Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Water - A Lesson


Emergency Preparedness Class - WATER

Water is the single most important thing in our 72-hour emergency kit! It is also vital to keep a reserve supply of stored water at home. After disasters, water mains are often ruptured or destroyed, contaminating the city water supply. You know the water you have stored is pure and safe for drinking during an emergency. For added protection, also store a supply of water-purifying agents.

How much to store?: 1 gallon / person / day (2 quarts for drinking & 2 quarts for food prep. And sanitation – dishwashing, brushing teeth, and an occasional sponge bath. Children, nursing mothers, elderly and ill people may need more water.

Weight Issues: Water weighs 8 lbs/gallon.

Most people can’t carry their 72 hour kits plus 24 lbs of water. Usually, the only way to transport the 3 gallons of water needed per person is to place it in the trunk of your car. For practical purposes where the car is not available during evacuation, younger children can carry 1 or 2 liter plastic pop bottles with a carrying strap, and older children and adults can carry a 2-3 liter bottle with a carrying strap. Everyone should then carry in their 72 hour kits a collapsible vinyl or plastic container to collect and purify water when they get to their shelter destination.

2-Week Home Supply of Emergency Water:

Keep a 2 week supply of water stored in your home (14 gallons per person for 2 weeks). Don’t forget to set aside some water for your pets, too. Five-gallon containers are more portable – try to find stackable ones if you are short on storage space; 55-gallon drums store more water in one place – be sure to include a barrel siphon pump to get the water out. These big barrels weigh 400 lbs when full. It is advisable to store barrels by a drain.

Water Storage Tips: If water is stored away from direct sunlight in clean containers with tight-fitting lids and is safe bacterially at the time of storage, the water will remain palatable and microbiologically safe and pure indefinitely. To keep taste at its best, however, change water once or twice a year. Label your containers as “drinking water” and with the date the water was last replaced. Store water away from light in opaque (not transparent) containers. Clear containers work if they are stored in a dark location. Store water in several different places in and around your home in case one of the locations is damaged, destroyed, or inaccessible. Don’t store water near gasoline, kerosene, pesticides, or similar substances. Be sure the storage container has a tight-fitting lid. Fill water containers up to the top so there is no air space and store water in a cool, dark location. If there is possibility of freezing (such as a 55 gallon drum in the garage) leave 20% expansion room. Also store water containers away from direct contact with concrete. Keep containers up and off the floor with slats of wood or other material.

During an Emergency:

CHILDREN: Children are at the mercy of those caring for them. Don’t forget to give them drinks. Offer drinks of water at least every hour in hot weather and every half hour if the home or public emergency shelter is not air-conditioned. Normally children need about eight 4-oz servings of water a day. The need increases during extremely hot weather or under stress of an emergency or disaster. Don’t wait for children to say they’re thirsty. Offer water frequently throughout the day.

ADULTS: Our bodies are 60-80% liquids. Water is necessary for the function of our vital organs. During hot weather we lose about one gallon a day. The min. daily water needed by the average adult is 2 quarts. In hot weather or during heavy physical exertion this may increase to 6-8 quarts/day. If your water supply is limited, ration your sweat rather than your water supply -- reduce sweating by staying in shade, wearing clothing and sleep and rest. Remember, it’s ok to ration your food, but don’t ration your water. Drink until your thirst is satisfied. You can always find more water tomorrow. People have died from dehydration with water still left in their canteens!

Water to include in your 72-hour Kits (use what works best for you):

  • 5 –gallon plastic water container with spigot (40 lbs); Can attach it to an airline baggage rolling device to move it more easily; Can put it into a car during an evacuation.

  • Retort Water pouches (4 oz each); Can withstand freezing – great for trunk of car; include several inside your 72 hour kit in case there are no other sources of water. Make good cold packs when frozen, too.

  • Boxed Water (8.45 oz) – Great; shelf life 5 years

  • Soda-pop containers (1, 2 or 3 liter). Can keep one of these next to each kit with a carrying cord or you can strap them to the outside of a bpack.

  • Commercially-bottled water in plastic containers – sealed and safe to use.

  • Plastic Canteen with cloth cover. (fill to top & change water yearly). Don’t use steel canteens – they can rust.

  • Thermos Jugs (with carrying handle) – change water yearly.

  • Hydration Packs (internal water bladder)

**Also Include in your kits:

  • Collapsible Drinking Cups (1 per person)

  • Stainless Steel or Aluminum Cup – doubles for cooking and as a container to eat from, as well as a container to boil (purify) water in. (Mess kit useful here).

  • Heat Tabs or other heat source & matches or lighter – to boil water in cup.

  • Gatorade Mix Packets (small single serving size) – add to water to prevent dehydration

  • Collapsible Water Container with Spigot – to collect, purify and carry more water. (Note: they have these at Walmart).

  • Sponge – to soak up water from various sources such as dew or rainwater or to absorb water from puddles.

  • Straining Materials – washcloths, towels, cheesecloth, coffee filters or an old pair of nylons.

Don’t use: empty milk jugs, glass bottles or bleach bottles!

Water Purification: 3 methods to treat questionable water: 1. Filter the water, 2. Boil the water, and 3. Chemically treat the water. The safest methods use a combination.

(Note that these methods will kill microbes and bacteria, but will not take out heavy metals, salts and other chemicals.)

