Preparedness Month: Water For a Week

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I’m experimenting with themed postings for different days of the week. In honor of National Preparedness Month, and thinking it will be a good way to start off each week, I’m allocating Mondays to preparedness (I’ll shift it back a day next week). This month, I’ll focus on overall preparedness, but thereafter, will focus more on technology.

Since we get very little to zero warnings about significant disasters that are likely to disrupt the public water supply, it is essential that each of us has enough fresh water stored to live on for a week.

Nearly all public sources say you need a gallon per person per day for at least a week, but some, including some Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) or NERT training material suggests two gallons per person per day. Either of these may seem like a lot, but it will go quickly for drinking, bathing, cooking, and sanitary needs.

There is interestingly, much disagreement from various sources about what containers are suitable for storing potable water. Some suggest milk jugs and 2 liter soda bottles, but others point out that it is difficult to completely clean these containers, and that the milk jugs in particular will degrade over time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest using empty household bleach bottles, properly labeled, since you want to treat the stored water with unscented chlorine bleach anyway, and these bottles are durable. But other government sources explicitly warn against using bleach bottles.

Personally, if it’s good enough for the CDC to recommend, I’m OK with that even when other organizations say don’t. Each time you finish a bottle of bleach, rinse it out, fill it with water, and then add the recommended number of drops of fresh bleach from the new bottle you bought to replace the empty one. Read FEMA’s guidance on storing water for more details. This is important, because bleach loses its effectiveness over time, and bleach older than two years is not effective for treating water. And don’t forget to label the bleach bottles with “water” or “H₂O”.

Store your growing collection of bottles someplace safe–with all that weight, you will want to keep the bottles close to the ground, and then refill the bottles every 6 months.

If you’d rather buy a container designed for storing water, my suggestion is to choose the 7-gallon size, since they are managable by one person, using multiple containers reduces the chances that all of your water could spill or be contaminated, and it’s easy to remember that you need one of these for each person in your household (or better yet, two).

My personal recommendation is either the Reliance Aqua-Tainer or the Reliance Aqua-Lux (I own one of the latter). The company also makes an 8-gallon Hydroller, which has wheels and a folding handle, just like roll-aboard luggage. If you think you will need to carry water back from a public potable water source in an emergency, the wheels will save the day.

Author: Peter Sheerin

Peter Sheerin is best known for the decade he spent as the Technical Editor of CADENCE magazine, where he was the acknowledged expert in Computer-Aided Design hardware and software. He has a long-standing passion for improving usability of software, hardware, and everyday objects that is always interwoven in his articles. Peter is available for freelance technical writing and product reviews, and is exploring career opportunities in interaction design. His pet personal project is exploring the best ways to harmonize visual, tactile, and audible symbols for improving the effectiveness of alerting systems.

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