Wednesday, March 23, 2011

72-Hour Kit Wednesday – Drinking Water

Water is probably the most important item in your 72-hour kits. We can get by with little food but not without water. If you listen to the news, you know that whenever there is a disaster, water is usually always in short supply. When drinking water becomes contaminated, you are at the mercy of others to bring drinkable water in to your area. If you live in a highly populated area, there will be many others needing water also. If you live in an area of low population, you may not get water as soon as those in the more densely populated areas do.

I remember the story of an area that had an earthquake years ago, which caused a small dam to fail. One area was particularly affected and they had no drinkable water. The people in the next village over wanted to help and were bringing in water in a large tank for the people to drink. It wasn’t long before people started getting very ill and they soon discovered, that the tank that was being used to haul drinking water had also been used to remove animal waste. The water volunteers had washed it out and thought it was safe for carrying drinking water. They were only trying to help. Makes you sick right? I’d rather store my own water than depend on someone else to get water to me.

There are several different methods for putting water in your kits. There are water pouches that are very slim and fit in small spaces. These pouches are 4.2 oz for about 35¢. They easily fit into packs and last up to 5 years. However, they don't hold very much water, are hard to open without spiling and must be held while drinking. Another problem is that they could easily be punctured.

The next option is the fancy little water drink boxes, or Aqua Blox. You could purchase these for each kit; they are small and don’t take up much space, and these are great if your little ones are going to be carrying their own kits. These hold 8.45 oz of water and cost about 85¢, or the larger ones hold 33.8 for around $2.95 The advantages are that they are small, durable and lasts up to 5 years. They can however be bulky, pricey, and harder to find. (If you have to buy them online, that is an added expense.

Your next option is the regular drinking water bottle that can be purchased individually or by the case. These are the most inexpensive so far. They hold between 16.9 oz and 20 oz. and cost 10-15¢ if puchased by the case. They are easy to find and cheap. One advantage that you might want to consider is that you can buy individual size servings or Country Time Lemonade or Crystal Light which can be added directly to the bottle for a different drink. The problem with these bottles is that they are bulky and heavy to carry (if you have too many in your pouch, and they need to be rotated regulary. (Of course we will rotate the food in our packs every 6 months anyway.

Another option is a water filtration bottle. There are many brands and sizes on the market. They vary not only in size but in price as well as the price of the filters. You can find a bottle that holds about 28 oz. for $16.50; with 2 filters that price is $22.00- $25.00. These particular bottles will filter 100 gallons of water per filter,making them the most economical The disadvantage with these is that you have to find the water to filter.

Many people advocate having a water filter in your kits to filter water if you are caught without drinkable water. This isn’t a bad idea but make sure that the filter you have is sufficient for whatever water you may have to filter. There are many kinds of filters on the market, each of different kinds and strengths. Evaluate what you think your needs may be and check them out. You can also get pills that will purify your drinking water. Find out what these items will do and what they won’t protect you against. If you are at home when a disaster hits, you may have water available but it too could become contaminated.

Empty 2 liter sprite bottles work well, but they are heavy for little ones to carry. I mention sprite because the bottles themselves are tinted and will help avoid the growth of algae, especially if stored in a dark place. Years ago, we were encouraged to make a strap that would fit around the neck of a 2 liter bottle so that we could carry it over a shoulder if we had to walk. You can buy bottled water to put in each kit and those are a good option – you’ll need several for each person, or you can do a combination of any of the above. The large 5 gallon containers are awesome to store water but just too hard to transport in an emergency.

Let me just mention a few things to consider when storing water in your kits: First, the water in your kits will be used for drinking, cooking and washing. One recommended amount is for a gallon per person, per day. If you have a large family, that’s a lot of water to carry or take with you.

In an emergency, we would probably be able to conserve greatly on the water for washing – as long as we could wash hands and faces. We don’t want to conserve on the drinking water though. And if you have a baby, it requires a certain amount of water to take care of baby’s needs.

Look at the foods you’ve put in your kits; do they require water to prepare such as hot chocolate or oatmeal? What utensil are you using? If you have a mess kit to eat or cook in, it will have to be washed after each meal. Do you have dried foods that need to be reconstituted? How much water for that. If you can choose foods for your kit that require minimal preparation and disposable utensils (even better if you can eat or drink it right out of the container it came in)you’ll need even less water in your kits.

Evaluate your situation. Gather first, enough drinking water for each person for 3 days. You may want to have drinking water bottles in each kit and 2 liter bottles for cooking and washing also stored in an accessible place.

Once again evaluate what your situation might be. If you have to leave on foot, who can carry what? If you are carrying a child or two you may want to find a container with wheels that you can pull with your supplies in it. Every family will be in a different situation and especially because we never know what kind of disaster or emergency we may face, whether we’ll be on foot or in a car or just in our homes, we need to think ahead about how we’ll manage what we have. We have been cautioned to not store any 72-hour kit stuff in the trunks of a car, because one family member may have the car away from home when a disaster hits and the rest of the family would be without. We’ll talk more about car kits later on.

One thing I do want to mention about water though is that it is a good idea to always have bottled water on hand. Have water with you in the car, in your 72-hour kits, in your homes for your short term food storage in addition to the water you have stored for long term usage.

I believe that the water storage/filtration/purification part of preparedness may be one of the most complicated there is, yet the most important. There are specialists who sell the filters that can help you know exactly what you might need for your situation. Do some research and decide what your needs for your family are and get prepared so that when the time comes that you need good water to drink, regardless of where you are or what your situation is, you’ll be prepared.

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