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An important dimension of emergency preparedness is water storage. Building up an adequate home supply of water (along with food and other essentials) provides peace of mind in the middle of a small- or large-scale catastrophe. When done properly, long term water storage effectively prepares people for the unexpected.
Reasons for Home Water Storage
When most people think of emergency preparedness, natural disasters first come to mind. In the event of an earthquake or severe winter weather that strands a person at home with no running water, having a supply of water at home could very well save a person’s life.
However, a person is much more likely to be without water for a day or two if their water main breaks or the city water supply is contaminated. Most people don’t realize how much they utilize their running water, and being without it for even a few hours can be stressful. Having a water supply at home provides peace of mind for these scenarios.
Emergency Water Supply: How Much Water Per Day, Per Person
The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that people store a minimum of 1 gallon of water per day for each person. The average person needs to drink approximately half a gallon each day; the remainder is for cooking, dishwashing, toothbrushing, handwashing, and other hygiene.
The emergency water supply should be enough to last for at least 3 days. That means that a family of four should have minimum of 12 gallons of potable water storage.
Remember that this number represents the bare minimum. Before an emergency strikes, people should try to live on their allotted supply for a few days; they may find that they actually need to store water much more generously.
What Containers to Use for Storing Water
All water should be stored in plastic, food-grade containers. Two-liter soda bottles are a good choice, because they are inexpensive and easily available.
Avoid milk cartons, which are not designed for long term water storage and will eventually burst at the seams. Glass containers should also be avoided because of the possibility of breakage.
Filling and Sanitizing Water for Emergency Storage
Before filling used bottles with water, it’s important to thoroughly clean them. FEMA recommends using dish soap, rinsing, swishing a mixture of 1 teaspoon bleach and 1 quart of water inside, and rinsing completely.
When storing tap water that has been commercially treated with chlorine, no additional additives are needed to sanitize the water. If unsure, it’s safe to add two drops of non-scented chlorine bleach to the water after filling the bottle.
Rotating and Using Water Storage
A disaster water supply should be stored in a cool, dry place. Many people store their water in the basement, elevated off the ground in case moisture gets into the basement.
Use each bottle of water within 6 months of the date it was filled. It’s advisable to regularly rotate bottles, placing the “newest” water at the back and using the “oldest” water first. Refrigerating stored water first will make it taste better.
Whether the disaster is large or small, an emergency water supply is essential in being able to get through it. Many events might result in being stuck at home without water, so be prepared by knowing how much water to store and how to effectively use it in case disaster strikes.