  1. Filtration: Before boiling or chemically treating water, the sediment and cloudiness should be removed. Sediment can be allowed to settle to the bottom, then the upper clear water dipped or poured. Sediment and some cloudiness can be removed by filtering water through several layers of clean cloth, cheesecloth, paper towels, paper coffee filters, or even through a capillary siphon. There are also water filters you can buy. The activated charcoal type is best because it can also remove some bad tastes. Some filters also add chemicals to kill bacteria. Some, but not all filtering systems are effective in removing Giardia from water sources.

Capillary Siphon: Constructed by rolling a small, clean terry cloth towel into a long roll. Place one end of the roll into a container of cloudy water. Drape the rest of the roll over the edge of the container so that it hangs free from the container’s side wall.. Be sure the free-hanging (dry) end of the towel extends below the water level by several inches. Place a clean container below the free-hanging end. Soon water from the upper container will wet the whole towel as capillary action draws water into the towel. Particles that cause cloudiness are left behind in the upper container and in the upper end of the towel. Water will drip quite rapidly from the lower end of the towel into the lower container. With cloudiness removed, chemical disinfection can be more effective in destroying disease-causing germs.

  1. Boiling Water: The most reliable method of destroying any harmful, infectious bacteria, parasites, viruses and organisms in water. This is preferred over any method of chemical disinfection because disease-causing microorganisms cannot survive the heat of a sterilizing boil. Bring water to a rolling boil for 3-5 min. Sometimes after boiling there is a flat taste to the water. Taste may be improved by pouring the boiled water back and forth from one clean container to another several times to aerate the water. Adding a pinch of salt may also help.

  1. Chemical Treatment: An acceptable alternative to heat sterilization if boiling is not possible, but only if the water is clear (filter first if needed). Disease-causing organisms, such as viruses, can hide inside microscopic particles that cause cloudiness in water, and thereby escape the action of the disinfecting chemical and remain capable of producing disease. But if clear water is given appropriate chemical treatment, it can be made safe to use in most emergency situations.

Iodine: Best chemical purifier -- inexpensive, lightweight, and takes up little room in a 72 hour kit. Comes in crystals, tablets, or liquid form. There are also commercially prepared water-purification tablets that release iodine, such as “Potable Aqua” (cheapest at Walmart). (Emergency Essentials says these tablets are proven effective against bacteria & Giardia). Iodine tablets have a short shelf life (lose 20 % effectiveness in 6 months). Tablets should be rotated every 2 years. Iodine 2% Tincture (from pharmacy) is stronger than chlorine, but not strong enough to kill the cyst form of Giardia or many of the water borne viruses. Use 3 drops per 1 quart water (6 drops for cloudy water); 12 drops per gallon. (Rotate iodine tincture every year).

Chlorine: An acceptable chemical purifier, though not as good as iodine. It also leaves a stronger taste in the water than iodine. Use liquid bleach (without soap and/or fragrance added) containing 5.25% sodium hypochlorite. To purify water, using a medicine dropper, add 2 drops of bleach per quart of water and stir. If the water is cloudy or of questionable purity, or if the bleach is between 1-2 years old, add 4 drops of bleach per quart of water. Thoroughly mix the water and allow to stand for 30 min. before using. A slight chlorine odor should be detectible in the water. If not, repeat the treatment and let it stand for 15 more min. Since liquid chlorine bleach loses strength over time, fresh bleach should be used for water disinfection. (2 year old bleach should not be used.) Caution: Do not use bleach solutions that contain other active ingredients other than the 5.25 % sodium hypochlorite.

Amount of Bleach Needed to Purify Water:

8 drops per gallon

½ tsp per 5 gallons

3 tsp per 30 gallons

5½ tsp per 55 gallons (water barrel)

Chlorine Tablets: (Halazone) – less effective than iodine tablets (such as Potable Aqua), but effective in killing most water-borne bacteria (but does not kill Giardia). Usually found in pharmacies. Follow instructions on the label. Shelf life of only 1 year.

**Taste Considerations: Kool-aid, Gatorade mix, Fizzies, hot chocolate mix and instant soup provide variety to otherwise plain water and can help the water taste better after being chemically purified. Include some of these mixes in your 72 hour kit.**

Alternate Sources of Emergency Water Around the Home:

(Know the location of the incoming water valve to the house. 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.)

  1. Water in your house pipes: After shutting off the main water line to the house, 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 your house.

  1. Water Beds: not for drinking (due to chemicals in the plastic) but could be used for handwashing, laundering and other non-food purposes if you have used an algicide that is food-approved.

  1. Soft water tanks.

  1. Melted ice cubes and melted snow.

  1. Swimming Pools (not good for drinking because the chlorine level is too high, but good for washing and pouring down toilets for flushing or other non-food purposes).

  1. Toilet Tanks (not the bowl) & Water Heaters: Can provide good quality water, but might be unsafe if the main water line has become contaminated or if chemical disinfectants have been used. To get a flow of water from the hot water tank, turn off gas or electricity to the tank, open valve at the top and faucet at the bottom of the tank. The flow of water will be increased if any hot water faucet in the home is turned on before draining water from the hot water tank.

  1. Collected rainwater (when caught in clean containers, the water is drinkable without purification).

  1. Water in rivers, lakes, covered wells, and protected springs. Use clear, running water. Avoid water with an odor, floating debris or dark color. Never drink floodwater.

Info gathered and prepared by Debbie Wood in Wichita Kansas.

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