use this guideline to ensure that you and your family have enough water to get by in an emergency situation.

How Much Water Do I Need?

In an emergency situation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security strongly encourages preparing enough safe drinking water to last a minimum of three days. The average individual drinks at least two quarts of water every day, so a good measure to go by is to store at least one gallon of water per person per day for drinking, sanitation, and food preparation. Bear in mind that children, the elderly, mothers who are nursing, people living in warmer climates, and medical emergencies may require additional clean water.

Make sure to collect water on days when it appears to be free of color and sediment and store in a dark, cool area of your home such as the basement.

bottled water

How Do I Store My Clean Water Supply?

Now that you know how much water you’ll need in an emergency, it is important to know what containers are safe to use to store your emergency supply of clean drinking water. Containers should be safe and free of contamination.  The best option for storing water is to use clear food-grade plastic containers – such as soft drink bottles.  You can also use fiberglass or enamel-lined metal containers.  You can purchase food grade water storage containers from surplus or camping supplies stores. Do not use plastic jugs or cardboard containers that have previously held milk or fruit juice.  These substances can be particularly difficult to remove from the containers and provide an environment for bacterial growth. Cardboard containers leak easily, and glass containers are heavy and can break. Never use a container that has once held toxic substances.

Containers should be rinsed thoroughly before being filled with water. This can be done by using a diluted chlorine bleach solution (1 part bleach to 10 parts water). If you are purchasing commercially bottled water, make sure to keep the water in its original container unopened until it is needed.

How to Treat Water to Prevent Contamination

If your water is treated commercially or by a water utility, it is not necessary to have your water treated before storing it.  However, if you get your water from a well or if public water has not been treated, it is important to disinfect the water prior to storage.  This can be done using the following procedure:Depositphotos_72652247_s-2015

  • Add six drops of liquid household unscented bleach containing 5.25% sodium hypochlorite per gallon of water.
  • Stir water and let stand for 30 minutes
  • The water should taste and smell of chlorine. If it does not, add another dose and let stand for an additional 15 minutes.
  • Seal the containers securely and label with contents and date of preparation.
  • Store in a cool, dark place.

Additionally, water can be treated with water purification tablets that can be purchased at many sporting goods stores.

Water that has not been commercially bottled needs to be replaced about every six months.

Additional Water Sources

In the Home:

  • Water in hot water tank
  • Water in pipes
  • Ice cubes
  • Liquids from canned goods (i.e. fruit and vegetable juices)

Unsafe Water Sources: radiators, hot water boilers, toilet bowls, waterbeds, swimming pools, and spas

Outdoor Water Sources:

  • Rainwater
  • Steams
  • Rivers
  • Ponds
  • Lakes
  • Natural Springs

Avoid water with floating material, odors, or dark colors. Make sure to treat your water before consumption, and to only drink saltwater if properly distilled beforehand.

emergency kit

In an emergency situation, it is important to be prepared for any situation.  By following these steps, you will be one step closer to being ready for an emergency at a moment’s notice.  Make sure you have enough clean, drinkable water stored at all times and try to take time to flesh out a full emergency plan for situations such as a fire, flood, earthquake, tornado, etc.  Know what to do in an emergency before it happens.

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